Raptors and raptness…

Raptors, despite their preoccupation with death, are seldom disparaged… a captivation since prehistoric times, mutual respect between hunters, in awe of the acrobatics in the air, that lethal stare with a focus and intent beyond human ability… no other avifauna has been able to capture human imagination for so long… entrenched in petroglyphs and adorning flags, birds of prey carry have carried the burden of cultural significance through many centuries…


Raptors of India, White-eyed buzzard
White-eyed buzzard

Yet it hasn’t always been smooth sailing… their stealth turned them into bad omens, their physical prowess made people crave their magical flesh… their fondness for small game pitted them against hunters and livestock farmers… from clearing out pests to inadvertently partaking in a feast of pesticides and antibiotics… a friend of the smallholder farmer became a foe of his mechanized counterpart…


Raptors of India, Shikra

Conservation status apart though, one wonders on the inspiring yet rather distant nature of existence of raptors… what are they but merchants of death to the rest in the food chain, their physique and reflexes designed for the sole purpose of cold, calculated slaughters… is the evolutionary burden of being executioners in ecological canvasses undertaken voluntarily, for with that come powers and abilities that one would surely aspire to, or is it a mariner’s curse        


Raptors of India, Spotted owlet
Spotted owlet

‘Tis a solitary existence, one on high perches and higher skies… it is lonely at the top after all… every sound, every movement to be acknowledged, senses so acute that they refuse to relax… there is hardly any song to their calls, just an assemblage of sharp, shrill notes to convey the point sans any ornamentation…


Raptors of India, Changeable hawk-eagle
Changeable hawk-eagle

Unlike mammalian carnivores, raptors don’t really pose much of a physical threat to us, maybe that is why we’ve had the leeway to be patronizing towards them rather than antipathetic… there was a period of romance when they were believed to be tamed but then it turned out be a casual fling after all… from thereon came the age of hunting but then industrial revolution took over and there were a hundred other ways to exterminate… the lines are drawn today, and even though the paths and habitats may overlap, that distance is maintained…


Asian barred owlet
Asian barred owlet

But if one were to try to pinpoint what keeps us enamoured to raptors despite their reticence, it would be the eyes… that cold, unflinching stare… deprecating sometimes, making its dislike at the infringement clearly known, and sometimes aloof, concerned more with what’s foraging on the ground rather than expendable birdwatchers… there is no wistfulness of the poet here but the straightforward demeanour of the blacksmith… those eyes can’t, and won’t, move… it is a rather definitive repudiation, turning the head away instead of the eyes, but perhaps that is what lends them our rapt attention, a fascination with this unwavering focus, like a never-ending meditation…


Crested serpent eagle
Crested serpent eagle

Musings on birds of prey…

Author: Parth Joshi

Allured by the outdoors, the author is made up in parts of that quintessential lost soul wreathing under the pangs of biophilia in a desk job, a wannabe elegist mostly ending up in dungeons of poetasters and an optimist waiting for the senility of the modern world to fade away while sampling shoots and leaves. In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods. An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.

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