Eagle on my roofOk, so they’re not actually eagles – they’re red kites. That just doesn’t sound quite as good as a heading.

But they are very common in Indian cities and for a European city dweller, it’s still quite exciting to share your domestic vista with a large number of birds of prey.

There are a loads of them near my place – there must be at least ten that live in the empty lot full of palm trees that I can see just across from here as I’m typing.  I’m lucky that as I’m working I’ve got the doors to the terrace thrown open, so I can see the palms and hear the slightly effete cry of the kites. Very small sound for such a big bird.

And they ARE a big bird, far larger than the tiny kestrels that are a common sight where I grew up in Ireland and England – these kites would as be at least a foot and a half high and they’ve got a really big wing span.

No, please don’t ask, I don’t know how big – wider than my arms spread out.  Big.

And they’ve got that rather high pitched squeaky call – and far as I can tell a red kite likes nothing better than to sit down on a nice high branch and have a good old chat to a flying pal. No doubt whinging about the lack of available voles or rats, or whatever it is they hunt and scavenge for on a daily basis. Actually do they even have voles in India? Let’s face it, it’s probably rats, there are a lot of rats. Or garbage, most wild things here like to snack on garbage – free range cows for instance are very partial to it.

On cloudy days the kites come closer to the house. Do  not ask me why, I live amongst birds of prey, I do not understand their ways.  But I do know that I wandered out onto my terrace this week to check my legs still worked after a particularly long stretch at the computer and once I’d stepped outside I realised I was face to face with a bird of prey having a little rest on my window ledge.This meant I got to see up close their startling yellow eyes and very cruel looking beak. I have no doubt that if I was a vole, I would have trembled: even at my size it gave me quite a turn.

And the kite, didn’t look best pleased about the whole thing either. In fact since that little encounter it’s moved one tree over from where it used to sit, so it’s now in my direct line of sight as I work. And I swear it stares at me all day long. It’s rather unnerving to have pissed off a bird of prey. I am not happy about the idea at all – whenever I look up, there it is, giving me the big yellow eye…

Eagle on my roofAnyway, the other things that red kites seem to like to do is to land on my flat roof – this was even before they started plotting my downfall – this has been an ongoing things since I got here.

The roof is made of clear-ish plastic; it’s a very fancy apartment but it is still India, so bits of the roof are simply corrugated plastic. So the kites seem to like to land on there and bounce around a bit for some reason.

And as they’re big heavy birds remember, it makes a hell of a racket. When I first moved in I thought it was small children throwing themselves about on the roof. The sound’s that heavy a thud when they land. I’d hear these thuds and think, that’s small children, how annoying. But gradually I realised that can’t be right, that’s the roof and my place is taller than the other apartments. So unless those small children can fly…

Sometimes I’m not very quick on the uptake. Or perhaps not growing up in a world with giant birds of prey in the locale my mind doesn’t make those connections very quickly.

One thing that has deeply surprised me, is that from where I stand under that clear roof, you can see the size of the kite’s feet. Think about whatever your typical image of a bird of prey is – in it, I’ll bet, their feet are tucked up underneath them… you just don’t think how big those feet must be. All that ripping and tearing means they need quite a lot of talon and when they’re pushed flat, like on my flat roof, you can see how huge are the foot shadows.

So there you go – my guide to the omnipresent Indian red kite. Squeaky voice and big feet.

Ornithologists feel free to ask for more information, quite patently I haven’t got any, but feel free to ask

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If you’ve enjoyed this post, do check out these other vaguely bird related posts as well:

Crows are the new black
Video : The crow chorus at dusk
The view from the office: Tues 14 August