The Ice Cream Cone Bird

It's commonly seen dotting the Bangalore sky. Vikram Nanjappa tells you more about the magnificent Brahminy Kite, a bird that's constantly under threat in the city.

The Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) is named after ‘Brahmin’, the highest Hindu caste, ‘Hali’ the Greek word for ‘salt’, ‘Astur’ – Latin for hawk and ‘Indus’ the river from which India is named (which now happens to be in Pakistan !). Also called ‘Garuda’ in Karnataka, the vahan or vehicle of Lord Vishnu the Preserver. However the name that most often comes to my mind when I see one is the Ice Cream Cone Bird. Anyone familiar with the bird will know why.

Use of pesticides and pollution of lakes in Bangalore pose as threats to birds like this Kite. Pic: Vikram Nanjappa.

It is unmistakable when perched, its white head and breast contrasts dramatically with its copper body and wings, giving an impression of a vanilla ice cream cone! However a closer look will reveal some streaking on the white areas and black wing tips. A hawk of the sea and river, as per by its scientific name, which also describes its habitat.

It is commonly found along the coast, inland lakes, marshes and rivers, in fact anywhere near a suitable water body. It hunts and scavenges, feeding mainly on fish, both dead and live. It also feeds on other aquatic life like crabs, frogs and mudskippers. Its diet however is not restricted to aquatic species, it will also partake of lizard, small snakes, insects, termites on the wing, sickly and young birds including poultry, microbats and also floating garbage and sometimes on carcasses.

It is a resident breeder in Bangalore and the rest of the sub continent. There is a lot of local variation in its nesting season but is usually between December and April. They build untidy nests usually 10 to 15 meters high in tall trees in the vicinity of water. Sometimes a building is substituted for a tree. While they usually build new nests every year they are not above using nest material from the old nest. Very occasionally they will repair and reuse an old one. Both sexes share in nest building and incubation duties.

The Brahminy Kite’s white head and breast contrast with its copper body and wings. Pic: Vikram Nanjappa.

Interestingly, the female of the species is larger than a male. Usually, the females are 3% to 7% larger, but can also go upto 17% to 65% larger than the male.

The Brahminy Kite can be seen in and around the various lakes (and open drains) that dot the Bangalore area, I used to see one perch very often near my mother’s house on Promenade Road, a stone’s throw from Ulsoor Lake. It is not as numerous as the Black Kite which are practically everywhere in Bangalore.

It is still a common bird but its future is under constant threat due to various reasons. The population in Bangalore is threatened by our short-sighted greed for land that makes us drain our water bodies to build houses. Indiscriminate pesticide use and pollution of our lakes by raw sewage is another threat.

The irony of the situation is that even though the bird is still relatively common and not on the endangered list, we have very little information on its life history. A magnificent raptor waiting to be studied right at your doorstep.

Comments:

  1. Deepa Mohan says:

    Excellent! I hope we regularly read about urban wildlife here.

  2. Anupama says:

    its become like ” ghar ki murghi dhal barabar”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

Soaring temperatures, surging power demand: What you can do in this scenario

Intense summers cause a spike in power demand, leading to rampant load shedding. A look at why and how such demand must be managed.

India has seen the worst of summer this year, with temperatures breaking records in many parts of the country. Among various other impacts, high temperatures have also caused a surge in power demand in cities. This has not only created issues in terms of frequent power outages, but has also increased carbon emissions as the demands are met.  Read more: Scorched cities: Documenting the intense Indian summer of 2024  India’s power consumption increased by over 8% to 127.79 billion units (BU) in February 2024. The highest supply in a day rose to 222 gigawatts (GW) in the same month. The Ministry…

Similar Story

Bengaluru’s street vendors are the first to be impacted by climate change: Lekha Adavi

Lekha Adavi, member of AICTU, says the nature of street vending has changed in the city due to the impact of climate change.

(This is part 1 of the interview with Lekha Adavi on the impact of climate change on Bengaluru's street vendors) On May 1st, while the world celebrated Labour Day, Bengaluru recorded its highest temperature in 40 years. With temperatures continually on the rise, one of the most affected groups are street and peripatetic vendors (vendors who operate on foot or with push carts). In this interview, Lekha Adavi, member of the All India Centre of Trade Unions (AICTU), talks about the effect of climate change on street vendors. Excerpts: Lekha Adavi, member of the All India Centre of Trade Unions…