Species in Focus – Spotted Owlet


Buried in the obscurity of the night, moving silently through the eerie darkness. Riddled in secrets and superstition. Silhouetted against the moon that hangs low in the sky. So much to learn about them. So much to unlearn.

I give you the Owl.

Owls are a bird that has captured the imagination of cultures across space and time. It is a god in one culture while being a witch in another. Opposing belief about this mysterious bird coexist together in the same world.

It is said that owls roamed the earth 67 million years ago, before the dinosaurs died en masse. They flew to all odd corners of the planet, from the frigid north to blazing south. Specially adapted to a life in the dark, this animal possess capabilities that now tech could endow you with. With superb night-time vision, silent flight and satellite-like hearing, this bird is everything special-op soldiers want to be.

While all owls move me in ways I can’t describe, here I go back to the bird that started it all—the Spotted Owlet.

One fateful day in Rishi Valley School, I heard that an owl had been sighted near the academic building. Rushing to the spot, I peered through the branches for the telltale features of this enigmatic bird. Within seconds I discerned a small grey figure in the tangle of leaves. 2 bright yellow eyes met my own, locking me into a staring competition. That penetrating gaze seared in me a love for this bird that only grows stronger as the years go by.

I wrote about the Spotted Owlet in another article—read it here!

The Spotted Owlet has some interesting mannerisms. When it senses an intruder, It begins bobbing its head at them in an almost dance like fashion. It is both hilarious and fascinating at the same time.

These birds live communally, roosting in tree hollows during the day. In Rishi Valley School (my alma mater), I knew of 15 such families, who I’d visit on a weekly basis. I recall that some families would regard me with indifference while others would make their displeasure known (by the head bobbing). Such individualistic behaviour shows how little we now about them.

In India, to be called an owl is to be declared foolish. This is so pitiful, because the owl is anything but unwise. They perceive the world in ways we could never fathom. It is high time we re-examine our vocabulary.

My personal newsletter is named The Owlet. It is one way I can give back to this bird that has given me so much.

Fact File

Spotted Owlet (Athene brama)

  • Length: 20 cm
  • Found in India along with few neighbouring countries.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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