Do I have
to make you mine
I want to
make you smile?
I have been confusing the Black-Winged Kite with her Black-Shouldered cousin in Australia . Only a week ago did I realize this. I ought to be flagellated and forever sentenced to spend more time with people than with birds.
Well, maybe not the latter. That would be cruel and unusual punishment. Similar to death penalty verdicts in India.
The Black-Winged Kite is a one of the smaller members of long-winged raptors. She is a resident in my city, and in many tropical parts of Asia. They aren’t common hill-dwellers. But high-altitude places in India such as Nilgiris and Nagaland have documented her presence.
She looks like a character out of an animated film. With sharp crimson eyes inside black frames, she thirsts for bloody sunsets. Her grey-and-white plumage wears a fresh coat of paint every other season. It’s why she seems fashionable all the time. And her tail-feathers look like hand-crafted Chinese fans. Her long wings spread out impressively as she takes off. It is a sight to behold to watch her soar high.
When it comes to hunting, she is a hover-and-attack sort of girl. She hovers above her prey, analyzing the need for speed, before she swoops in for the kill. I have seen her prey on rodents and frogs before. Even a mid-air attack on a flock of bulbuls. But I have managed to photograph her just once during a hunt.
I was birding along a stretch of the highway in my city’s outskirts. And I heard her call. Raptors aren’t always easy to identify by sound. They alternate between faint whistles and piercing squeals. That day I had a squealer for company.
By the time I could spot her, she was tearing into the soft flesh of a rodent while perched upon a wire. I pointed the camera at her, and held it still for some time, to see if she would react. She didn’t. And so I felt at ease, and started photographing her. I got a few good ones of her with the prey. A minute later, she turned around, with most devilish grin, to look at me and took off.
I base most of the information about birds I provide here on reported facts. I also believe that every birder finds something unique that only he/she can understand.
In this case, it is my belief that Black-Winged Kites grin a lot. It is evident in many of the photographs I have taken of them. Maybe they were aware that I was referring to them as Black-Shouldered Kites. And they found it silly yet inoffensive.
(Photographs – Pulicat, Vedanthangal & Munnar)