Tale of a majestic nocturnal bird owl!

By Pradeep Kumar

Beyond the Horizon

Seeing a rarely found white owl, probably an Indian eagle-owl, near Naharlagun power house around 1.30 am on Friday forced my inquisitive to did little research to know more.

The outcome was mind boggling toeing Indian tradition that a white owl usually depicts wealth and prosperity as Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity and here carrier is a white owl. So a white owl depicts the presence of the goddess herself & seeing a white owl during Lakshmi Puja is much more special. Metaphysician Clarence Sherrick writes that “The owl is a symbol of wisdom, patience, secrets, mystery and observance. It is also considered to be a very magical creature as well.  White is most often associated with purity, but may also be associated with winter as well. However, a white owl may represent a desire for wisdom or pure unfettered knowledge. Something you desire to acquire or may be about to”.

One Seepika S from Bengaluru in – Owls, black magic and the Telangana polls: What is the link? – wrote on Friday: What have owls got to do with elections? Nothing, but ever since Assembly elections were announced in Telangana, there has been a surge in demand for these birds, included in Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act schedule.

The owl and election correlation has come to light when police in Kalaburagi district of Karnataka in questioned six men who were arrested for smuggling two exotic eagle-owls. The Times of India reported that even the police were astonished after listening to the motives behind the smuggling. The poacher said a politician contesting elections in Telangana is using the nocturnal birds to help bring misfortune to his rivals. The owls were being carried by the poachers to be sold for Rs 3-4 lakh a bird, police said.

The Indian eagle owl is called Kombina Goobe in southern India for its horn-like feature. There is a blind belief that people can be brought under a spell, especially because the birds have large, unblinking eyes, the report added.

Driven by religious myths and superstitious beliefs tied to owls, these birds are sought for their body parts such as talons, skulls, bones, feathers, meat and blood, which are then used in talismans, black magic and traditional medicine, apart from the sacrifices.

Owls Vs Deepawali:  Owls make way to the Indian bird markets during Diwali to be slaughtered to make the goddess happy. Some believe that sacrificing this nocturnal bird, which is the ‘vaahan’ of Goddess Lakshmi, known to be the goddess of wealth and prosperity makes her stay for an entire year.

The report published by TRAFFIC INDIA, the wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – has revealed that black magic and sorcery driven by superstition, totems and taboos is slowly driving various owl species towards extinction.

According to the report, of the 30 owl species found in India, 15 have been found to be used in the domestic live bird trade. Large species, particularly those with false “ear-tufts” (feather extensions on the head), are the most highly sought after by traders since these are considered to have greater magical properties.

Blogger Shaunak Bhattacharjee, however, says: Owls are the most magnificent creatures ever. I am a birdwatcher and owls are one of the most interesting subjects and one of the only birds that notice your existence, they widen eyes at you, bob their heads at you and much more. I consider myself really lucky the days I encounter an owl. However, these birds are bad omens; a clear sign of cataclysm is nothing but sarcasm. “I have also heard they (owls) are angels that are protecting you as white owls have been following my husband since he was a baby,” says Lucero Leza, a mother.

Owls in India are protected under t Wildlife (Protection) Act of India that prohibits hunting, trade or any other form of utilization of the species or their body parts. Their international trade is further restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

There are. Around 33 species of owls, of the over 200 species found globally, found in every kind of habitat In India alone, including Arunachal Pradesh. Owls have wonderful unique features that help them hunt insects, fish and small birds, reptiles and mammals. No wonder, they are called raptors or birds of prey. Most owls are nocturnal. While some owls make their home in the hollow of trees, others may roost in an empty barn or abandoned building or a rocky area.

Owls can swoop through the air without making a sound. Their specially designed feathers are lighter and softer around the edges, so they can fly noiselessly. The most predominant feature in owls is their eyes, which help them to see both in day and dark. Owl eyes are usually large and bright and close together so they can gather and reflect more light. They can also turn their head nearly 3600 because of a flexible neck with double the number of bones humans have so that they can see to the sides and behind while the body stays in the same spot.

The Indian eagle-owl, also called the rock eagle-owl or Bengal eagle-owl (Bubo bengalensis), is a species of large horned owl restricted to Indian Subcontinent, mostly in pairs in hilly and rocky scrub forests. Earlier treated as a subspecies of Eurasian eagle-owl, they a deep resonant booming call that may be heard at dawn and dusk. Typically large with “tufts” on their heads, they are splashed with brown and grey, and have a white throat patch with black small stripes.

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