Sunday, October 12, 2008

The great horned owl at Nanmangalam

My first encounter with the Great Horned Owl, GHO or Bubo bubo was not so long ago at Nanmangalam.

Mr Ramanan, a veteran of many a GHO encounter, was there again recently, and captured this magnificent picture above.  These large birds are quite something else.   They breed post-monsoon, so maybe another set of chicks we shall soon see?  We had seen some chicks during the bird race, earlier this year.  Quite grown they were by then.  Read about it here.  

Recounting an interesting story, Mr Ramanan narrated how, in the early days there were no roads around Nanmangalam, and the Velachery roads were all full of potholes, and in some places a mud track as well.  The Nanmangalam scrub was not that thick either, and the planted eucalytus was also still young.

Not familiar with the ways of the Bubo bubo, learning was by experience, which included getting his ear clipped by this large owl!  Using the help of a shepherd boy, Mr Ramanan would scramble up to the nest of the GHO, to check and record the growth of the chicks.  
While inspecting the nest for recording the growth of the chick, the adult GHO clipped my ear! From that day onwards I used to wear a helmet whenever I approached the nest!  May be my regular presence and the fact that I was not a threat to the chick, the adult bird became some what friendly.  When ever I was alone or with MNS members or with lot of birds enthusiasts from abroad, the bird immediately with loud calls of "bubo bubo" approached us."

The adult that clipped his ear!

Through his numerous visits, he has seen the "broken wing" and the threat displays of the GHO.  Hopefully, one day I will see this fascinating behaviour.

What the owl does when it feels that its nest is under threat is that it lands on the ground some distance from the threat, acts as if its wing is broken and scurries along the ground, leading the threat away from the nest.  When it feels that the prey/stranger is far enough away from the nest, it takes off and flies back to the nest.

Amazing isnt it!

A broken wing display

Then there is the "threat" display, where the GHO would call its mate and then the two birds would puff their feathers out spread their wings, and look as menacing as possible, making threatening sounds, and swaying back and forth on their legs.

The threat display

Mr Ramanan recalls that he has seen three consecutive broods of the same pair of GHOs, over the span of a few years, and once also saw two pairs breeding together!

I sincerely hope the GHOs continue to survive and thrive in the Nanmangalam quarries.


  1. Great pictures. These are magnificent birds and it is amazing that we can see them in the city (well, a 'forest' in the city).


  2. wow, the great horned owl!! I've seen these only in cages....out in the open, they look even more magnificant!! Excellent pictures!

  3. Glad you liked the pcitures, Lakshmi! Mr Ramanan, as well as several other MNS members, have a treasure trove of great photos, and even better stories and escapades!

  4. What camera was used? The GHO looks very close and sharp.
    Please publish more of Mr.Ramanan's stories and pictures.

  5. Magnificent! The last one sent shivers up and down my spine!

  6. Mr Ramanan says, "The recent GHO was photographed using Leica V LUX-1 + 1.7 Nikon ED converter and others were analog photos taken with Nikon 801 camera and 300 mm ED lens + 1.4 converter using velvia 50 ASA."

    .. Hopefully it makes sense to Mr Pillay? All Greek and Latin to me!

  7. Beuatiful bird. We have them here in AZ and I often see them and hear them calling in the night or the early morning. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  8. Owls are so interesting. It is wonderful to get to see their natural behavior. I have seen this puffing up and rocking behavior once--the growls and the look in their eyes is very threatening.

    Enjoyed my visit and thanks for you visit to the whooping cranes!

  9. truly lovely are a total nature buff,i see :)
    thanks for droppibg by my blog


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