I was very surprised when I saw an Eastern Imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) in the Rann of Kutch. I’d never seen this bird before, but my haphazard impression was that this is a bird of forests and open grasslands. I’d read about its tendency to nest in high and isolated trees, so that it could survey its surroundings from its high perch. I was also mistaken about the meaning of the adjective “Eastern” in its name. This did not imply an Asian population, but merely distinguished it from the Spanish species. So the Eastern Imperial eagle is the eagle of the Habsburgs, and the one that I saw was wintering in the desert. I wonder why the Habsburgs thought this was a majestic bird; because it mainly robs prey from other raptors?
Our first sighting was late in the first evening of my trip to the Rann. It sat on a high mound; the only thing that stuck out of the flat desert up to the horizon. As the sun faded, it sat there, not paying much heed to our jeep circling below the mound, trying to find the best angle for photos. The number of mature individuals across the world is less than 10,000. So I was very surprised to have another sighting the very next morning. It was the same area of the desert, so I’d probably seen the same individual twice. What was it doing in the desert? The desert is a wonderful habitat for raptors. Any water body attracts lots of birds and smaller animals, and the unobstructed views are a great delight to hunters of all species.