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Birds glide around the world’s skies as the messengers of ecological balance. Urbanization, destruction of forests, and water, air and noise pollution are threatening their habitats. Common people have a key role to play in protecting birds.

International agencies have been working to promote awareness and create a love for birds among people. Every year, bird watching is celebrated globally through National Bird Days.

Black winged stilts

Black winged stilts

Bird watching is fast catching up as an alternative to conventional hobbies. In Tamil Nadu, too, bird watching is becoming a part of cultural life. The bird count that happens during Pongal is drawing more and more people every year.

Tamils have welcomed bird watching as a hobby that promotes knowledge of the environment and science. People list the birds they see in their neighbourhood and put it out on the Internet. A tradition in Europe, bird watching is becoming a tradition in our State, too.

This positive cultural practice started in 2015 with the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The GBBC coincides with Pongal. Beginners can get introduced to bird watching through the eBird website. In 2018, the GBBC recorded 350 types of birds in Tamil Nadu.

The bird count that happens during Pongal is drawing more and more people every year.

Birds have a unique body structure. As one watches birds more and more, one understands their bodies better. Initially, the colours catch the attention more. One can start to observe which part of the bird’s body has what colour.

Male birds change their colours during the breeding season. This is called Breeding Plumage. Beginners can start to identify the colour change.

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Birds have specific habitats. The Kingfisher lives next to waterbodies. The way it catches its prey is remarkable. The Kingfisher glides over lakes observing the fish swimming below and swoops down swiftly to catch its prey. It snatches the fish with its beak in one quick motion and flies away. The Kingfisher catching its prey is a sight to behold.

The Woodpecker is quite different from other birds. It can climb vertically up and down trees. It taps the bark to gouge out insects and eats them.

The Pond Heron catches worms that fish feed on, puts them in the water and waits.  And catches the fish that comes to feed on the worms.

Birds have personalities, too. The sounds they make differ based on whether they are catching prey, defending themselves and so on. The sounds can help to identify the bird.

Bar-headed geese

Bar-headed geese

Bird watching brings joy. It dissolves anger, irritation and hatred and promotes peace in the watcher. It increases our understanding and respect for life.

If we can learn to appreciate nature’s various forms, we can keep our lives interesting.

What we cannot get in yoga and meditation, we can get through bird watching. To do anything in an involved way is meditation. If we can learn to appreciate nature’s various forms, we can keep our lives interesting. Diseases can be kept away.

A flock of black winged stilts

A flock of black winged stilts

Some of the common bird types found in Tamil Nadu are listed below.

Green Bee-eater, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Barn Swallow, Little Cormorant, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Pied Bushchat, Jungle Babbler, Fantailed flycatcher, Common Tailorbird, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Grey-headed Canary flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Tickell’s Flowerpecker, Eurasian Collared Dove, Asian Koel, Spotted Dove, Blue Rock Pigeon, Black-shouldered Kite, Jacobin Cuckoo, Large Pied Wagtail, White breasted kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Painted stork , Red-wattled Lapwing, House Crow, Jungle Crow.

Owlet

Owlet

Many birds that sync with the environment live in the state. The bird count happens between January 18 to 22 every year. Interested enthusiasts can participate in it. Half hour in the morning and half hour in the evening is all that is required to contribute to the bird count as a volunteer. One can start with listing birds one finds in the neighbourhood.

Bird watching is a useful hobby and a positive cultural practice. It will give a boost to conservation efforts.

Bar-headed geese

Bar-headed geese

Below are a few books in Tamil that can be educative on birds.

Mazhaikalamum Kuyilosaiyum by Ma Krishnan, Innum Pirakkadha Thalaimuraikkaga by Theodore Baskaran,  Vaanil Parakkum Pullelam by Theodore Baskaran, Kaanurai Vengai by Theodore Baskaran and Ulhas Karanth, Tamizh Nadu Paravaigal by Ka Ratnam.

English books include Joy of bird Watching by Vishwa Mohan Tiwari, The Book of Indian Birds by Salim Ali, Birds of Indian Subcontinent by Richard Grimmett.

kolkatabirds.com gives guidelines on the cameras and binoculars that can be useful for bird watching. birdcount.in can help understand bird counting.


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