Raptor Research & Conservation Foundation


Within a short period of its formation in 2012 RRCF awarded its first grant to a MSc. researcher who was trained in the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Her study related to anthropogenic disturbances to diurnal raptors in Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand.

RRCF was also a partner organisation involved in stopping the mass hunting of the migratory Amur Falcons in their stopover site in India’s north-eastern State of Nagaland. Up to 1,20,000 Amur Falcons were massacred and there was intense trade of ‘meat’ within the neighbouring States.  RRCF supported a small NGO who played a vital role in starting ‘Eco-Clubs’ for village children and rallying of community elders, fishermen, traditional hunters, the Church with missives to the State Government administration and forest departments. Today, as is well known all over the world bird community, killing has virtually stopped and is heralded as a conservation success. RRCF strives to maintain is support in order to bring about a change in attitude of the local people, many who now consider these beautiful small falcons as visitors to their land.

We have an enthusiastic bunch of researchers and student volunteers under Nishant Kumar (PhD. student at Oxford University) working on the ubitiquous Black Kite and its migratory race linneatus in the capital city Delhi from 2013. We are also supporting Dr. Prachi Mehta, an owl researcher who is carrying out her second 4-year study on the IUCN-listed, endangered Forest Owlet in Maharashtra.

Projects funded by RRCF

NEW. “A Study of Resource Partitioning between Owls in Melghat Tiger Landscape.” – submitted by Dr. Prachi Mehta, Wildlife Research & Conservation Society (WRCS), Pune. Co-PI: Mr. Jayant Kulkarni. Whilst working on the Forest Owlet in Melghat Prachi and her team had started a pilot project on assessing the distribution and nesting of other sympatric owls in the project area. A student from TERI university, Delhi did some preliminary work under supervision of Dr. Prachi and earned her MSc dissertation for this project. Among owls, nine species of owls have been documented from Melghat Tiger Reserve. Among the large sized owls, Indian Eagle Owl (Bubo bengalensis), Brown Fish Owl (Ketupa zeylonensis) and the Mottled Wood Owl (Strix ocellata) are commonly seen. Among the medium sized ones Barn owl is again widely distributed while there are a few opportunistic sightings of Brown Hawk Owl (Ninox scutulata) but its distribution within Melghat is unknown. Among the smaller owls, Spotted Owlet (Athene brama), Jungle Owlet (Glaucidium radiatum) and the Indian Scops Owl (Otus bakkamoena) are fairly well distributed in the landscape. Melghat is the stronghold of Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti) and supports a good population of the species in the area. The goal of this project is to understand the mechanism of resource partitioning between large and small owls in the study area. This study will provide valuable insights on co-existence of Forest Owlet with other owls in the area and help in understanding the factors associated with breeding success of individual owls in the area.

 “A study on the Breeding Ecology and Nest Site Selection of the Forest Owlet Heteroglaux blewetti and other Sympatric Owls in Khandwa District, Madhya Pradesh.” – submitted by Dr. Prachi Mehta, Wildlife Research & Conservation Society (WRCS), Pune for MSc thesis by Akshay Vinod Anand, Pondicherry University.

“Understanding the diet of Critically Endangered Gyps vultures for conservation planning using molecular tools” – awarded to National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Bangalore, Karnataka. The Principal Investigator, Dr. Mousumi Ghosh who works with Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan’s lab has the following Research Objectives: (1) Assess the diet of the vulture species in the wild and its determinants across a gradient of distances from National Parks (2) Based on dietary patterns, spatially prioritize conservation areas where vulture primarily feed on wild prey (and the risk of poisoning through NSAID is low), both inside and outside National Parks. Specific objectives: (a) Identify vulture roosting and nesting sites across the study area (b) Assess the seasonal intake of wild versus domestic ungulate species in the diet of the vulture species (c) Examine whether vultures inside/near National Parks consume significantly higher proportion of wild prey than those living outside and, (d) Identify the various geographic and environmental factors, which determine the relative intake of wild versus domestic ungulates in the diet of wild vultures.

Mousumi has a draft manuscript titled “Metabarcoding for parallel identification of species, sex and diet of obligate scavengers: an application to globally-threatened Gyps Vultures”. The paper can be viewed in the section ‘Technical Reports and Publications‘.

Long-billed Vulture from Kanha, Madhya Pradesh, Dr. Mousumi Ghosh.

Dr. Ghosh is currently working on standardizing primers and laboratory protocols for dietary meta-barcoding using next-generation sequencing approaches. She is using faecal droppings of White-rumped Vultures and Long-billed Vultures collected from Central India during a recent reconnaissance survey as well as samples from the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre in Pinjore for these standardizations.

Black Kite Study with WII: 2013..onwards

  1. “Movement Ecology of Black-eared Kites Milvus migrans lineatus during Migration and the Non-breeding Period in the Indian Subcontinent: implications for Conservation” – Research objectives (1)define their migration routes (2) determine their (breeding) natal populations (3) detect potential hotspots of concentration during migration (4) assess their migration parameters (phenology, speed, duration of migration episodes (5)  examine the factors that may affect such parameters, including (a) variables that characterise the individual migrant (e.g. its sex, age, breeding status, health or body condition) and (b) external biotic and abiotic variables such as wind conditions, availability of uplift from thermals or from mountain ridge-drafts, or habitat (6) test the implications of variations among individuals in migratory performance for their subsequent survival (7) study the movement behaviour and spatial displacements of the marked individuals during all the months of residence in India during the non-breeding period (e.g. rate of movement among different rubbish dumps or different towns, larger scale movements to track rain fronts and grasshopper explosions as accomplished in Africa. Migration of Black-eared Kite No. 6244 which is now in its breeding grounds in Russia click here
  2. “Behavioural Ecology of Black Kite Milvus migrans Subsisting on Urban Resources in Delhi”. This study is in continuation of (3) below.
  3. “Resource Selection of Black Kites Milvus migrans” awarded to Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Researcher: Nishant Kumar, MSc. Read more… 
  4. A Study of Resource Selection by Black Kites in Urban Landscape of National Capital Region, India by Mr. Nishant Kumar, MSc. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. STATUS: Project completed. Read project summary.

Forest Owlet & other Owls

  1. Breeding Success of Forest Owlet in Melghat Forests, Maharashtra.” Principal Investigator: Dr. Prachi Mehta. Duration 4 years. RRCF will be supporting another long-term study on the Forest Owlet in Central India. This project titled “A Study of Ecological Correlates that Influence Habitat Use, Reproductive Success and Nest-Site Selection by the Forest Owlet in Melghat Landscape, Maharashtra.” is being initiated by the Wildlife Research and Conservation Society (WRCS), Pune in the buffer area of Melghat Forests.  Executive Summary…

    While studying the Forest Owlet it is difficult to ignore other species of owls so Dr. Prachi Mehta encouraged her student, Ms. Mahasweta Patnaik from TERI School of Advanced Studies to do a pilot study on other owls in the same habitat. A Poster titled “Owls Of Chaurakund: A study understanding the Distribution, Nesting Habitat and Behavior of Owls in Melghat Tiger Reserve” was displayed in the SCCS conference in the last week of September 2018 in Bangalore. Poster.
  2. A Study of Ecology, Distribution and Demography of the Critically Endangered Forest OwletHeteroglaux blewitti in Burhanpur and Khandwa Forest Divisions, Madhya Pradesh” awarded to Wildlife Research and Conservation Society, Pune. Principal Investigator: Dr. Prachi Mehta. Read more… To protect owl nests and their habitats, WRCS have formed owl protection committees comprising of local farmers at the project site in Madhya Pradesh. Prachi is also training women in making handicraft items based on themes about owls. The handicrafts are sold and the proceeds are returned to the committees as an incentive to protect owls. This initiative will help in creating a positive image of owls in people’s mind, and in weaning them away from their superstitious beliefs about these marvellous birds.

  • “Investigating interactions between Vultures, Facultative Scavengers and Carrion” – submitted by Wildlife Institute of India for MSc dissertation of Ms. Bhavya Iyer, Saurashtra University.

  • Conservation Strategies for Securing Endangered White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis and Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus species in the Tamil Nadu part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve awarded to Dr. Balasundaram Ramakrishnan. Duration of Project is 2 years. Dr. Ramakrishnan will focus on securing the country’s southernmost vulture populations both at the regional and landscape levels, and of course, assessing the sale and usage of diclofenac in the fringe areas of vulture habitats. 
  • Amur Falcon Conservation Programme 2015-2016 & 2014-2015: We continue to support Nagaland Wildlife Biodiversity & Conservation Trust, Nagaland with the various activities including enforcement of hunting ban through high-level support, local community outreach and education through Eco-Clubs & Under-The-Canopy workshops along with adopting a small eco-tourism model. Watch the film on this website.  Amy, the Marathon Bird. Read more… 
  • ‘’Conservation of the Andaman Serpent-eagle Spilornis elgini in the Andaman Islands: Phase – I’’: Awarded to Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Coimbatore. Principal Investigator: Dr. Shirish S. Manchi. Executive Summary…
  • Amur Falcon Conservation Project, Nagaland by Nagaland Wildlife & Biodiversity Conservation Trust (NWBCT). STATUS: Project completed. Read project summary 
  • Survey & Ecology of Owls & Owlets at Melghat Tiger Reserve and it’s Adjoining Area, Maharashtra by Dr. Jayant Wadatkar, Wildlife Environment & Conservation Society (WECS), Amravati, Maharashtra. STATUS: Project completed.
  • Influence of Habitat Structure & Anthropogenic Disturbance on Diurnal Raptor Community in Rajaji National Park, Dehradun by Ms. Monika Kaushik, MSc. STATUS: Project completed. Poster released at WII Wildlife Research Seminar & Alumni Meet, Dehradun 21 August 2014.