Birder Fitrah Marican is currently leading the stats for UM Big Year 2015, but more importantly, she snagged this impossibly fluffy picture of a Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela) in the Rimba Ilmu parking lot.
In flight and when viewed in side profile, the Crested Serpent Eagle resembles the haughty, keen-eyed eagles of repute, but here we get a glimpse of an eagle at ease—but not completely relaxed, as its sharp eyes remain alert.
The Crested Serpent Eagle is a medium-large sized eagle, with a stocky, dark brown body and broad white band across its tail as well as its wings in flight. The facial skin extending from the eagle’s beak towards its eyes is bare to avoid feathers injuring its eyes during flight, and is coloured bright yellow.
Its wide-open eyes may appear droll and cartoonish to us, but they aren’t eagle eyes for nothing! The forward facing eyes gives the Crested Serpent Eagle stereoscopic vision, which means it can gauge depth and distance—the way we humans do.
Another thing that eagles have in common with humans is that their eyes are the same size as human eyes, which is no small feat considering the difference in total body weight! This makes eagle vision five times sharper than human vision, with stronger focus, magnification and colour vision—eagles can even see ultraviolet light! It’s somewhat ironic that even as we humans save up to buy telephoto lens to photograph birds, eagles already have these built in.
Not that you're in any doubt, but if the Crested Serpent Eagle can swoop down from tremendous heights to make off with a fully-camouflaged Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor), this mighty predator deserves full respect.
The RIMBA Project hooks up with UM Big Year to bring you a series of all-things-bird! If you're interested in joining us on our 2015 - Birdwatching Odyssey, sign up here or say hello on Facebook!