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When a muezzin of Palash union in Narsingdi went to the roof of the mosque after the Fajr azaan sometime last month, he noticed a baby bird sitting helplessly in one corner of the roof.

As he approached, the bird fluttered its wings and tried to flee, but the muezzin grabbed it. He saw it was uninjured. After prayers, he took it to bird lover Sarwar Pathan.

Sarwar specialises in the treatment of injured birds and all kinds of wild animals. He has been dedicated to treating injured or captured wild animals for the last 20 years. Sarwar, from Charsindur, Narsingdi, identified the bird as a baby owl.

He was surprised to see that there were no injuries on the bird's body, yet it couldn't fly! Sarwar is a member of Bangladesh Wildlife Club and he called me to discuss the matter.

He finally understood the baby owl had fallen out of its nest before learning how to fly. Perhaps it parents made a nest in the hollow or branch of a big tree in the vicinity of the mosque.

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They usually build a large nest on a tree branch, using twigs and stalks. They often take over the abandoned nests of a crow, kite or eagle. They normally made their nests between spring and autumn and lay one or two eggs. The eggs take around 33 to 35 days to hatch.

Sarwar found this baby bird in the first week of January and, after providing treatment, freed it in the last week of the same month. The little owl had learned how to fly within this time.

I knew about owls since my childhood. They used to hoot at night sitting in a nearby tree. It was like a rather ghoulish and scary call. Elderly people were rather superstitious about the hooting of owls, taking it to be a bad omen.

I don’t believe in such superstitions. In fact, nowadays this superstition has more or less vanished. Then again, the number of owls has decreased too.

During the breeding season, a couple owls used to hoot at night sitting on two different trees. I heard their call last October when I was in my hometown.

Rather than being scared by their eerie cry, I felt sad at how so many birds are meaninglessly killed. The baby owls tend to jump out of the nest out of fear and fall in danger.

When the baby owls become a little older, they leave the nest and sit on the nearby branches all day. The older ones also spend the day sitting on the branches of tall trees. It can be scary to look up at a tree while passing by to see a solemn own staring rather ominously from its yellow eyes.

Actually the characteristic of this bird is to stare at the people under the tree, that menacing look a defence against danger. The nocturnal brown fish owl’ (scientific name Ketupa zeylonensis) is around 56 cm long and weighs around 1.1 kg.

Fish, frogs, rats and hatchlings are the main food of the owl. They benefit the farmers by devouring rats. But now owls are decreasing in number due to numerous reasons.

Sharif Khan is an ornithologist

This report appeared in Prothom Alo print edition, and has been rewritten in English by NH Sajjad.

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