Birds of prey can’t often be called “cute”, but there is one bird of prey in northern India that is most certainly cute!
The Collared Falconet Microhierax caerulescens was first described by European ornithologist George Edwards in 1750, as “the little black and orange colour’d Indian hawk”.
It is only 14 to 18 cm long, with shortish wings, mid-length tail and powerful legs. It has a thick black eye stripe and glossy black upperparts, and a rufous throat, belly and legs. The white collar is distinctive, and it is this feature together with the black eye stripe that gives it that “cute” appearance; almost as if it were wearing makeup!
It is found in the eastern Himalayas, from Uttarakhand and Nepal to northeastern India. It frequents open deciduous forest, plantations and evergreen forest edges, often near rivers and streams. It occurs from sea level up to 2,000 metres above.
The Collared Falconet hunts from a perch, like a flycatcher or a small shrike rather than a falcon, performing several foraging sallies. Prey include large insects such as butterflies, moths, dragonflies, grasshoppers, beetles and cicadas, but it also takes small birds, lizards and even small mammals.
It roosts and nests in cavities in trees, usually abandoned by barbets or woodpeckers. The breeding season takes place between February and May. The female lays 4-5 dirty white eggs and both adults incubate them. The adults are very aggressive towards intruders, both humans and animals, if they approach the nest site.
To see this incredibly “cute” little raptor, join us on our Nature Travel Birding trip to Northern India in January 2020. There are still very limited space available on this incredible small-group, expert-guided trip.