Sanctuary Asia
The Sea Raptor Image Credit: Sanctuary Asia
The Sea Raptor Image Credit: Sanctuary Asia

The Sea Raptor

The White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster is one of the most common raptors along the Indian coastline. Nevertheless, the sight of this soaring, broad-winged, white and black bird of prey is nothing less than majestic

Munib Khanyar

On February 19, 2016, I found myself on a Forest Department boat, sailing toward the Jahaji Beach on the south-western coast of Rutland island, in South Andaman. The idea was to conduct a short and rapid shorebird survey on this roughly two kilometre-long beach. With the rising sun being our alarm clock in the morning and a quick cup of tea our energiser, I, along with two members of the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park Forest Department (Jahaji beach falls within this marine national park), set out to walk the beach in search of birds.


A rather dull walk was lit up by the sight of a juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle flying over the sea that divided the beach and Twin islands to the west. As my binoculars were fixed on this bird, I saw it approach a tall Sea Mohwa tree, atop which sat what seemed to be at least six Intermediate Egrets Mesophoyx intermedia. This rather nonchalant individual began vocalising in a characteristic duck-like Ka-Ka- Kaa and swooped down toward the seated egrets. Complete pandemonium followed, wherein the egrets flew off their perches and tried to deter the raptor from approaching the treetop.

Eager to assert its authority I guess, the White-bellied Sea Eagle kept flying in a loop, returning each time toward the group of egrets, calling and darting toward them. It seemed like the fight was for that topmost perch, for no other tree around was quiet as tall. The egrets, working as a uni

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