Spotted Owlet (Athene brama)
Widely distributed in Southern Asia spanning from Iran to Vietnam, and Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia, except for peninsular Thailand and Myanmar, the Spotted Owlet is a raptor i.e., a bird of prey. It is one of the most familiar owl species you would ever come across. In Bengali, this raptor is known as “Khurule Pecha” ( খুঁড়ুলে পেঁচা ).
Where could you spot the Spotted Owlet in Kolkata?
In Kolkata, the concrete jungles of Central Park, Rabindra Sarobar, Lion Safari Park, Chintamani Kar Bird Sanctuary, Shyamkhola, house the Spotted Owlet.
When should you photograph the Spotted Owlet?
This is a raptor that you will always see but mostly in the morning; hence mornings are the best suited time to capture the Spotted Owlet through your lenses. Do not forget to carry a good pair of binoculars with you for locating the bird sitting on tree branches or feeding their young ones.
Photographing the bird, characteristics, breeding and the necessary details:
The Spotted Owlet is small (21 cm) and stocky. The upperparts are grey-brown, heavily spotted with white. The under parts are white, streaked with brown. The facial disc is pale and the iris is yellow. There is a white neckband and supercilium. Both the sexes are identical. The flight is deeply undulating. The nominate form race brama is darker than the paler forms such as indica of drier regions.
This species is nocturnal but is sometimes seen in the day. The breeding season is November to April. Courtship behaviour includes bill grasping, allopreening and ritual feeding. They nest in cavities often competing with other hole-nesters such as mynas. They may also nest in holes in vertical embankments. The nest may be lined with leaves and feathers or may use the existing lining from a prior occupant. They usually feed upon insects and small vertebrate prey such as mice. The Spotted owlet is a common resident of open farmlands and human habitations. They call mainly during early dawn or just after sunset.
Spotted Owlet call: harsh screeches and chuckles
The Spotted Owlet used to visit Central Park, Kolkata, where I photographed them in the winter months. They used to breed here and leave in late February. It was in the year 2014 when I first spotted the bird in this region. However, 2015 onwards the Spotted Owlet family became a resident in Central Park. They settled on a particular tree; hence spotting them is very easy now. To me this raptor is an extremely cute species. Whenever I visit Central Park, I always keep in mind to visit that one particular tree of their’s.You might find it weird but I often wish them ‘Good Morning”. They never fail to amaze me. Every time I meet them, it seems I am watching them for the first time.So, if you visit Central park try to look for them first.
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