Walk into any locality in Bangalore, even some of the more densely packed areas, and take a moment to try and block out the urban noise. It is almost a given that you will hear a penetrating two toned whistle, you might think that it is some roadside Romeo making a nuisance of himself but in fact it is made by a resident whose presence in our city vastly outnumbers those of our roadside Romeos. They too frequent market places looking for easy pickings. He even shares a name with the roadside Romeo of the silver screen but unlike his name sake his dress sense won’t give you a migraine! I am referring to the Black Kite Milvus migrans govinda. And in case you are wondering as to how he got his name – Milves in Latin means Kite, migrans is Latin for wandering and govinda an alternate name for Lord Krishna -the dark one.
The most easily recognizable bird in our urban landscape the Black Kite, as can be expected from the name govinda, is overall brown in colour with shade differences across its body and wings. It is perhaps the most adaptable, numerous and successful bird of prey in the world. It has greatly benefitted by its close association with man, it is in fact most abundant in cities where the highest densities of this bird have been recorded.
The Black Kite is omnivorous; it feeds on whatever it can obtain. In Bangalore and other cities it subsists mostly on offal (the edible, mainly internal organs of an animal, e.g. the heart, liver, brains, and tongue, sometimes regarded as unpalatable, something discarded as refuse.). Because of this they can be seen frequenting meat markets and slaughter houses in large numbers. They also hunt small birds, mice, lizards and frogs. They can sometimes be seen attempting to flush and catch pigeons from building ledges.
It has an extended breeding season which, in the south, varies from September to April. The male courts the female by circling overhead and then spiraling downwards, twisting and swooping upwards at the last minute at great speed, they deftly manage to avoid buildings, cars, electric cables and other man made obstacles. At times the female may turn over in the air as the male dives and present her talons to him.
They usually chose the same nesting sites year after year. The nest is large and untidy, made usually of sticks, wires, rags etc. Both sexes participate in nest building , the females spends more time in building and arranging while the male spends more time in collecting material for nest building. Usually two eggs are laid. While both sexes share incubation duties, it is the female that does most of the incubation.
They are very protective of their nest and are very aggressive towards intruders. In cities these include humans. When the nest is located near buildings they have been known to break window panes when people appear at windows facing the nest. The eggs usually hatch after a period of 24 to 27 days and the first flight of the young usually happens after 40 to 45 days. By 60 to 64 days the young leave the nest.
The happy story of the Black Kite in our city is the direct result of the inefficient system of garbage and waste disposal that we practice. A happy case where our inefficiency has actually helped our wildlife.