With more than 1250 species of birds, India and the rest of south Asia are a paradise for bird watching. There are over 925 breeding species. The Indian birds belong to 16 groups called `Orders`, which are further divided into `Families`, `Sub-Families` and `Genera`. For birding in India, 13 bio-geographical regions can be demarcated: Trans Himalayan, Western Himalayas, Eastern Himalayas, Desert, Semi-arid, Gangetic plain, Central India, Deccan plateau, Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, Northeast Coasts and Andaman and Nicobar islands.The Blue Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) is the national bird of India.
Though it is difficult to judge who is the largest Bird of India, Sarus Crane(stands the height of a man) and the Himalayan Bearded Vulture (wingspan of more than 8 feet) are at the top. Amongst the small Birds is the Tickell`s Flowerpecker scarcely bigger than a normal Thumb. Peacock is the most colourful bird with its gracious colourful patterned wings. The list of most accomplished songster in the order of preference is Grey-winged Blackbird, Malabar Whistling Thrush and Shama. The best talker is certainly the Hill Myna whose articulation of the human voice and speech is clear. Rare birds in India are the Mountain (Himalayan) Quail, Jerdon`s Courser, Pink-headed Duck and Forest Owlet. Though these birds were declared extinct, Jerdon`s Courser was rediscovered in 1986 after nearly 90 years of non-sighting and the Forest Owlet was rediscovered in 1997 after 113 years of non-sighting.
Birds in India:
As mentioned earlier, almost 1250 birds belonging to various species, are found only in the Indian sub-continent. Some are rarely seen and some are the common ones, seen in all parts of the country. Few common varieties of birds are as follows:
The Indian Shag: It is also known as the Indian cormorant. It is found almost throughout the Indian subcontinent excluding the higher reaches of the Himalayas and on the island country of Sri Lanka. It is a duck-like waterfowl, slightly bigger in size than a normal duck, and is of a glistening black color. Small colonies of nesting Indian Shags can be found between July to February, the month varying from place to place.
common Myna: This dark chocolate brown color bird with bright yellow bill, legs and orbital skin. While the Sri Lankan Myna is of a darker shade of brown, the Indian myna has a conspicuous white patch, which shows when the bird is in flight. This bird has a variety of sharp calls that is uttered with an absurd bobbing of the head. It is widespread throughout the Indian subcontinent including the islands of andaman, Nicobar, Lakshwadeep and the Maldives where it was introduced. It is a very visible bird in India, having a habit of following humans around. It eats whatever its habitat has to offer.
The Little Egret: This bird, found all over the Indian sub-continent, is almost the height of a village hen. Dwelling mostly in the marshes, water ponds, rivers and tidal mudflats, this bird is of a very cunning nature. Its food menu ranges from insects, fish, and frogs to even small reptiles. Both the sexes are alike and the female lays 4 bluish-green eggs in the month of July/August in northern India and November to February in the Southern part.
Pond HeronThe Pond Heron or the Paddy bird: A bird having a variety of low conversational notes and peculiar mumbling sounds that a nesting pair utters. Brown in color when it is resting supplemented with maroon hair like plums on the back and long white crest during the breeding season. It flashes its shimmering white wings, tail and rump, when it springs into flight. Just like the Egret, the Pond Heron can be found at a river, pond, roadside ditch, and the seacoast in mangrove swamps, tidal mudflats or in the paddy fields form where it has acquired its second name - paddy bird. Also called the `saintly heron`, as it stands hunched up at the remote corner of a water body watching and waiting patiently for the fish to come within reach before it picks on it in a flash.
The Redwattled Lapwing: A partridge-like bird, the best place to locate it, being the water bodies where these are found in pairs. It is found all over the Indian Union up to about 1800 m in the Himalayas and peninsular hills. Its color above is bronze-brown, below is white; breast, head and neck are black and there is a crimson wattle in front of each eye.
The ever famous Parakeet or Parrot: The `Tota` of India and most lovable bird. Large flock can be found all over the Indian Sub-continent, from the foothills of Himalayas to the southern parts of the country. Agriculture-wise it is very destructive, known for wasting more and eating less. Usually green in color with an amazingly red beak, the female lacks the black and rose pink collar of male.
Indian PeacockThe National Bird: The Indian Peacock: A collage of wonderful and beautifully designed colors and patterns. It is found in dry semi-desert grasslands, scrub and deciduous forests and it forages and nests on the ground but roosts on top of trees. It eats mainly seeds, but also some insects, fruits and reptiles. The Indian Peacock has beautiful iridescent blue-green plumage.
The Indian Roller: The bird is of a striking blue color with a rufous brown breast and a pail blue abdomen and under tail. The magnificence of its colors is best exhibited in flight when the dark and light portions show up as brilliant bands on the wings. It is found mostly at the foothills of the Himalayas.
The Indian White:Rumped Vulture: It is an Old World vulture in the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, kites, buzzards and hawks. Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. It has head, very broad wings, short tail and a white neck ruff. This specie is almost on the verge of extinction.
Purple Swamphen Purple Swamphen -Generally found on lotus pond. It is a bluish-purple bird with a red gaudy beak. As the name goes, they are found in marshy areas skulking around reed beds and water hyacinth plants. These are common throughout the country.
Pheasant tailed jacana: Easily identified by the striking white plumage from head to breast and by long sickle shaped tail during the breeding season. Jacanas are comfortable walking on aquatic plant and are popularly known as lily-walkers because of their ability. They are found on lotus ponds in Hyderabad.
White breasted waterhen- Easily identified by the white patch that starts from near the head all the way down to the lower parts of the breast. Can be spotted near jheels, lakes, and small ponds around the countryside. Found on lotus ponds.
Greyheaded Fish EagleGreyheaded fish eagle-As the name goes, this eagle mainly subsists on a diet of fish. Grey head, brown back and flanks and the tail are seen with a black terminal band that can easily be observed in flight. Found in north/north-eastern parts of the country and also in pockets in peninsular India.
Pallas Fish Eagle : A large brownish eagle with a pale golden head. Usually found near large waterbodies. Found in the north and northeastern parts of India.
Changeable Hawk Eagle (dark morph): Dark morph and pale morph variations exist. Found in dense forests. Size varies from 60-70cms. This eagle`s found in most parts of the country, except extreme north and north west of the country.
Crested Serpent Eagle- A beautiful eagle with a black-white crest found in forested areas. Found in most parts of the country. Trademark kweeee- kwee-kwee call. Generally found in Kaziranga in Assam and Thattekad in Kerala.
Mountain Hawk Eagle- Found usually in mountainous regions. Barring on underparts. Lava, Lava 8 Mile, Found in Northern Bengal NE and SW India.
Black Eagle- Found in broadleaved forests in hills and mountains. Generally found Lava, West Bengal.
Black shouldered Kite- A widespread and common raptor, found throughout the country. Often seen hovering in the air searching for prey. Generally to be found near Manjira Reservoir, Hyderabad.
Black KiteBlack Kite (Pariah Kite)- A dark brown kite found throughout the country. Can be seen circling and soaring in urban areas. Easily distinguished by the shallow `v-shaped` tail.generally found in Hyderabad.
Malabar Grey Hornbill- Orange-yellow bill and overall grey appearance. Paler grey streaking on sides of head. The female has a blackish base at the start of the lower mandible, to be seen generally in Kerala.
Indian Nightjar- Nightjars are crepuscular (active in the evenings). All nightjars are dull colored and well camouflaged. To be seen in mostly in Hyderabad.
Jungle Owlet- Seen in most parts of the country in well-wooded areas. A small owl with heavy barring.
Racket tailed Drongo- Streaming tail feathers give the bird it`s name. Found in dense forests and bamboo jungle. Has various calls ranging from musical to harsh. It`s a great sight to see the swishing tail as it flies across the forest canopy.
Blue Winged Minla and Red tailed Minla - can be found in evergreen forests of the Himalayas and the northeastern hills.
Rufous Winged FulvettaRufous Winged Fulvetta- The Rufous winged fulvetta is usually found in the undergrowths in dense forests and well-wooded areas. Resident and found only in the NE and the Himalayas.
Little Pied Flycatcher- Resident in the NE states and the Himalayas. The female is dull brown in color. Common bird in Lava, North Bengal.
Tickell`s Blue Flycatcher- Distribution from central India down south and also parts of the northeast. Blue upperparts. Underparts clearly seperated into orange uppers and white lowers. Female is duller blue. Wooded areas in forests.
Verditer Flycatcher- Found in woodlands and can be found in many parts of the country in the winter. But breeds mainly in the northeast and the himalayas. The female of the species is lighter colored.
Crimson Breasted Barbet (a.k.a The Coppersmith)- Found in most parts of the country. Also called the Coppersmith because of the tuk-tuk-tuk sound that it makes, which sounds like a coppersmith beating copper on an anvil.
Indian Robin-The Indian Robin is commonly found throughout the sub-continent. It is often seen hopping around on the ground looking for insects. The male and female are dissimilar.
Indian RollerIndian Roller- Bright blue wings with brownish upper parts. Common throughout India and can are found perched on open branches and electric wires in open country.
Yellow billed Babbler- Pale white head and yellow bill. Common throughout southern India. This bird is usually seen moving around noisily in flocks of seven or more.
Scaly-breasted Munia- The adult has scaly lower breast, belly and flanks. The juvenile (shown in the first picture) has brown upperparts and lacks the scaled feathers. They are often seen in flocks and feed on grass seeds.
Asian Koel- The male Asian Koel is greenish-black, has red eyes and a pale green bill. The female is brownish above and is heavily striped and spotted. It has a persistent and loud ku-OO ku-OO call. Like other cuckoos the koel is also a `brood parasite`, laying its eggs in the nest of other birds.
White browed Wagtail- Has a pied plumage and hence also known as the pied wagtail. Found near water, usually in pairs.
Purple Heron-The purple heron is a large, colourful heron with a long snake like neck. In breeding season the colours become brighter and the breast plumes become more pendulous.
Grey Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron,Painted Stork ,Small Pratincole ,Little Ringed Plover, River Tern-Are generally found in Hyderabad
Great Thick-knee- Usually found in pairs or in groups on the banks of freshwater rivers and lakes and also on shores of lagoons and estuaries.
Green Bee-eater- The most familiar and widespread bee-eater in the country and is often seen sitting on fences and electric wires. They have elongated tail feathers, which are absent in the juvenile. As the name suggests they predominantly feed on insects, including bees, wasps, dragonflies and butterflies, which are caught in the air while performing sorties.
Plain Prinia- The plain prinia is a small warbler, typically found in wet grassland, open woodland, grass and secondary growth. It is an active bird and constantly waves its long tail around while flitting around.
Baya Weaver (a.k.a Indian Weaver Bird)- Weaverbirds are seed eating birds with rounded conical bills and are closely related to finches. They are known for their elaborately woven nests. The Baya weaver is a gregarious bird and breeds in colonies that can be found in scattered trees in open country. Despite the scientific name Ploceus philippinus, they are found through mainland India and not in Philippines.The breeding male Baya weaver (shown in the picture) has a bright yellow crown and a dark brown mask around the eye. Non-breeding males and females resemble female house sparrows. They also lack the dark brown mask.
Barn Swallow-Barn swallows are highly adaptable birds and can nest almost anywhere. This bird was nesting in the lodge where we were staying. The cup-shaped nest is made up of mud and the inside is lined with feathers, grass and other soft materials. It is a resident bird in Lava and found nesting in almost every house. It is a winter visitor to the rest of the country. The deeply forked tail can be seen in flight.
Greater Coucal- The greater Coucal is a common and widespread bird in India. It is found in overgrown shrubs, gardens and forest edges.
Rose-ringed Parakeet- The Rose-ringed parakeet is the most common and widespread parakeet throughout the country. The male has a black and rose collar, which is absent in the female.