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Bird watchers spot rare black owl in Saswad

Article Date: 2004-08-05   Source: http://cities.expressindia.com   Comments: 0

By Anuradha Mascarenhas

Saswad, Maharashtra, India - Three city bird watchers stumbled upon a rare melanistic owl at Saswad, some 40 km from Pune, recently.

Such an owl has never been documented among the several species of the spotted owlet (smaller owls) found in India that includes athene brama brama, athene brama indica and athene brama ultra.

The pitch black melanistic owl takes its name from its excessive melanin pigment, says radiologist Dr Satish Pande who, alongwith environment science student Amit Pawashe and medical practitioner Dr M N Mahajan, were studying the dietary habits of spotted owlets at Saswad. Pande said the black owl cannot be spotted easily as against the albino owl which catches the attention of predators. Interestingly, this melanistic owl has a spotted owlet for a parent while its partner is partially melanistic.

Now, they plan to write to author of Owls of The World James Duncan who had urged bird watchers to send details of any rare owls and to international ornithology journals.

The trio have also taken up conservation of owls. ''At least 15 incidences have been reported where owls have been trapped and their nests burnt due to superstitious beliefs.'' They have been educating villagers of Garade, Udit, Hivre, Jejuri and Saswad about these birds that eat rodents in the fields, says Pande.

Owls also eat scorpions
The trio's study has thrown up startling findings about the owls' diet. Spotted owlets are known to throw undigested food in the form of pellets. Sixty-five such pellets were sterilised and analysed. While the owlets prefer beetles, for the first time the presence of scorpion body parts were found. The owlets ingested the scorpions along with their pointed hard stings later expelled in the pellets. This shows their adaptive response to the drought-like situation in Saswad.

Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from http://cities.expressindia.com and placed here for comment. OwlPages.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.

Related Articles:
2010-07-03 - Indian Eagle Owl's diet can benefit farmers: experts by Anuradha Mascarenhas - Pune, Maharashtra, India
2007-06-29 - Vanishing nests force owls into human habitated areas by Anuradha Mascarenhas - Pune, Maharashtra, India

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