Spotting the spotted owlet in Delhi

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  • The Athene brama or the Spotted Owlet is one of the most commonly sighted owls in our backyard. It is a nocturnal raptor (a bird of prey) found in the Indian Subcontinent, except for Sri Lanka.
  • The owl is largely crepuscular (appearing as it does around twilight) and nocturnal, but is sometimes seen during the daytime. It normally comes out before dusk and retires by sunrise to its roost in a tree hole or branch, where pairs or small family groups huddle together.


  • Its prey includes mostly beetles, moths, other insects and it also preys on earthworms, lizards, mice and small birds.
  • At dusk, it perches on electrical wires or street lamp posts, fences or other such vantage points to look for prey, pouncing on an unwary insect, or occasionally launching an aerial attack to seize a flying insect attracted to the light from street lamps.
  • Owls have always had a powerful hold on our imaginations by being a part of myths, legends and fairytales.
  • Irrespective of their aura, they are often considered bad omens, and this is hurting their survival. Owls as predators keep a balance in our ecosystem by keeping a check on rodent and insect population.
  • Hence, this perception needs to change as all creatures have a role to play in the ecological system and hurting this delicate balance could harm us in the long run.
  • Named after a Hindu god and Greek goddess, one would imagine that the Spotted Owlet, Athene brama, would be a towering majestic creature, but its length is 19-21 cm, depending on the sex — the females tend to be larger.
  • Athene, the goddess of wisdom, war and liberal arts, in Greek mythology, had a favourite bird the owl, from her primitive role as the goddess of the night.
  • Brama or Brahma is the supreme Hindu spirit. In Hindu mythology, the owl is a Vahan (mode of transport) of Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth.
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