Thrissur: A man who clicked a picture of an owl was amazed when he learned that the picture he snapped four years back was first of its kind in Kerala.
As part of a bird survey, ER Srikumar, a research student of College of Forestry in Kerala Agricultural University, took the snap of a rock eagle owl (Komban Moonga) four years back from Palakkad. Out of two photos, one shows the bird in a sombre pose and another with its red eyes wide open. The low clarity pictures were taken from a long distance.
The owl in the image was recognized as Rock Eagle Owl or Indian Eagle Owl, which is locally known as komban moonga. It took four years to identify that it was the first photo of its kind captured from Kerala. It was known with the help of eBird, an online database of bird observations.
The Rock Eagle Owls are normally seen in scrub and light to medium forests but are especially seen near rocky hillocks, ravines and steep banks of rivers and streams. Such places are rare in Kerala. There are reports that the owl was seen near Kanyakumari in 1990, Walayar in 1994 and in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in 1999. However, there were no pictures of them.
Scientifically known as Bubo bengalensis, the owl was earlier called as Eurasian Eagle owl. The ground colour of the owl is dark brown, while some are pale and yellowish. They have long horn-like ears and white spots on the feathers. They pray on small mammals, lizards, snakes, frogs, fish, crabs and large insects.
In north India, they are widely used for black magic and sorcery which is believed to bring fortunes and wealth. Rock eagle owl is trafficked extensively in India along with barn owl (vellimoonga) for the same purpose.