Birds of Morni: Oriental white-eye

Oriental White-eye is a tiny olive-yellow bird with a white belly. It has a prominent white eye-ring. It is commonly found in flocks in scrub forests. They feed on insects, fruit and nectar and pollinate flowers. They prefer the safety of trees and rarely venture on ground.

Oriental White-eye, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Oriental White-eye, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Oriental White-eye feeding on lantana berries, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Oriental White-eye feeding on berries, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Oriental White-eye incubating her eggs, Valley of Tikkar, Morni Hills (Photo courtesy KS Bains, April)

Oriental White-eye incubating her eggs, Valley of Tikkar, Morni Hills (Photo courtesy KS Bains, April)

Nest and eggs of Oriental White-eye, Valley of Tikkar, Morni Hills (Photo courtesy KS Bains, April)

Nest and eggs of Oriental White-eye, Valley of Tikkar, Morni Hills (Photo courtesy KS Bains, April)

Birds of Morni: Black Redstart

Black Redstart is a small (5” to 6” in length) colourful bird with dark upper parts and an orange-red belly, rump and tail. It’s a flycatcher that catches insects in mid-air. It flicks its tail and bobs its head much like the Robin. The bird originally nested in cliff-walls but has now adapted to nesting in buildings. It is generally spotted close to open water bodies that offer easy availability of insects for feeding.

Black Redstart, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Black Redstart, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Birds of Morni: Indian Pond Heron

Indian Pond Heron/ Paddy Bird /Andha Bagla in Hindi (Ardeola grayii) an earthy brown bird with snow-white wings, tail and rump that take you by surprise as the bird rises in flight.  The neck is pulled-in when flying. Its near perfect camouflage makes it difficult to spot when not in flight.

It is seen at the edge of water bodies-rivers, jheels and ponds its shoulders hunched like an old man’s peering into the water until it spots a prey and picks it up with a sharp jab. It feeds on frogs, fish and insects. The pond heron will allow you to approach till you are very close before it chooses to fly off. This has led to the popular misconception that the bird has poor vision (‘Andha’ means ‘blind’ in Hindi).  It will sometimes wade in the shallows, its neck now craned and the long yellow bill ready to strike. Its back and shoulders turn red and it sports a crest of thin white feathers during the breeding season.

It roosts in large leafy trees in mixed congregations of crows and other birds. It nests during the monsoons and builds a large untidy nest of twigs in a large tree like mango that is shared with egrets. Eggs are greenish-blue.

Indian Pond Heron, Ghaggar at Chhamla,Morni hills (Photo courtesy Vikas Sharma)

Indian Pond Heron, Ghaggar at Chhamla, Morni hills (Photo courtesy Vikas Sharma)

References:

  1. About Indian Birds; Salim Ali & Laeeq Futehally (2008)
  2. The Book of Indian Birds; Salim Ali (2002)

Birds of Morni: Baya Weaver

Baya Weaver/Son-Chiri (Ploceus philippinus) is a weaver bird, the size of a sparrow that weaves elaborate hanging nests on thorny trees (like Acacias) and palms bordering water bodies. Nests are built by the males in colonies by weaving wild grasses, paddy leaves, strips torn from palm leaves etc. The pendulous nests have a bulb-shaped central nesting chamber with a long vertical tube that leads to a side entrance to the chamber. The males hang from their unfinished ‘helmet stage’ nests to attract the females who inspect the nest to choose the best one on offer. Once a female partner accepts the nest and the mate, the male quickly finishes the job. The female later does the interiors to her taste and may add blobs of mud!!

Both sexes resemble the common house sparrow during non-breeding season with upper-parts streaked with black and buff. The lower parts are whitish. The bill is conical and stout. The tail is short and square. The breeding season starts with the advent of the monsoons and the male gets a yellow crown and breast, streaks of yellow in upper parts, a dark-brown mask and a dark bill.

Baya Weavers commonly roost in reed-beds near water bodies. They feed on grain, rice-seedlings, insects, small frogs, lizards etc.

Baya Weaver (Male), Burj, Morni foothills (July 2013)

Baya Weaver (Male), Burj, Morni foothills (July 2013)

Baya Weaver Nest, Burj

Baya Weaver Nest, Burj

Baya weaver, Jallah road, Morni foothills

Baya weaver, Jallah road, Morni foothills

 

Baya weaver weaving its nest

Baya weaver weaving its nest

Baya Weaver, Male-in breeding season, Burj, Morni foothills

Baya Weaver, Male-in breeding season, Burj, Morni foothills

Baya Weaver nests, Palm tree near a nallah, Burj, Morni foothills (July 2013)

Baya Weaver nests, Palm tree near a nallah, Burj, Morni foothills (July 2013)

Baya weaver nests, fields on banks of Ghaggar river, near Jallah,  Morni foothills (August)

Baya weaver nests, fields on banks of Ghaggar river, near Jallah, Morni foothills (August)

Baya weaver nests, Ghaggar river bank, near Jallah,  Morni foothills (August)

Baya weaver nests, Ghaggar river bank, near Jallah, Morni foothills (August)

Abandoned Baya Weaver nests, Jallah, Morni foothills (March 2012)

Abandoned Baya Weaver nests, Jallah, Morni foothills (March 2012)

Unfinished 'Helmet Stage' nest of Baya Weaver at Jallah, Morni foothills

Unfinished ‘Helmet Stage’ nest of Baya Weaver at Jallah, Morni foothills

Tube entries to central chambers, Baya Weaver nests, Jallah, Morni foothills

Tube entries to central chambers, Baya Weaver nests, Jallah, Morni foothills

 

Birds of Morni: Asian Koel

Asian Koel (Eudynamis orientalis) – is a large long-tailed cuckoo, about the size of a house crow, though slenderer. The male is a glistening black with a yellowish-green beak and crimson eyes. The female is brown and is heavily spotted and barred with buff and white. Koels are very vocal during the breeding season from April to August that coincides exactly with that of crows. It feeds on fruit, berries, eggs, caterpillars and insects. Koels prefer large leafy trees. The male’s familiar song ‘koo-Ooo’ figures prominently in Indian poetry.

Koel (Male)

Koel (Male)

Koel (Female)

Koel (Female)

Koel is a ‘brood parasite’ and lays its eggs in the nest of the crow (and other hosts like the Black Drongo) who raise its young.

Baby Koel with foster-mom crow (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Baby Koel with foster-mom crow (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Baby koel being fed by foster mom crow (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Baby koel being fed by foster mom crow (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Birds of Morni: White-crested Kalij Pheasant

White-crested Kalij Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos hamiltonii)- a pheasant of the western-Himalayas, especially the foothills. The males have a thin white crest, crimson face wattles and a glossy blue-black body. The breast and abdomen has grey-white feathers. The rump as well as middle and lower back is whitish. The bill is greenish-white. The legs are grey-white. The females have a brown crest and body is brownish.

White-crested Kalij Pheasant, Khol-hai-Raitan WLS, near Mandhna, Morni hills (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

White-crested Kalij Pheasant, Khol-hai-Raitan WLS, near Mandhna, Morni hills (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

Birds of Morni: White-browed Fantail Flycatcher

White-browed Fantail Flycatcher (Rhipidura aureola)  about 7″ with dark, dull, blackish-brown body and the trademark white ‘eyebrows’ (superciliums) and a fan-shaped tail.The throat is black with a white collar. The fan-shaped tail feathers have white edges. The beak and the feet are black. It is a restless bird that continously flicks its tail up and down or moves its sideways as it spreads and closes its fantail! The wings are similarly opened and closed energetically. The white-browed fantail darts in and out of the undergrowth in search of insects and continously prances from twig to twig making its photography particularly challenging. The continous antics of the fantail lend it the Hindi name, ‘Nachan’ (Dancer). Flight is short and direct. Nest is a cup attached to a branch with cobwebs. It often associates with other birds like the Robins and the Chats. It is commonly found in the scrub forests of low hills.

White-browed Fantail Flycatcher, Mandana, Morni hills (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

White-browed Fantail Flycatcher, Mandana, Morni hills (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

White-browed Fantail Flycatcher, Mandana (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

White-browed Fantail Flycatcher, Mandana (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

White-browed Fantail Flycatcher at Mandana (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

White-browed Fantail Flycatcher at Mandana (Photo courtesy Rajesh Pandey)

 

White-browed Fantail Flycatcher at Mandana

White-browed Fantail Flycatcher at Mandana

Fantail Flycatcher, Rasoon

Fantail Flycatcher, Rasoon

 

Birds of Morni: Indian White-backed Vulture

Indian White-backed Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) is a medium-sized vulture (about 3′ in length and wingspan of about 8′) with a bare pink-grey head and an unfeathered neck and a prominent white ruff or tuft at the base of the neck. The plummage is dark but the back and the rump are whitish. In flight, the bird can be made out from prominent white patches on the underside enclosed by dark edges and a dark body and tail. A scavenger that feeds on carcasses, roosting in colonies and nesting in tall trees. The bird can be seen conducting reconnaissance of its area as it glides on the thermals produced by the morning sun. Voracious eaters, they can clean-up a large carcass in minutes as they descend in a pack. A ‘hygiene’ conscious bird that bathes regularly! The excreta ia acidic and may kill the tree they roost on. The species has seen a precipitous fall in numbers due to use of diclofenac in treating sick-animals that stays in the carcass and damages the bird’s kidneys. It is one of the species that is being bred at the Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centre of BNHS at Bir Shikargarh forest, Pinjore.

Indian White-backed Vulture, Mallah, Morni-Pinjore (Photo Courtesy – Rajesh Pandey)

Indian White-backed Vulture- underside withcharacteristic white patch on wings

Indian White-backed Vulture- underside withcharacteristic white patch on wings

 

Birds of Morni: Greater Coucal

Greater Coucal/Crow Pheasant/ Mahoka/ Bharadwaj/Kamadi kukkar/Ratna pakshi (Centropus sinensis) a large crow-like cuckoo, about a foot-and-a-half in length with a black-head and underside, glossed with purple, coppery brown wings and a long black tail. A weak-flier, it spends most of its time on the ground and can be spotted in vegetation foraging for insects and small vertebrates. The long, straight hind claw resembles a dagger. The eyes are ruby red. An atypical cuckoo, it builds its own nest (a large untidy mass of twigs and leaves). The male builds the nest in dense vegetation often 10-15 feet above the ground in bamboo thickets etc. Has a deep, resonant call. Sunbathes in early morning and remains hidden in vegetation for the rest of the day. Its flesh was believed to cure tuberculosis and other lung ailments. The grass used by it for buildingits nest was believed to have magical curative powers!!  Its generally considered lucky to spot a ‘bhardwaj’.

Greater Coucal

Note:

The awesome YouTube video that has been shared here has not been shot by the author.