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Sunday, 14 November 2004    
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Giant bird snatches child

by Shanika Sriyananda

Dimuthu Madusanka

People living in the little huts near the railway crossing at Ambalappalama, Beruwela are still traumatised with the snatching of a child by a giant bird a few days ago.

The victim of this giant bird is five and half-year-old Dimuthu Madusanka. The bird, swooped down on him, gripped him with its claws and tried to snatch him while he was playing on the beach. He still suffers from the wounds as well as the trauma of the attempted snatching.

Loku pihatu thiyana yakek mawa geniyanna haduwa (A demon with big wings tried to take me), he explains the fearful incident happened. His mother Namali, had taken her son to the beach, a few metres away from their small hut.

She was collecting fire wood when she suddenly heard Madusanka screaming for help. " A very big white bird with brown and black feathers snatched my son and lifted him about two feet from the ground.

I hit the bird with a wooden pole and it flew away dropping my son on the ground", said Namali.

Meanwhile, bird experts confirmed the alien bird to be a white bellied sea eagle. They advised people living in coastal areas not to panic as there are no records of these eagles snatching humans.

Dimuthu Madusanka with his mother
Pix by Indrajith Uduwage

Jagath Gunawardna, Attorney-at-law and a naturalist, said that only two species of large eagles - mount hawk eagle and white bellied sea eagle - are to be found in the country and they were common mainly in the dry zone.

"According to the mother's description and locality of the incident, the bird is most probably a white bellied sea eagle.

It cannot be an adult eagle but a juvenile.

If this was a deliberate attempt the boy's scalp would have come out due to snatching", he said.

He said migratory birds fly to Sri Lanka from the East or the West route.

Another naturalist Deepal Warakagoda also confirmed that the 'giant bird' could be a white bellied sea eagle.

"But this is according to the description of the size and colour of the bird.

This eagle is fairly common in the dry zone and can be seen near the tanks, rivers lagoons and coastal areas", he said adding that they are occasionally found in the wet zone and a small population of this bird has been recorded from the Kandy District too.

"Its main food is fresh water and marine fish species and sea snakes but not human flesh. White bellied sea eagles first settle on the big prey and try to kill it but do not lift it at once. They generally lift the prey if only they are disturbed", he said.

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