Nature

Falcons and their fecundity…

Laggar falcon

Falcons are little assassins that operate rather discreetly as the larger birds of prey hog the (higher perches and the) limelight… eagles and their kin carry an air of regalia, hunting with a pomp that comes with a bulky, imposing gait… hawks prefer to lay an ambush, letting the prey do a bit of the legwork before making a meal of it… falcons, what they lack in physical proportions make up for it with ability to intersperse mid-air acrobatics with unmatched speed… no leisurely hovers or booby traps,  a simple spot and strike approach…

Falcons of India: Laggar falcon
Laggar falcon

‘Tis not really surprising that they’ve been evolutionary linked to parrots rather than the Accipitridae… they’ve always had their own family (Falconidae), and if one stares at those hooked bills long enough, the narrative starts making sense increasingly… the tides of science may turn anytime though, albeit not as fast as the falcons…

Falcons of India: Red-necked falcon
Red-necked falcon

The ruthlessness of falcons seems like an angry reaction to their relatively small size, tearing flesh from the beak rather than the talons seems a more furious (or redneck, a pun in advance) approach to dining, aerating the ego with aerodynamics that define the benchmarks for myriad toys, from fighter planes to supercars…

Falcons of India: Laggar falcon
Laggar falcon

Then there is falconry, a unique perspective to the man-animal relationship, a domestication with its distinct sets of autonomy, the bird patronizing the human in an equal measure, humouring his demands but never relinquishing its wild instincts, or rather aloof from, the remuneration for its services… a practice that has evolved from a utilitarian quest for food to an intangible (and living) cultural heritage…

Falcons of India: Red-necked falcon
Red-necked falcon

‘Twas the eyes though that started a rumination, as we spotted the Laggar falcon and the Red-necked falcon on consecutive mornings in Chappar, the former perched on a treetop looking for prey, the latter looking for hideouts amidst thorny branches to devour its kill… unlike larger birds of prey, the falcons are restive, never seeming comfortable on their high perches, twisting and turning in their own insecurities…

Falcons of India: Laggar falcon
Laggar falcon

The Laggar then… looking for prey, it’s gaze was characteristically sharp and pensive, furiously scanning the terrain for the slightest movement before swooping in for the kill, a seeking eye and twitching talons… the life of an avian predator, a canvas of monotony punctuated by bloodied compositions…

Falcons of India: Red-necked falcon
Red-necked falcon

The red-necked falcon, on the other hand, had secured its breakfast kill, and was comfortable shrouded inside a tree… its gaze, in contrast, was rather submissive, marked by a fear of thieves lurking around the corner, the upright disposition of the hunter transformed into the meek demeanour of the prey it consumed…

Laggar falcon
Laggar falcon

Yet this is something quite characteristic of many other predators, as if they not only the consume the flesh but imbibe the mannerism of the prey too… maybe the regurgitation as much an act of cleansing the spirit as the digestive tract… the unfathomed domains of animal behaviour…

Red-necked falcon
Red-necked falcon

Musings on falcons, Chappar, Rajasthan

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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