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  Birds I view  

Hemant’s summer assignment is ‘Birds in your neighbourhood’. But all he has spotted till now are crows. So he has set out with his aunt, to explore the lakes, gardens, hedges, parks and buildings, and every nook and cranny of his city. Let us follow them...

Why watch birds?
Well, mainly because it’s a great deal of fun, and of course, a great learning experience! It will seem a little confusing at first. For instance, all of them will look similar! Every bird swimming in the lake may seem like an Egret to a lay bird watcher. But then, with time, one learns to discern and differentiate. And then, identifying bird traits, observing their special behavioural patterns and tracking their movements, becomes a most fascinating hobby!

Bird watching tools

Bird Guide: Carry a bird guide with pictures, information on habitat, maps, colours, bird calls and species range.

Bird topography: A beginner will find many birds look alike. This list will specify different parts of a bird’s body.

Range maps: A range map shows areas inhabited by a particular bird. It helps in ruling out bird species from an area. Not all birds are year-round residents. Some migrate, while others are vagrants (irregular visitors).

Tips to identify: There are five clues — colour, plumage, behaviour, voice (or call) and silhouette (shape and size).

Join a club: People to discuss your latest sightings with!

City habitat
Oh yes, cities are a special kind of habitat. You see, ecosystems need not mean pristine forests, coral reefs and mountains. Cities are ecosystems that are influenced by human beings. They are strewn with canals, ponds, parks, lawns, hedges, trees and buildings. Thousands of birds build their homes here...

Water bodies: Wetlands, ponds, lakes
Ducks, geese, storks, kingfishers, waterfowls, pelicans, cranes, herons

Urban trees: Gulmohar, neem, silver oak
Parakeets, woodpeckers, bulbuls, kites, warblers, bee eaters, babblers

Parks, hedges, shrubs
Swallows, finches, baya (weaver bird), starlings, koels, cuckoos, robins

Buildings, roofs, balconies
House sparrows, pigeons, doves, crows, magpies, jays, mynahs

ACTIVITY: Counting pigeons
Pigeons belong to the Columbidae family. Their diets allow them to survive in most climates. But counting them is not an easy task. Like most birds, they are constantly on the move. So use these tips:

Find a study site. Choose one which you walk by daily at a certain time. School route, local market, etc.

Practice identifying pigeons. Through their colour, plumage and silhouette. Pigeons are of seven colour types (morphs). Their neck feathers are called ‘hackle’. Adult males have brighter hackles than the females. An adult pigeon has reddish orange eyes, while juveniles have brownish ones. Their feet have a reddish or grayish tinge.

Listen to a pigeon to identify calls. Males say coo roo-c’too-coo to attract mates and to defend territories. When they are startled or scared, they sound an alarm call like oorhh!

Note a pigeon’s behaviour. On the ground, they walk or run with their heads bobbing back and forth.

Study their habitat and food habits. Usually seen on covered building ledges, alcoves under bridges and along highways. They suck water using their beaks like a straw, unlike most birds that sip and throw back their heads to let the water trickle down their throats. Pigeons mostly feed on seeds and grains. Young ones feed on ‘crop milk’, a thick fluid.

Counting pigeons.
1. Record once if a bird flies out of sight and later one flies within the study area. Assume that it may be the same bird. (or)
2. Count a smaller group within a larger groups. Multiply the number of groups by the number of pigeons in each group.