Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl

Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl was one of my most sought after birds. I’ve been to the area where it can be found regularly in Chiang Dao for more than 3 times but ended up with no luck. Until April 29th of this year, I got a phone call from one of my friends telling me that a pair of them is showing right now in daylight! I did not waste a single second and headed to Chiang Dao immediately. Lucky that it only takes about 30 minutes from my house to reach Chiang Dao.

As soon as I arrived, Thongdaeng, the officer who regularly checks for the birds, was already there welcoming me. He pointed out to the trees where the birds were staying and my heart raced as I had the first glimpse of the giants. They were huge!

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Recently fledged juvenile Spot-bellied Eagle Owl

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And the parent. Not sure if it’s the father or mother.

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It seemed to be panting a lot as the temperature rose.

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One of the birds was a recently fledged juvenile with overall whitish plumage and sparse barrings. Another bird was its parent but I can’t be sure if it was the father or mother. Thongdaeng said early in the morning before I arrived, the parent also caught a prey and fed to the chick. The prey seemed to be some kind of rodents.

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I’m now convinced that cats and owls are related.

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At first, they were perching on different trees but after about half an hour, the juvenile moved to perch with its parent. I was really lucky to see and photograph them together side by side since no one has photographed them perching together again after that. They spent time preening each other for almost an hour. As you can see, I couldn’t help but firing lots of shots.

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After some time, the adult decided to move to a different perch and spent time preening itself. I left the area around noon when the birds seemed to stop having any activity. From that day on, lots of birders and bird photographers visited the area regularly and the birds continued to show well for about a month before the juvenile began to venture out by itself.

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However, bad news arrived earlier last month when the corpse of the juvenile was found by the utility pole in front of the area where they were staying. It seemed to have died from electric shock. Last year, one of the juveniles also died from the very same cause in the same area. Actions have been taken to install insulators to prevent birds from being electrocuted. Hopefully the parents will still stay in the same area and we’ll see new chicks again next year.

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