Size(80-95cm): Purple Heron is a large wader, slightly smaller and slimmer than the Grey Heron.
Habitat: It is quite evasive and prefers heavy vegetation near water where they could fish.
Area: All India except Himalayas.
(adult with its prey which it has pierced in the middle using its sharp, pointed bill)
My two words: Purple Heron is slaty-purple bird. The forehead and the crown are black which continue to become a thin crest. The iris is yellow. The head and neck are chestnut with a dark-purplish stripe running down on the either sides of the neck. The breast is chestnut brown.
They have long toes which help him walk over floating Flora.
Mostly solitary. The level of patience displayed by a Purple Heron bird is unparalleled. It usually stands still for hours at a stretch in wait of the right opportunity to pounce on its prey which it literally Enjoys.
They lay 5-6 blue-green eggs in their reed bed nest. The incubation work is carried out by both the birds. The take 4 weeks to hatch and give rise to another fantastic Purple Heron.
The flight is slow with the neck curled to form ans S-shape and the legs outstretched.
The call is a harsh “fraaa” or “craa” ( or whatever which surely we can’t guess) croak.
The diet is the usual Heron diet – fish, molluscs, crustaceans.
They are long-legged waders that are found in wetlands. The Ardeidae family with Herons also includes Bitterns and Egrets but here I am going to talk solely about Herons.
The main characteristics common in any species of Herons is that they have long legs and a long beak. They share many similarities with storks and cranes. The distinctive character that separates them from storks and cranes is that they fly with their necks drawn back instead of outstretched like it is in the case of storks and cranes.
They show very little sexual dimorphism in size as well as characters. They also have powder down which is seen in very less groups of birds. They can also curl their necks to form an S shape which they usually do during flight.
They are carnivorous and feed mainly on crustaceans, molluscs, fish and other insects. Before swallowing their prey, they usually manipulate it.
The largest member of this family is the Goliath Heron.
The other members which I am going to talk about in this section are as follows:
(pair calling at Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur)
Size(160-180cm): Widely regarded as the tallest flying bird in the world.
Area: The Sarus is more common in Northern and Central India than th Southern and Eastern.
Habitat: It generally prefers watered fields, marshes, ponds and lakes.
My two words: Sarus crane has a grey plumage with a bare red neck and head. The juvenile is brown where he adults are red. They have a narrow region of black behind their necks.
Their common foraging sites are marshes and wetlands. They are considered as the symbols of marital fidelity. If one of the bird dies, then the other is believed to starve to death.
Usually in pairs or small parties.
(Small party of Sarus near Aligarh. 4 adults with a sub-adult on the extreme left)
They breed during the monsoons. The nest is a circular island of grass and mud. Eggs are white and usually 2-3 in number. They hatch within 25-35 days of incubation.
The number of Sarus Cranes in India have decreased over the years and I fear that what happened to the Siberian Crane does not happen to our lovely Sarus (Siberian Cranes are now extinct in India. The last recording of Siberian Crane was in 2002 at Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur).
Size(17-18cm): It is a small bird with the size same as that of a House Sparrow known to most of us.
Area: Almost all India except dry desert area of Rajasthan and heights of Jammu and Kashmir(especially Ladakh).
Habitat: It inhabits clear and slow flowing rivers and well vegetated streams.
My two words: Common Kingfisher is a small sparrow sized bird with blue upper parts and orange underparts distinctive; long bill which it uses to catch fish; short blue tail.
It can be seen roosting alone under heavy cover. Mostly solitary throughout the life. It eats almost 60-65% of its body weight. Highly territorial with a territory almost 1 km long.
If another kingfisher enters its territory than both display from their respective perches which might lead to their famous Bill Fights. In it both would hold each other’s bill and try to hold under water as long as possible to show their strength.
Mostly stays still over the stream of water and suddenly gives short and quick dives in the river to catch its meal. It lays glossy white eggs in its burrow like nest that it creates on a low vertical riverbank.The courtship is started by the male bird, chasing the female and calling simultaneously. The egg incubation is done by both the birds but during the night only the female incubates them. Egg hatching takes 18-20 days after which the young ones stay in the nest for about 20-30 days until they are good enough to go.
(on a perch, waiting for prey)
The first few days of the juvenile are more dangerous than the rest of its life. During its first dives after leaving the nest the young ones may become waterlogged and drown causing their life to end.
It’s diet mainly consists of fish for which it patiently waits 1-2m above the water level on perch. Once caught the fish is beaten 3-5 times against the branch till its dead and then swallowed whole, head first.
My two words: It is a common Kingfisher of India which has a black and white plumage. They have a short black crest and the male has a double black band across the throat while the female has a single broken band. Upper parts are barred with black and the supercilium is white.
Unlike other Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers are gregarious.
Their habit of hovering over lakes and other water bodies, in search of fish, and diving vertically upside-down ( bill first) makes them special. They usually hover over water and only dive when the prey is in striking range. They can eat their prey mid-flight without returning to perch which is required by other Kingfishers. This is also a special characteristic of Pied Kingfisher.
(Female Pied Kingfisher ready to pounce on the prey-Hovering Shot)
Pied Kingfisher is a speedy Kingfisher with a straight flight when not searching for food.
The breeding season is roughly from late January till about April. They lay 3-5 eggs in their hole-like nest. Usually many Pied Kingfishers nest in the same neighborhood.
They mostly feed on fish but other small aquatic animals may be eaten sometimes.
My two words: It is the most common Kingfisher of India. It is a brown bird with turquoise-blue wings and of course, a white breast. It has a white wing-patch which can be seen clearly during the flight. The legs and beak are red.
Both the sexes are similar in appearance.
Solitary or in pairs. They are one such examples of species of Kingfishers which can survive away from water. Simply, they can live without fish.
They are quite common in India. One can see them anywhere. In places where forest cover is less, they take to overhead wires and other open spaces. They sit high above the ground and wait for the prey to come in its hitting zone and then drop suddenly and usually come up victorious.
They breed during Monsoons. Their nests are tunnels made out on mud walls. They usually lay 4-5 eggs which are white in colour. They take roughly a month to hatch. Fledging of chicks takes 2-3 weeks.
Their range is increasing over time and are their Conservation Status according to IUCN is LC-Least Concern.
Kingfishers are, as the name suggests, master fish-catchers but it is not necessary that all Kingfishers feed solely on fish and other aquatic animals, some like the White-breasted Kingfisher can also live without fish. All Kingfishers have a long head and a long and pointed bill. They are found almost all over the world. There are about 110 species of Kingfishers found across the world. Most Kingfishers are brightly colored and there is very little sexual dimorphism.
There are 3 types of Kingfishers:-
1. River Kingfishers
2. Water Kingfishers
3. Tree Kingfishers
In this section we are going to talk about 3 species of Kingfishers found in India:-