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Beware of Pickpockets!

Brahminy Kite, Kabini -

Remember those mug shots at police stations and public gatherings, warning us to watch out for malcontents? Remember how each portrait oozed criminal intent, and made you clutch your wallet as a reflex action and look closer at your neighbor? The mug shots at Kabini, however, feature a rather distinguished visage that bespeaks an impeccable pedigree. While he sure is a handsome specimen of the venerable family of Raptors, the Brahminy Kite is proof that even the noblest families have a villain skulking in the family tree. This bird leads an interesting dual life, and prefers to exist as a Kite with no strings attached! His day job as an avian Hyena involves scavenging for food at garbage dumps, fish processing zones, and other places where carrion is plentiful and he doesn’t have to hunt for dinner. His inherent laziness, though, allows him to transition seamlessly from his ‘Jekyll’ self to a ‘Hyde’ avatar in the blink of an eye. He’s an opportunistic thief (he prefers the fashionable label, Klepto-parasite) who’s been known to steal from fishermen, and also from other birds’ nests. When such sources dry up, he turns mugger: it has been observed that he often targets River Terns who’ve just caught a fish. He swoops down on them from above and kicks out with his legs, making them drop their fish, which he then decamps with. Surprisingly for a bird bandit, he’s far from being a social outcast. Known as Elang Bondol in Indonesia, this bird is the official mascot of Jakarta. In fact, Langkawi in Malaysia, is also named after this member of the avian underworld. And in parts of India, he’s worshiped as the manifestation of Garuda, Vishnu’s divine chauffeur. Maybe it’s all this veneration that has gone to his head, and makes him believe he doesn’t have to work for a living anymore!



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