Alexandrine Parakeet

The  Alexandrine Parakeet has a deep link with history. The Latin name of this beautiful bird is Psittacula eupatria – the word Psittacula means that the bird is a smaller version of the genus Psittacus (meaning parrot) and the eupatria in Greek means (and I love this part) – a noble daughter. So this is a parrot with noble heritage.

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I’ve seen this beautiful bird just once in all my travels! Before I tell you when and how I shot this picture, I think I should tell you what I learnt about this mid-sized beauty. Its called the Alexandrine Parakeet. This you know already. I’m sure you might have already guessed too about the origins of its name. Yup! The bird is named after none other than Alexander the Great. Even as he was busy trying to conquer the world, he apparently fell in love with this little beauty and decided that the bird is worthy of his royal patronage! He captured a few and sent a few more back to Europe with his legionnaires (where they have naturalized now). I even read that caged talking parrots were a rage with the European noblemen during the Roman times and professionals were hired to teach the parrots how to talk.
I remember the day I took this picture very well. It was late on a winter evening in Sultanpur. The light was fading quickly and I was in a hurry to get back to my car when all of a sudden I saw these lovely parakeets feeding on this tree. They gave me an opportunity to get just one picture before they took off. A great sighting indeed.

Update – here is a picture from a recent sighting. There was almost a two year gap between the two pictures and locations were different too – at least 30 kilometers apart. Why is this important? Notice the plant in both the pictures? Same species! Must be a favourite 🙂

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Brahminy Starling

The Latin name of this bird is (Sturnus) Temenuchus pagodarum as described in Satish Pande’s book. This is interesting. Sturnus is Latin for Starling. Temenuchus is Greek for priest (as it is often found around temples). Jerdons account confirms this. Pagodarum refers, again, to a temple or a pagoda. So the name of the bird roughly translates to a “starling that hands around temples”. Now, I wonder if the English name of Brahminy Starling has similar associations.

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I was reading in general about Starlings and Mynas and I came across this very interesting account by Aitken.
“For the Myna has a character. I once had a Myna and a Canary in cages which hung at my window. A ruffianly crow came in one day and perched on the top of the Canary’s cage. Of course the silly bird fluttered all round the cage, clinging to the bars, and gave the crow the chance it wanted. It caught a leg in its powerful beak and tried to pull it through the bars. But the canary’s body could not pass through, so the poor bird’s leg was literally torn out by the roots, and it died in a few minutes. I suppose the crow swallowed the leg, and shortly afterwards it returned, thinking to have a leg of the Myna for its next course. I was in the room, but it did not see me; so, after glancing round the room with a proprietary air, it bounced on to the top of the Myna’s cage. But the Myna, sitting on its perch, knew it was quite safe and felt no agitation; so it was free to take an interest in the crow, and its interest fixed instantly on an ugly black toe which hung down through the bars over its head. It caught that toe in its sharp beak and made an example of it. I tell you, it was exhilarating to observe the suddenness with which that crow jumped to the conclusion that it had urgent business elsewhere. Here is the difference between a Myna and a Canary. A Canary cannot learn that it is safe inside a cage.” Exhilarating indeed.
A friend of mine recently told me that there are more pigeons in Gurgaon than Crows. You know, come to think of it, Gurgaon has more Pigeons and Myna’s than Crows. The Crows seem totally out-numbered! I’m not saying this means anything but given the passage above, it does seem an interesting fact to note.
I got this picture just off Bandipur on a rainy day. I remember not having anything to cover my camera and lens and had to walk with the camera tucked under my shirt (not a very wise thing to do).
I have seen this bird not more than twice in all my travels. Going by Jordan’s account, they must have been very common back in his day. I don’t see many of these now. So may be things have changed.

 

Asian Koel

I’m not really sure why this bird was named Eudynamys scolopacea. Not that I’m an expert on such topics, but see for yourself what the name means. Eudynamys comes from the Greek word eudunamos, meaning “mighty” and scolopacea translates to a bird resembling a Snipe. Well, I’ve seen a Snipe and I’ve seen a Koel. And I don’t think the later is a mighty version of the former.

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Again, a beautiful bird. A brooding parasite, it has been sometimes called as the lazy bird. Some might disagree though. If you read some of the references on this bird on the internet (you could begin with the Wikipedia page), it becomes fairly obvious that laying an egg in someone else’s nest is no easy task. There have been recorded accounts where the male Koel creates enough ruckus to distract the parent crows allowing the female Koel to sneak in for a few minutes to lay an egg and vanish before the parents realise. The original (short) account on this incident reads like a war manual!
That said, here is another interesting fact. The Koel gets a mention in the Vedas as a brooding parasite, making it one of the earliest records of bird behaviour. Its nice to know our fore fathers were birders too!  And yes, about where I got this picture – I shot this in Lalbagh in Bangalore.

Black Winged Stilt

The Latin name of the bird, Himantopus himantopus, literally means a “bird on stilts”. In proportion to its body size, this bird has the longest legs amongst all the birds.

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Little can be said about this bird that is not already known.  So, there is not much to write, but I’m still posting (just) to show off my fancy photography skills :p

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Ashy Prinia

Its called Prinia socialis – the name literally means the sociable prinia (the word prinia is a local name people use for the bar winged prinia in the country Java). I don’t think the Latin name is surprising at all! These little birds are very friendly. I spent my first few months in Gurgaon convinced that somehow the Ashy Prinia there is less scared of humans than they were in Bangalore! One could get to a few feet of the bird without scaring it away.

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Turns out the Ashy Prinia is a very loyal bird (I’m told like many other Indian birds). They are monogamous and care extremely well for their nest and young ones and share responsibility for taking care of them.
It apparently builds two kind’s of nests – one like a tailor bird with leaves and the other a dome shaped structure of grass. But this one is not as skill full as the tailor bird. In EHA’s words, “…as a tailor, ladies say its not such a neat worker!”
I got this shot in the Aravalli Biodiversity Park in Gurgaon. It’s a lovely place to find a lot of small birds and I’ve noticed the kites here come real close to you (don’t know why though). If you are in Gurgaon, you should try and visit this place in the mornings – loads of bird activity you don’t want to miss!

Blue Whistling Thrush

A dark blue murderer of flies. That’s the exact translation of its Latin name (Myiophonus caeruleus). In English, we associate it with a melodious sounding whistle (it is indeed melodious. You can listen to it here http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Myophonus-caeruleus), while in Latin we call it a murderer and a butcher! Strange are the ways of men…

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I had struggled to identify the bird for a long time before my wife helped me with it. Somehow, to her, it seemed obvious that this was a Blue Whistling Thrush. In my defence, I had never seen a thrush before. Anyway, I got this picture in Nainital. I had hired a local to take me on a trek surrounding the busy lake area and we were walking up a mountainous trail when I spotted this.

Black Hooded Oriole

The Latin name of this bird is Orioulus Xanthanrus. Orioulus comes from the word for gold, aurum. Xantharnus means a yellow bird. Literally, the name of the bird translates to a “golden yellow bird”.

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I was out with Bngbirds in Bangalore along with my wife when she first spotted the Oriole for me. Those were our early days of birding and after seeing this bird we thought we would probably never spot anything quite as beautiful again. I had to wait for a long time until I could spot my next Oriole. This time it was on the banks of the river Kaveri in Bheemeswari. It was a bright morning and I was just returning after great sighting of a fish eagle and a spotted- eagle when I saw this bright bird in the trees above me. Without thinking much, I squatted where I was and started clicking without really checking the settings on my camera. The result was this slightly over exposed, bright picture with all sorts of distortions I cant even understand! But hey, who cares right? This website is not about perfect pictures but the stories behind them!
EHA says that the bird is less “tastefully got up”. I think I disagree. Few birds can be as striking as the black headed oriole.