BIRD AROUND US III – A Series on Birds


We are destroying nature at an unprecedented rate, threatening the survival of a million
species – and our own future too. This 19th and 20th century model of economic growth has
come at a significant cost to nature. The pace of change over the past 50 years has been
extraordinary this cost us with 1 million species at risk of extinction due to human activity.
Unprecedented forest fires – from the Arctic to the Amazon, Africa, to Australia or India have
killed billions of animals, destroyed lives and wiped-out huge areas of forest. 

Since 1970,
there has been a 60% average population decline across all vertebrate species. Over the same
period, we have lost more than half of the world’s coral reefs and over one third of all
wetlands. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Eco-system the thread of
life on which we all are dependent is declining rapidly. But it’s not too late to save them and
us. Thousands of birds die every year due to human activities. Our actions can benefit and
protect birds and bird habitats. There are few things we can do to benefit and protect birds
and bird habitat.

# The most important thing we can do is to plant trees and use as many as native plants
only native plants host the insects, many birds survive either largely or exclusively on
insects all insect birds have insects for their young ones as they provide more necessary
protein for their nourishment. Non-native plants host a fraction of the insects that area
supported by native plants.

# migratory birds need a safe place to rest, eat and live and they need native plants to supply food,
nesting sites, we should save the wetlands and natural jungles to avoid cutting the trees. 

# Bird feeders and birdhouses can also provide food and shelter. 

# Pesticides, herbicides and some fertilizers are not healthful for birds or humans for that
matter. Eliminate these toxic products. Insects provide necessary food for birds. Pulling
weeds by hand is good exercise. Compost helps keep soils healthy.
# We have to change our mind-sets; we think that nature will be with us always but it’s not
true we have to change this thinking and stop overlooking the importance of nature. The
absence of a deep emotional connection between humans and the natural world is at the
root of the environmental crisis.

In the last episode, we introduced you to few common species of birds found
around us in this part we will continue exploring the common species we see
around us everyday.

1. Common House Sparrow (Scientific name: Passer domesticus

 The house sparrow is a bird found in the most part of world. It’s a small chirpy and
cheerful bird. The male is bright cinnamon brown with grey head and upper tail coverts
and white ears and a big black patch in the centre of breast. Female is duller with pale
brown and grey and cute face. They are widespread and abundant in cities nests
exclusively in human dwellings. They had learned living near human habitations and
adjusted themselves according to urban and rural settings. Mainly a seed eater. But it is
an opportunistic eater and commonly eats insects and many other foods. Though it is
widespread and abundant, its numbers have declined in some areas.

2. Green Bee-eaters (Scientific name: Merops Orientalis

 This graceful richly coloured green slim insect eating bird is found mainly in Asia and Africa.
This slender bird has long thick beak and elongated central tail feathers has blue cheeks, and
a black eye line. Bee-eaters predominantly eat insects, especially bees, wasps and ants. This
graceful bird is an aerial acrobat they catch insects which are mostly caught in the air
sweeping down from an open perch and before swallowing prey, a bee-eater removes stings
and breaks the exoskeleton of the prey by repeatedly thrashing it on the perch Usually found
in small flocks, the birds often gather together on roadside electrical lines keeping in touch
with each other with their cheerful contact calls.

3. Purple Sunbird (Scientific name: Cinnyris asiaticus

 A tiny purple gem seen around us hovering over flowers in our gardens. Its name, purple sunbird
comes from the male some of whose feathers acquire a metallic purple shade under soft sunlight, it
appears to be a shiny black under harsh sunlight, however the female is creamish-golden which
makes it almost invisible whether in foliage or in the branches of plants. But in the eclipse plumage
the male looks pale brown with a distinctive broad maroon band on the breast. Like all other
sunbirds they feed mainly on nectar and can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird. They also
take insects and fruits especially when feeding young they have a down-curved bill with brush-tipped
tubular tongues that aid in nectar feeding. 

Females builds the nest in a pouch shape with the help of cobwebs, thin strips of vegetation, lichens
and bark in 5-6 days. The nest material is not woven and most of it is held together by cobwebs in
which usually she lays and incubates two eggs. The male helps in feeding the chicks sunbirds are known
to live for 17-22 years 

These vociferous pugnacious, striking, and active species, Purple Sunbirds bring joy to and
colour to our gardens. 

4. Spotted Owlet (Scientific name: Athene brama) 

 A small and stocky greyish overall an un-crested owl with a round head and a short tail is a common
resident in Indian subcontinent. It is a bird of open habitats including farmland and human habitation
it has adapted to living in cities they roost in the hollows of trees or in cavities in rocks or buildings. It
nests in a hole in a tree or building, laying 3–5 eggs. The young ones are fed initially on insects such
as cockroaches and later fed small vertebrate prey such as mice. Only one or two chicks may fledge
the nest in about a month. 

This species is nocturnal but they may also forage for food during the day. When disturbed from
their daytime site, they move their head and stare at intruders It hunts a variety of insects and small
vertebrates like frogs, squirrels, rodents. They are often found near human habitation because they
get rich food in the form of rodents there. 

Spotted owlets are very familiar to humans especially with their loud calling, have been associated
with bad omens and In Hindu mythology the owl considered as a Vahan (mode of transport) of Maa
Lakshmi(the goddess of wealth).

5. Asian koel (Scientific name: Eudynamys scolopaceus

The Asian koel is a large sized black coloured bird found in the Indian subcontinent. It’s a common bird in the backyard, but usually secretive, keeping to the interior of dense trees in many habitats, even
inner cities and fields. Koel is more heard then sighted its Song is loud and persistent. They
are very vocal during the breeding season (March to August in the Indian Subcontinent), with a
range of different calls. 

Males are bluish-black, with a pale greenish grey bill, however, the females and immatures are
blackish brown with white dots on the wings and strong streaking on head and throat, both
adults have crimson red iris. 

Asian Koel is omnivorous, consuming a variety of insects,
caterpillars, eggs and small vertebrates. Adults feed mainly on fruit. 

The one most interesting behaviour of this species is brood parasitism. They don’t make their
own nests and females lay eggs in the nests of other large birds, including crows, shrikes, and
starlings. Where the young ones are raised by the foster parents. More often the female visits
the nest of the host alone within one and half days of the laying of the host’s first egg.
Females may remove a host egg before laying in that nest. Chicks of the Koel hatched about
3 days ahead of the host chicks. Koels usually lay only an egg or two in a single nest and 8-
10in a season.

Author Manish Ahuja – Bird Lover

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