The Abode of Raptors – Nandi Hills
As birders associated with Nandi Hills for many years, we all know what a wonderful bio-diversity hotspot that place is. Especially when winter arrives to this part of India, it brings along lots of migrants from the mighty Himalayan region and also birds from Europe and Central Asia. Suddenly the hill comes to life with scores of birds and in this bulletin I want to give importance only to the raptors (birds of prey) that we observed between Nov’05 and Apr ’06. In subsequent bulletins I will write about the passerines and migrants to Nandi Hills also.
Here I give the checklist of raptors that we (S. Venkataraman, Suresh V and self) spotted during the above mentioned period:
• Common Buzzard (Migrant)
• White-eyed buzzard
• Oriental Honey Buzzard
• Crested Serpent Eagle
• Booted Eagle (Migrant)
• Changeable Hawk Eagle
• Short-toed Snake Eagle
• Bonelli’s Eagle
• Tawny Eagle
• Steppe Eagle (Migrant)
• Black Eagle
• Shikra (including the Accipiter badius dussumieri)
• Shaheen Falcon (Peregrine)
• Black Kite
• Brahminy Kite
• Black-shouldered Kite
• Egyptian Vulture
Where else in India that you can see the most uncommon buzzard, but called as Common Buzzard perched from a stone’s throw away distance but at Nandi Hills. This individual was seen from Nov 19, 2005 until April 22, 2006. Almost all the weekends during this part of the time when we visited the hill we spotted this bird. One early morning on March 18, 2006 when Jemson (my colleague at Texas Instruments and INP member) were at Nandi we spotted the bird very close to the road perched completely wet due to the overnight rains and it was a delight for us to photograph this raptor at such close quarters. They perch close to the roads to hunt calotes and other lizards which are their favorite prey.
The other species of buzzards that we have commonly seen at the hills are the white-eyed buzzard and the Oriental Honey Buzzard. The later breeds at the rain forest patch close to the water tank and we have seen the pair collecting nesting material close to the temple area many times during the winter months.
The Hawk Eagles:
The resident pair of Crested Serpent Eagle is very bold at Nandi Hills. There was not a weekend that passed by without seeing these magnificent eagles out there. They are any photographer/birder’s delight. If you watch them from the car, one can really get close to them to have the best views. We have made tons of photographs of these wonderful birds out there. They are most active after 9 AM.
Crested Serpent Eagle
A single Changeable Hawk Eagle was spotted by us only twice. Once in flight close to the tollgate and other time perched at the Eucalyptus grove near the 7th hair pin bend. We were not so successful in getting picture of this beauty.
We used to sight the resident pair of Tawny eagles very regularly. The pair even built a nest at the foothills on a eucalyptus tree. The nesting was not a success as they abandoned it after 2 months. The nest was placed around 50 feet from the ground.
On March 24 ’06 when Venkataraman, Dennis Shumaker (an American friend) and self were birding and photographing near the temple area we found a group of around 6 Steppe eagles along with 4 Egyptian vultures gliding the thermals. It looked as though they were enjoying the gushing winds in the valley. We were overjoyed to see the Steppes for the first time in our many years of birding at Nandi hills. It was a feast for our eyes.
The Black eagle also could be seen gliding in the valley regularly. They are also active after 9AM and once in April ’06 Ramki, Swarna and self had a very close view of this great raptor when he had gone there exclusively to see the Indian Blue Robin
The Accipiter badius is a common bird and round the year resident at Nandi Hills. But during the winter months the northern sub species Accipitar badius dussumieri also visits the hills. We spotted 2 individuals right on top of the hills. One was seen near the horticulture office and the other was seen hunting lizards near the Tipu Drop area.
Along with the above raptors, the Kestrals, Short-toed snake eagles, Booted Eagle (mostly in flight), the resident Egyptian vultures, resident Shaheen Falcon can be observed in this bird paradise.
Those of you who are bird lovers and photographers who visit Bangalore during the winter months should make a visit to Nandi hills to enjoy the surprises that the hill range has to offer.