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Issue 42
, 2013
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Birds of summer

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Source: The Hindu, Date: , 2013

Winter migratory birds have flown back to their native lands, and the spotlight is now on resident species, birdwatchers tell K.Jeshi

They came in millions, steely blue-and-white barn swallows, all the way from Eurasia to escape the harsh winters. Once summer set in, they flew back to their homeland. Sandpipers, with a dull brown and grey or streaked plumage, have bid goodbye. So have the migratory pin-tailed ducks and garganeys. The spotlight is now on resident birds.

Step out, and you will spot jet black drongos, red-vented bulbuls, and purple sunbirds perched on neighbourhood trees, pecking on fruits. “They are native birds that can be spotted through the year,” says P.R. Selvaraj of Coimbatore Nature Society (CNS).

Some other common resident birds are black kites, the greyish-brown pale-billed flowerpecker (a small, stout bird that feeds on chakkarapazham or small cherry fruits), and yellow-billed babbler. “Golden oriole, the yellow-and-black Eurasian migratory bird, is still around. You can see it perched on fig, banyan and badam trees. It will fly back shortly,” he adds.

The foothills and places near water bodies are ideal bird-watching spots. You can set out early in the morning and watch the birds through the day. Books such as Richard Grimmett’s book on Birds of The Indian Sub-Continent or Salim Ali’s Book of Indian Birds can be a handy guide, says Selvaraj.

Some of the birds to watch out for are the Indian Roller (earlier called Blue Jay), a blue bird with a brown head. You can see it near wetlands, fields and arid lands at dawn. The chestnut-bellied sand grouse, which has a brown-greyish body and is the size of a pigeon, can be sighted too.

At Marudhamalai foothills, Selvaraj and his team sighted the pied bush chat, a black bird with a white patch, and shrikes the size of mynahs.

Summer is ideal to study the nesting behaviour of birds, says Mohammed Saleem of Environment Conservation Group (ECG), who is camping in Maharashtra to catch a glimpse of the endangered Great Indian Bustard. “It’s quite an experience,” says Saleem about the nesting of the pied bush chat, which he observed in the city outskirts. “It builds the nest on a small opening on a mud wall or on crevices in the rock. It’s fascinating to watch the birds bring the worms to feed the chicks. The parents take turns to feed the chicks. They take great pains to clean the nest of bird droppings too. On the way to Ooty, we can see a lot of these nests,” he adds.

Sparrows, mynahs, blue rock pigeons (we see them in 100s), Indian Robin (the male is black and female is brown) can be seen nesting near farmlands; they provide worms, grains and spiders for the chicks. “The birds must not be disturbed. They abandon the nest if they sense any disturbance. It might endanger the chicks,” he warns.

You can listen to the call of the kuyil (cuckoo) in summer, says K. Ratnam. An avid bird watcher, he has authored many books on Indian birds. “The male kuyil is black while the female has a striped body. They can be spotted on mango and neem trees enjoying the fresh foliage of spring,” he says.

He says the lack of rainfall and the cutting of trees have affected the birds. However, he spotted the golden backed woodpecker, white-breasted kingfisher, and tree pie (brown body, long tail and white head) from the terrace of his home in Singanallur.

Macro photographer K. Jayaram says summer is when ground nesting birds such as the yellow-wattled lapwing and red-wattled lapwing build their nests on abandoned agricultural lands, dry lake beds, dried-up ponds, or wastelands. “You need a good pair of binoculars, a field guide and the company of a seasoned bird watcher to observe birds. Forest edges, tree canopies, foothills, orchards and public gardens and even your neighbourhood is a good way to begin,” he adds.


How to invite birds

Keep water bowls in front of your homes, balcony or the terrace

Place some grains and food

Birds love small plants or trees

Watch out

Near Nilambur: The common white-throated kingfisher

Singanallur and Sulur Tanks: Black-and-white pied kingfisher, Little blue Kingfisher

Vedapatti and Perur: The blue-and-yellow Stork-billed kingfisher

Sholaiyur and Anaikatty: Green Chloropsis (leaf bird) and barbets

Ukkadam tank: Pelicans, painted storks, egrets and herons

Other popular spots are the foothills of Kovai Coutralam, Marudhamalai and Siruvani

Painted snipes that resembles the size of a hen. A brown and black bird with a long beak.

Indian Courser, a brown bird with an orangish neck.

The paddy bird — dark brown or greyish bird. It resembles a stork and found near the drains.

Parakeets, raptors ( black and grey), oriental honey buzzard, shikras, seven sisters (babblers), forest eagle owls and larks (brown bird smaller than sparrows)

You can spot

Painted snipes — Resemble a that resembles the size of a hen. A brown and black bird with a long beak; the size of a hen (in pic)

Indian Courser — A brown bird with an orangish neck

The paddy bird— A dark brown or greyish bird that resembles a stork; found near the drains.

Other birds include parakeets, raptors (black and grey), oriental honey buzzard, shikras, seven sisters (babblers), forest eagle owls and larks (a brown bird smaller than the sparrow)