The few endemic birds of the Nicobar islands are very charismatic. And they were the biggest motivation for me to make the journey to the remote island of Great Nicobar in March this year.
One evening, we were driving down the partly completed road from the island’s headquarters – Campbell Bay – to Indira Point (which, by the way, is the Southern-most tip of India). Something perched on the electric wire caught my attention. My first thought was that it was a large hawk (possibly a Sparrowhawk or a Besra). As the vehicle stopped and we got a good look at it, I went speechless. We were staring at India’s (and the world’s) smallest eagle – Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle (Spilornis klossi).
Also known as South Nicobar Serpent Eagle, it stands all of 38-42 cm tall with a wingspan under a metre. That’s about the size of a House Crow! These eagles are endemic to some islands in the Nicobar archipelago, where they are seen primarily in and around primary forests.
This was an exciting encounter, as I’d never imagined that an eagle could be that small. After giving us some great views on the bare tree, the bird eventually flew into the canopy disappearing nearly as quickly as it appeared. Little did we know then that there was more in store…
The next morning, as we were heading out on a walk near Campbell Bay, we were told there’s an eagle sitting on a tree. We reached the spot and came across this beautiful juvenile Serpent Eagle, with its overall pale brown (almost cream coloured) plumage and dark wings.
The small size gave it away as a Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle again!
The smallest eagle in the world turned out to be a very special lifer!