|Formerly thought to occur only in the Himalayan foothills, the Lesser Fish-Eagle has now been confirmed as a resident breeder along the Cauvery River in Karnataka as well as river islets in Kerala, both in southern India|
Let me tell you before I begin that 'lesser' is a relative term, to be taken literally only when comparing this raptor to the Grey-headed Fish-Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus). In no way should this bird be mistaken for a diminutive creature as it is more than two feet tall when perched, with an impressive wingspan.
All of my three sightings have been in the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary near Mysore. The bird would perch on a branch overlooking the river, appearing pensive. On all three occasions, when our boat drew close the bird took off, never to be seen again that day. To watch it fish remains a dream unfulfilled.
|The extent of white in the Lesser Fish-Eagle's plumage are a distinguishing mark to identify it against the closely related Grey-headed Fish-Eagle|
Both the Lesser Fish-Eagle and the Grey-headed Fish-Eagle are listed as vulnerable (VU) in the IUCN Red List.
1. The latest issue of the journal Indian Birds (Vol. 7, No. 1), April 25, 2011 carries a comprehensive report on the breeding of the Lesser Fish-Eagle in Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka, India. The report is authored by Dinesh Ramarao, Dipu Karuthedathu, Mohanram K, Prakash H L, Raju A K, Sreekumar H, Srikanth Kumar and Vinay Das
2. A separate report in the same issue of the journal, by C Sashikumar, C K Vishnudas, S Raju, P A Vinayan and S Kannan, informs us that the Lesser Fish-Eagle is a breeding resident in Kerala including reservoir islets in the Parambikulam and Periyar forest areas.
Text and photos by Sandeep Somasekharan
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