Regurgitate !

Eat to please thyself, but dress to please others – Benjamin Franklin

Our Chemistry lecturer in college was quoting this line quite often. I forget why this was one of his favorites, but I sure do remember it every time I come across an extremely ‘generous’ host. I had visited a friend’s home for some work, on a summer afternoon, after a heavy weekend lunch. His mother offered me a plate of ‘thaTTe’ idlis, the b.i.g kind. I politely refused, stating nothing but the truth that I had just had my fill. She returned my refusal, equally politely. The plate remained with me. I could feel my eyes swelling up – I am not used to having 2 big meals, one right after the other. How I wished I never had to go there. How I wished she wasn’t such a ‘nice’ lady. How I wished I had the powers of a bird of prey! I could’ve just regurgitated a pellet then, and be done with this traumatic experience 😉

But then, many birds of prey regurgitate – for a different reason and not because they are force-fed. Birds don’t have teeth and they swallow their food, either all of it shortEaredOwlLookingAroundor in parts. In some cases, predators would tear their prey into pieces and swallow them, one by one. In go the skull, hair, feathers, bones, fur; some of these are undigested or partially digested. After digesting the rest of the meal, the birds would regurgitate undigested or partially digested material in the form of pellets. Neat!

And how cool it is to see a

Mascara-lined captivating eyes of the Short Eared Owl

Mascara-lined captivating eyes of the Short Eared Owl

bird actually do that! At the Little Rann of Kutch, India, Rana and I headed to a grassland and saw a group of Short Eared Owls. The group was distributed across the land, with each owl choosing to rest under a different tree. They were just beautiful, with eyes so captivating that we couldn’t take our eyes off them. Wikipedia has given a very interesting description about the black rings around the eyes. They look like Mascara! Sigh, some creatures seem to have everything nice, and for free ! They have tufts of feathers that resemble ‘ears’ and hence, they get their name.

Click on the images for a larger version.

One such owl sat oreadyToRegurgitaten the ground, looked up and down, and suddenly opened its mouth wide. Out popped a neatly packed pellet and the owl went about its routine. How many things can you appreciate about one moment – the bird itself, its Mascara-lined eyes, the fact that it chose that very moment to regurgitate? 🙂

Short Eared Owl regurgitating a pellet

Short Eared Owl regurgitating a pellet

Pellet on the ground

These pellets are not just cute-looking packages, but also a wealth of information. Researchers gather pellets and other tell-tale signs around roosting sites of birds. A roosting site is where a bird would perch on or rest at, during night. The bones, hair and other items found in a pellet would help in finding out what the prey was, and in turn, give clues about the birds roosting there. In addition to this, there maybe feathers or other signs to add to the findings.shortEaredOwlHabitat

It is a pity that such beautiful creatures are being traded, abused, killed. Here are some reports related to the illegal owl trade in India, including having them as pets. I quote a line from one of the links: Owls are as important to our ecosystem as the Tigers or any other better known charismatic species. The least we can do is just let them be.

I am so fascinated by owls, I just got myself one, legally – here is an image of my new acquisition. I do hope that we get to continue to see and hear owls being free, being in the wild, rather than in these forms.




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