A majestic white-bellied sea eagle, usually a resident of coastal ecosystems, took an unexpected detour this week, soaring over the Cauvery River in Tiruchi, India. This rare sighting has left local birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts awestruck.
C. Malolan, a retired banker and avid birdwatcher, spotted the eagle while birding near Mukkombu on Sunday. “We saw the bird flying in circles,” he recalls, “and followed it, capturing some breathtaking photographs as it glided through the air. When it tried to land on a tree, some crows chased it away, perhaps mistaking it for an intruder in their territory.”
Malolan believes the eagle may have been simply passing through the region, seeking a temporary respite from the strong winds and rainy weather along the coast. While this species, classified as “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), typically sticks close to the seashore, it’s known to venture inland occasionally for brief excursions.
The white-bellied sea eagle is a sight to behold. With a body length of 75-85 cm and a wingspan reaching an impressive 178-218 cm, it’s a force to be reckoned with in the avian world. As its name suggests, its diet primarily consists of aquatic creatures like fish and sea snakes. It’s also known for its opportunistic hunting tactics, sometimes stealing food from other raptors or scavenging for carrion.
Sadly, their populations have been declining in some areas, particularly in Kerala, India. Recent studies attribute this decline to the dwindling number of tall trees near the shoreline, serving as crucial roosting sites for these majestic birds. Ficus and casuarina trees facing the sea are particularly preferred nesting grounds.
Malolan’s sighting sparked excitement among the birding community, as it marks the first reported presence of a white-bellied sea eagle in Tiruchi in at least 30 years. “I wasn’t entirely sure when I first saw it,” he admits, “as it’s quite uncommon to see them so far from the coast. But after sharing the photos with other birdwatchers, everyone confirmed its identity. It’s a truly unforgettable experience!”
While the eagle’s future journey remains unknown, its brief appearance over the Cauvery River serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of nature and the unexpected encounters that enrich our lives. It’s a testament to the adaptability and resilience of wildlife, showcasing their ability to venture beyond their perceived boundaries.
This rare sighting is a cause for celebration, highlighting the importance of protecting these magnificent creatures and the delicate ecosystems they call home. By preserving their habitats and raising awareness, we can ensure that future generations have the opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the white-bellied sea eagle, both along the coast and beyond.