Be afraid, be very afraid: White-Eyed Buzzards

Many birds feel shy around humans. Perhaps, they are just terrified. Why wouldn’t they be? Our species has a dubious track record. We are like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs, except that we think we can repair the damage. Start all over again. Make everything bloom.

Look at me, for instance. I pollute the air that birds breathe in just by driving to where they live. I also contribute to a process that takes away food from their beaks. Yet I fetishize their existence. And I spend time promoting my passion for them instead of helping conserve their habitats. 

Birds needn’t feel shy around me. They should be terror-stricken.

White-Eyed Buzzard, Vedanthangal

Over the years – some of them have been presumably shyer than the rest. The Jungle Bush Quail, the Great Indian Hornbill, and the Asian Paradise Flycatcher haven’t been easy to spot. But the shyest one of them all, thus far, has been the White-Eyed Buzzard

This buzzard is a mid-sized and coffee-colored hawk. It wears a streak of white that scissors a bulbous head; a pair of ivory irises – sitting pretty on either side of dark grey cheeks. The sharp beak is a picture storybook unto its own.

The call of a White-Eyed Buzzard sounds like a banshee if the mythological screamer thought she was a kitten. I first heard it at the Vedathangal Bird Sanctuary. I went looking for the source and saw one perched upon an electric pole.

It took to the skies the moment I angled my camera and found another pole. And every time I inched towards the buzzard, it flew away. Even if I took a tiny step – poof, gone. I zigzagged, thinking that I could outwit the bird. I felt like a stalker who wasn’t good at his own shtick. Since then, I have seen them on many occasions. But each time around, they acted the same way.

A part of me is glad that the White-Eyed Buzzards have been wary of me. Birds need to survey all of us with some amount of caution. They can’t rely on our goodwill. We can’t even trust each other. It is in our nature to self-destruct. Some call it self-preservation. Irrespective, we are still taking down everything else in the process.

Speciesism wasn’t something I was aware of until Shannon, curator of the spectacular Dirt N Kids blog, told me about Earthlings – a documentary about the predatory instincts of human beings. The total disregard that we, as a species, have for other contributing members of a shared planet. It doesn’t matter how much we love birds. We cause damage to them just by consuming, traveling and doing little things that lead to large problems on a daily basis.

I like to think that I am a bird-friendly person. But I won’t kid myself. I know they will be better off without me snooping around. In fact, I feel embarrassed when people assume that I am an expert birder, an ornithologist or even a good photographer. I am certainly none of those things. I am just a writer, with a love for birds and a Nikon Cool Pix camera. And I enjoy sharing it.

But if you want to follow a professional birder with a passion for conservation, please check out Enviro Ganeshwar‘s blog. This young man from Chennai has won many accolades in the field, as well as the admiration of stalwarts. He also helps me with the identification of many of the birds that I write about.

You can also watch the Earthlings documentary for free.

White-Eyed Buzzard, Ponneri
 Like some winter nut,
my skin peels over 
the rogue fireplace
in your plumage.
(Photographs: East Coast Road, Pulicat, Puducherry)

26 thoughts on “Be afraid, be very afraid: White-Eyed Buzzards

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  1. ‘Earthlings’ is a difficult — but necessary — film to watch. Few have thought or even heard of speciesism, but generally EVERYONE is a speciesist in some shape or form (though I try my hardest not to be). We have just come to think of ourselves on top and nature — with everything else living in it — on bottom, ours to exploit and ‘use’ as we see fit. Our laws and rights are for us alone, though we have removed ourselves from nature, the very Mother who raised us.

    Thank you for your promotion here, Christy. Your heart is too big for your blog. Please keep it up! ~ Your friend from afar, Shannon

    PS — ‘my skin peels over’ has special meaning for me, having watched the movie. And your white-eyed buzzard is quite the looker, aptly chosen for this post. Too bad she is onto you as a birdie stalker! Too smart, those bird brains.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Earthlings about yo begin. Sunday morning, tea and tumultuous truths. I am sure we’ll have plenty to talk about it!

      And you have the best soil-spirited and birdie-bathed blog in the universe, was a pleasure to tell people about it.

      The WEB is on to me indeed Shannon. Must try new strategy. Wearing a mask won’t cut it . New musk maybe. Or maybe I will go with a boombox and Bell bottom blues!


  2. I was deeply moved by the “earthlings” documentary, thank you for the door to explore my inner sense of being. And what of the shy humans who are terrified of their brothers and sisters? Is it no wonder that such souls hide in the sanctuary of Nature?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this post. Thanks for writing it. I am always worried about my impact on animals and especially birds when watching and photographing them…I try so hard not to disturb them! I’ll have to check out Earthlings.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww thank you, Hazel. It constantly bothers me too. I use my diesel-powered car to go out birding. Every time I get back, I hear this cartoonish sound (wa waaaa waaaaaaaaaaa) that makes me feel all silly.

      Perhaps, we try to do our best and that’s good enough? Sorta?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We sure do damage, more than we realize or know of. I was reading this today, ‘Modern life has brought with it a rising hum of background noise, which tends to cluster within the low frequencies that many animals use to communicate. In recent years, researchers have been documenting all sorts of ways that cars, boats, industrial machinery and other noises have affected the behavior of many kinds of species, including birds.'(
    And Bernie Kraus in his book The Great Animal Orchestra has written that since he began documenting bird and animal sounds 40 years ago – many of those sounds are lost forever! This makes me sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bang on! The noise pollution we cause is enough reason for our extinction to be a boon to the rest of the species.

      Thanks for referencing Bernie Kraus. Never heard of this book. Sounds fascinating! How imaginatively titled too.


  5. And today, I’m reading a book called ‘Paradise Found’ by Steve Nicholls. It’s a history lesson and written accounts from explorers about the nature in America over the last 500 years (and how drastically it has changed since). I feel even more enamored to be out in it as much as I can.

    If we all don’t wake up soon, Christy, the earth is going to be a very drab place for us in a few decades time…provided we still have our place in it. Thanks for re-posting this and keeping the conversation going.

    Liked by 2 people

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