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Kites

 

Pariah Kite
'Milrus migrans govinda'

Dark crosses gliding endlessly on tireless wings and shrill "ewe-wir-wir-wir" whistles are familiar to most urbanites throughout India. Indian cities literally swarm with these scavengers - New Delhi alone is said to harbour more than 2,400 breeding pairs of pariah kites. Naturally, this species is believed to be the world's most abundant bird of prey, being found throughout most of Europe and Asia and some parts of Africa and Australia. (Now it is said to be extending its range).

In the Auroville bioregion it has supplanted the locally extinct Pondicherry vulture (another term for the Indian black vulture 'Sarcogyps calvus).

Lightning swoops..

This large, brown kite is easily distinguished by its forked tail, a feature particularly noticeable in flight. It's adept at avoiding pedestrians, motor traffic and overhead wires, its lightning swoops to carry off a bit of offal from even crowded bazaars can never fail to amaze the observer.

Both physically and psychologically well adapted to live in the vicinity of man, it depends on the latter's artificially created conditions for nesting. Coconut trees are the favoured site for its 'platform' nest and often many pairs occupy the same grove; it has also been observed to nest on overhead water tanks. Three greyish white, brown speckled eggs are the usual clutch. The parents vigorously defend them and their young against the ever-present house crows and the aerial skirmishes between the two species are a treat to watch..!

 

Brahminy Kite
'Haliastur indus'

Myth discerns it to be the 'Garuda' bird, and people living in the Auroville bioregion call it 'Krishnar paraandu' - both in association to it being the 'vahana' (vehicle) of Lord Vishnu, one of the 3 principle deities of the Hindu pantheon. (Krishna too is believed to be one of the Avatars of Lord Vishnu).

 

In an eye-catching shade of russet, the adult with a prominent white head, neck and breast, is a striking creature. This impression is somewhat marred by its food habits.. Though it may hunt the occasional fish or frog, it subsists largely on carrion (dead fish floating on the water's surface are its special favourite) and is also said to clumsily 'hawk' winged termites in the air.

In danger..

Unfortunately its divine status does not guarantee safety in India at large. Eroding cultural and religious values have had repercussions on wildlife. These birds, especially the juveniles which lack the white marking of the adults, are often stoned, their nests destroyed and water polluted.. (This state of affairs is not confined to this species alone, the cobra - though revered and worshipped, is ruthlessly battered to death whenever any opportunity presents itself..)

Public awareness being the key to the long term survival and peaceful co-existence of both animal and man, environment education programmes (that could ideally combine cultural sentiments with scientific knowledge) are imperative for the general understanding of ecological precepts and cerebral evolution among human societies. Such a far-sighted programme, that has obvious benefits for Auroville and its Greenbelt, could be given much more attention.

 

 

 

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