What strikes to your mind when you are asked to name few common birds in and around Kolkata ? A sparrow , perhaps a pigeon , a myana or may be just a house crow but have you ever thought that there can also be so many variations even among these birds , they could have some other names , the way you know them might be different…..?
Well there is more to that than we just see, actually there are many common birds in the city that we come across but most of us have no knowledge about them at all, often considering them as some uncommon species. And this is why I write this article, in the simplest way I can, to assist the common people to connect with few of the common birds found in the city.
As a young birder I have been birdring for almost two years and from self experience what I feel is until and unless one gets to know few things about a particular bird, developing a liking or taking in interest for that bird then becomes difficult, no matter how many times one sees the same bird. But once a person gets to know few facts about a bird, only then he/she might show some interest in birds.
The most elementary problem that a common person face , even with local birds is identifying them or in very easy language having the knowledge of the name of the bird, be it the local language or the English name, and that is the key of developing an interest. The very moment when a common person gets familiar with the name of a bird or gets to identify it, naturally a common heed develops within and thus he/she starts taking in interest in birds and expects to gain more knowledge.
So here are few common birds in kolkata , that we often see many a times in and around the city but have the wrong concept or no knowledge about them….
- White-breasted Kingfisher ( Halcyon smyrnensis )
Locally known as the Shada buk machranga in Kolkata , this bird is often considered as the only kingfisher that can be seen in the city and which is a very wrong concept. There are 4 types of more kingfishers that are often seen commonly in and around the city. The misconception that occurs with this bird is that it is often mistaken with the other 3 out of the 4 kingfishers, as it is seen most commonly among the other 4.
In years, the species has adapted accordingly in the urban habitat and is often found to be very friendly with humans. Mostly seen near any water body, it feeds extensively on small fishes, crabs, lizards etc.
White breasted kingfisher is also the state bird of West bengal
- Greater coucal ( Centropus sinensis )
Locally known as the Kubo in Kolkata, the greater coucal is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes. The most common misconception that occurs with a person when he/she sees this bird for the first time, is that it is mistaken as some sort of crow or koel, though it is also known as the crow pheasant but, is a species of cuckoo.
The bird is extensively insectivorous though it often feeds on small reptiles, frogs, eggs and nestlings of other birds. They are very weak fliers and are often seen clambering in vegetation or foraging on the ground for insects.
The bird is often heard during the late afternoons with a note of 6-8 low pitched oop, with decreasing intensity.
- Red munia ( Amandava amandava )
Also known as the Strawberry finch and Red Avadavat , this sparrow like bird can mostly be seen in the outskirts of Kolkata, with typical grassland habitats. The finch can be easily identified from its red color with white spots on its wings and thus is known as the Lal Munia in bengali. The bird is usually seen during the winters and is often mistaken as a winter migrant.
Winter is the breeding season for Red munias and the males have a prominent blood red plumage all over the body which is also known as the breeding plumage, females are yellowish with less white spots with a red rump which is also visible in the males. Both sexes have a red bill.
One of the places where this bird can be seen exclusively is rajarhat grasslands, opposite to Eco park. They have a very distinctive low single note “pseep” call that is often given in flight, which can be acknowledged easily.
- Pheasant-tailed Jacana ( Hydrophasianus chirurgus )
Locally known as the Jal Mayur , the Pheasant-tailed Jacanas are a group of birds from the wader family, usually found in lakes and ponds with thick vegetation. Though the birds are capable of swimming but are mostly seen walking on the floating vegetation.
Monsoon is the breeding season for these birds, and these are the only Jacanas to have a separate breeding plumage during the breeding season, where the male sports a beautiful long pheasant like tail .
Again in kolkata this bird can been seen mostly in rajarhat wetlands , kamduni wetlands , dankuni wetlands and so on.
- White-breasted Waterhen ( Amaurornis phoenicurus )
Commonly known as Dahuk in bengali, the White-breasted Waterhen is a waterbird of the rail and crake family and is widely distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent .
The bird has a dark slaty upperpart with a clean white face, breast and belly . The underside of the tail is reddish-brown, the beak is yellowish, with a reddish base, but becomes more olive outside of the breeding season .
The White-breasted Waterhen mostly prefers to stay near open marshes, ponds etc. In Kolkata, one could spot them mostly at places with water bodies namely Central Park, Rabindra Sarobar, Lion Safari Park, Chintamani Kar Bird Sanctuary, Shyamkhola, Eco Park and so one .
They have a typical kwaak-kwaak, kook-kook-kook call which can be heard near any lake or pond.
- Common Tailorbird ( Orthotomus sutorius )
The common tailorbird is a songbird found across tropical Asia. Popular for its nest made of leaves “sewn” together and immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in his Jungle Book, and from where it derives its bengali name Dorji ( tailor ) Tuni or even Tuntuni.
Tailorbirds get their name from the way their nest is constructed. The edges of a large leaf are pierced and sewn together with plant fibre or spider silk to make a cradle in which the actual nest is built.
The bird is a common resident in urban gardens , although it is shy and stays hidden within vegetation but their loud monotonous chee-up..; pitchik-pitchik-pitchik calls often get familiar to people and give away their presence.
7.Blue-throated Barbet ( Megalaima asiatica )
Commonly known as the Nilgala bosonto bauri, the Blue-throated Barbet is one the most brightly colored birds found in the city, possessing a wonderful vibrant combination of a green body and a turquoise-blue throat.
The bird is widely distributed throughout Asia and can be found in gardens , evergreen forests , deciduous forests and so on. One can try and take a walk in the tree-lined areas of Kolkata namely Central Park, Indian Botanical Garden, Rabindra Sarabar and can spot this bird easily.
Identifying the bird is easy and with time, one can get very used to its rapid took-a-rook, took-a-rook call, which can be often heard during late summer afternoons.
- Coppersmith Barbet ( Megalaima haemacephala )
Commonly known as the Bosonto bauri, the Coppersmith Barbet is a short, stocky bird, with a leaf-green body that allows it to remain well-camouflaged in the canopy. It has vibrant colours all over its body with red forehead, yellow coloured eye ring and a throat patch with streaks underside and leaf-green upperparts. It is resident in India and other South Asian nations.
The Coppersmith Barbet gets its name from the sound a coppersmith makes by beating sheets of copper with a mallet. Again the bird is typically found in and around places with thick tree-line, namely central park , Rabindra Sarabar, Chintamani Kar Bird Sanctuary , Shyamkhola, etc. One could also come across them on the sun shed of their neighbour.
The bird could be heard from foliages with loud tuk tuk tuk calls but spotting them becomes difficult due to its leaf-green colour.
I have only portrayed 8 common birds briefly in the 1st part and look forward to write few more, dividing into separate blogs. Surely, this article is for the very common people to help them identify some birds or take in an interest into bird watching and also for the young people who are taking birding slowly as a hobby. Thus I hope that it provides some assistance.
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