Giving you guys a little background, we visited Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India for an incredible safari experience. One of the first things on our itinerary was an early morning bird watching walk in the core area of the jungle.
Having spotted 38 colourful aerial species in a span of 4 hours on foot, bird-watching became our new found hobby. Looking through our binoculars between branches and trees, we were mesmerised with the colour, variety, shape, and size on display before us. Even more overwhelming was the realisation that what we were seeing was the smallest possible fraction of what is actually out there to behold.
Listed here are 7 of our favourite species with a few fun facts we learnt about them.
Before we get started on the list, you guys have to know something. So, this trip to Kanha was my birthday surprise, which to my delight, Pushki had put together very thoughtfully. Or not. He forgot to carry our camera! Can you imagine? First wildlife experience and no camera. (Now you know exactly what happens when the woman doesn’t supervise the packing). So, left to the mercy of our mobile phones, we definitely missed capturing close shots of the lovely birds we saw. And hence, most of the photos in this article are courtesy our naturalist, Varun Mani.
Phew. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s begin our super 7!
- Indian Grey Hornbill – ‘We are family’
The fascinating nesting behaviour of the hornbill is an inspiring act of trust and devotion. When the female hornbill is ready to lay eggs, she finds a hole in a tree, enters it, seals the nest cavity and does not see daylight till the eggs hatch and the chicks are around 45 days old. In this entire duration, the female is solely dependent on the male to deliver food to her and her chicks at various times of the day through a small slit/opening in the nest. It is also noteworthy that during this time, the female sheds all her feathers thereby affecting her ability to fly. The entire family is at the mercy of the male, and if for some reason the male doesn’t turn up, all can die of starvation. Strong family bonds, eh?
- Indian Roller – ‘Friends of farmers’
A lovely little blue-throated bird, the Indian Roller is also known as Neelkanth (Hindi word for ‘blue throat’). Instead of getting into their behavioural patterns, we would like to highlight a disturbing trend we have come across in relation to this tiny creature.
In the weeks leading to Dusshera (a Hindu festival usually celebrated in the month of September/October, symbolic of the victory of good over evil), these birds are trapped, tied up and tortured in captivity by a few people under the garb of superstitious beliefs, religious or otherwise. It is believed that these birds will lead to getting one’s wishes granted by delivering messages to Lord Shiva (the Hindu God of creation, maintenance and destruction). The belief stems from the co-incidence that both, Lord Shiva and the Indian Roller are known as ‘Neelkanth’ and hence devotees link the two in some way. Sadly, more often than not, these innocent creatures die soon after being released. On a positive note, recently, people in India have started to become aware of this inhumane act and a few NGO’s have been trying to curb this sad practice.
- Crested Serpent Eagle – ‘Eagle with a crown’
This bright yellow eyed reptile hunter is known to hunt and feed on snakes and lizards. Most of the time the eagle sits motionless, perched high up for hours at end, looking to spot its prey with its sharp eyes. Once the prey is identified, with a dramatic leap it plunges almost vertically and eats its prey head first.
- Little Cormorant – ‘The Diver’
An excellent diver and hunter, the Little Cormorant takes the leap of faith to catch fish and crustaceans. Having a diverse diet, our little ‘diver’ uses its webbed feet and wings to propel itself under water. After the dive, it is often seen spreading its wings wide in the sun to dry them. This is because, it lacks the oil grand (found in ducks) which helps the body dry up.
- White throated kingfisher – ‘The Monogamists’
The male and female species of this noisy bird are known to bond for life, once the male wins the females heart. The male generally woos the female by spreading out his wings and displaying his colours. Another peculiar courtship tactic is wherein the male brings a piece of fish for the female, with the quality and type of fish determining his future with her. Lessons to learn, guys?
- Jungle Owlet – ‘The fearless’
Small little round faced creatures, these owls have strong talons and are fearless! They have piercing yellow eyes and are mainly active during dawn and dusk. They generally stay in tree cavities, and when disturbed often freeze, camouflaging to appear like a dead tree stump.
- Greater Racket Tailed Drongo – ‘Survival of the smartest’
Amongst all the species that we saw, this one was our favourite! These birds are great mimics and often trick other birds while hunting by mimicking calls of birds of prey causing panic among the other birds so that they drop their food and run away! They have elongated outer tail feathers and are a delight to see. Beauty with brains…isn’t it?
Have you guys spotted any birds yet? Have any fun facts to share with us? Tell us in the comments below!