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Indian Pond Heron

Indian Pond Heron

(Ardeola grayii)

DSC_1697(Indian Pond Heron spend most of the day standing still close ton water)

Size(44-45cm): It is a small Heron almost the same size as that of the Little Heron.

Area: This specific species of Heron can be found anywhere around India. Ranging from dry areas of Rajasthan to the wettest place on Earth-Mawsynram, you can find it anywhere in India.

Habitat: Lakes, village ponds, river-banks and even village ditches.

My two words: Indian Pond Herons are brown in colour. They have white underparts and chin. The back is buff-brown and shoulders. The head, neck and breast are streaked with dark brown.

During the breeding season, the streaks disappear and the buff-brown back becomes rich maroon. The streaked breast and head changes to un-streaked buff-brown. The yellow bill becomes bluish at the base and black at the tip.

It usually sits whole day on the side of the water in wait of the prey and wait for it to come more closer. Indian Pond Heron is most common Heron in India but one can have a difficulty spotting when it sits still at the edge of the water body.

The still-sitting bird may appear boring but the scenario when the sitting bird suddenly takes off for a short flight. When the bird flies, its wings which appear to be brown while it stands still appear to magically change colour and become white.

IMG_3606(Indian Pond Heron with its prey)

Solitary or in parties. They usually prefer hunting alone but might be seen hunting in small groups.

The male has the duty of bringing the material required to make the nest. The nest is built by the female high atop a tree. They lay 3-5 eggs which take about a month to hatch.

They diet chiefly consists of fish but they also feed on crustaceans, amphibians and other small insects.

~Arjun Basandrai

Shikra

Shikra

(Accipiter badius)

(adult)

Size(26-30cm):It is a small raptor bird which has short and rounded wings with a narrow tail.

Area:Almost all India except higher areas of Jammu and Kashmir (above Jammu).

Habitat:Prefers to live in mild forests and open country. Nowadays it’s becoming more common near human inhabitation.

My two words:Shikra might sometimes be confused with the Chinese Sparrowhawk but has yellow legs and black wingtips.

Adults are ashy-grey above and have a white underside which is barred with close rufous bars. The mesial stripe is dark and narrow. The immature has thick, dark brown streaks on the breast. Female is somewhat larger than the male.

IMG_0935

(immature)

This bird is usually solitary or in pairs. Its diet consists of squirrels, rodents, small reptiles and even smaller birds (like the Common Blue Kingfisher, Jungle Babbler etc.). Usually hunts for itself but sometimes might descend to feed on carrion and carcasses.

IMG_7747

(immature with thick and dark brown streaks on the breast)

Generally gives 3-5 pale blue-grey eggs. The eggs take roughly 18-24 days to hatch.

Its method of hunting is very interesting. It would hide in leafy branches of the tree and pounce on the prey with surprise and have sumptuous meal. It can be normally seen soaring above the trees of forests.

(Adult Shikra hiding in tree waiting for its prey)

It gets its name from the Arabic word ‘Shikari‘(شِکاری) which means ‘hunter’.

 ~Arjun Basandrai

Oriental Magpie Robin

Oriental Magpie Robin

(Copsychus saularis)

(Adult female)

Size(20-22cm): Magpie Robin is a small bird, just a bit smaller than the Jungle Babbler.

Area: All India till about 1800m in Himalayas; not found in western Rajasthan and other hot and dry regions around.

Habitat: It doesn’t really matter because they are seen everywhere- near homes, forests, gardens, parks etc.

(Adult male)

My two words: The male has glossy black head, throat, upper breast, wings and white underparts, wing-patch and outer tail. The female is grey where the male is black. The young birds have a scaled brownish upper-parts and head as well.

Solitary or in pairs. It also the national bird of Bangladesh.

It is mostly seen near to the ground, hopping along branches. They are usually seen foraging in leaf-litter on the ground. Males sing aloud from tree tops during the breeding season( March-July).

They are mostly insectivorous but may sometimes take on to flower nectar or fruits. The diet mainly consists of insects, berries, nectar from flowers.

Eggs are usually 4-5 in number. The female incubates the eggs which take 8-14 days to hatch.

Very common one especially in lower Himalayas.

~Arjun Basandrai

Sarus Crane

Sarus Crane

(Grus antingone)

(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.

(Pair calling)

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.

IMG_2620

(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).

~Arjun Basandrai

Baya Weaver

Baya Weaver

(Ploceus Philippinus)

img_7259-1(Adult male over its perfectly weaved nest)

Size(15 cm): Baya Weaver is a very small bird with almost the same size as that of a Common House Sparrow. Infact the Female of Baya Weaver is very often confused with the Female of House Sparrows.

Area-Resident all over the entire Indian Subcontinent except parts of Rajasthan and Uttaranchal.

Habitat-Grasslands and scrubs with scattered trees.

My Two Words-Baya Weaver or Bijara, as it is called in most of North India including Punjab is a very interesting and intelligent bird that has been attracting everyone(Literally) not just humans, by the beautifully woven and intricately designed nests.

The Male has a Yellow Crown and Chest which becomes all the more saturated once the breeding season starts, which is generally the beginning of Monsoons in the north of India.

The Weaver Birds Family comes out of Hybernation and starts scouting for a suitable location/tree to build a nest, which more frequently than not, is the nest used the previous year, unless they have been attacked or disturbed by some predator (Bird or Human). If they were not disturbed the previous year The Male Baya Weaver Birds return to the same tree and starts Re-Vamping the old nests, which is rather a very huge gamble. It’s a Gamble because in the Baya-Weaver World, all the Male Birds are Supposed to make/weave the nests and once they are done they put it on display for the Female Birds by hanging outside the nests and puffing their Chests. The Female then selects one nest (and Male) out of all the nests on display and gives the final touches to the nest and thus establishes her authority over that particular nest. When the Male is finally allowed to mate with her she enters the nest only to come out after several months, after the eggs have been laid inside and hatched, once the chicks are strong and good to fly. All this time the male stays out and arranges Food for the Mama Bird and Protect her from the predators, like eagles and hawks, and Scavengers like crows and mynas; who all relish the Weaver eggs.

This is a very interesting arrangement which predates the institution of family and marriage among Humans and these are probably one of the Several examples of “Rule-of-Jungle Principles” that our ancient ancestors based our entire Family System on.

The Weaver Nests are just an exquisite example of intricate construction and design and have been attracting everyone since forever.