• Saloni Rose

Birding Update: Vithura

Updated: May 7, 2019

Over the last two months in Vithura, Kerala, I have observed more than 50 different species of birds. Kerala is called "God's Own Country" for a reason and the photo below clearly shows you why. I have explored the rubber plantations, the farms and of course the forests. I have to admit this place is so species rich that one doesn't even have to get out the building. On a daily basis, I find a different birds, insects including moths and beetles hovering inside the buildings.


Coming back to birds, here as photos of few endemic species.


1.Malabar Grey Hornbill 2.Flame-throated Bulbul 3.Malabar Starling 4.Chestnut-headed Bee-eater 5. Malabar Trogon 6.Vernal-hanging Parrot (From left to right, top to down)


1. Malabar grey hornbill (Ocyceros griseus): Every time I went into the forest, I was welcomed by cicadas that made saw machine noises and occasional evil laughs by the Malabar Grey Hornbill. It's TRUE, they make laughing noises.


The genus Ocyceros includes two other species: Indian Grey Hornbill and the Srilankan Grey Horbill. And guess who described them?

Allan Octavian Hume, the founder of Indian National Congress. Even though he worked as a Civil Servant for most of his life, he was very a passionate naturalist.


2. Flame-throated Bulbuls (Pycnonotus gularis, puknos meaning "thick" and notos meaning "backed") : They are the state bird of Goa. I was so delighted to see them as they are endemic to the Western Ghats and even a rare sight in the forests.


4. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti): This species is named after the French Naturalist Jean-Baptiste Leschenault de La Tour (why didn't my parents give a cool name like this??). Like other bee eaters, they are gregarious and breed together in colonies. When they were basking in the sun, I saw them circle around the branches and sit at the same spot. This behavior is quite frequent, often 10-15 times an hour. I wonder if this a hunting strategy or a territorial behavior? I have no clue! Please let me know if you guys have come across this behavior.


Bee-eaters in general are very interesting because of their social structure. Check out this video of a different species of Bee-eater.


I must admit that my sampling might have been slightly biased towards the evening(I am not an early morning bird!) and would find more species if sampled different times of the day.



Here is the complete list of birds including the generalists:

1. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cJdeFsfFdAyzR9N95NwGUu6UOqsAuBs5/view

2. https://drive.google.com/file/d/155IAUCFdhu8k72I_kkQ9XSKZGdTrWFgN/view

P.S. I didn't include few birds that I saw as I don't have good photographs of them.


References:

1. Ocyceros birostris, Davids. & Wend. S.F. vii, p. 78; Ball, Ibid. p. 205; Hume, Cat. no. 144; Butler, S.F. ix, p. 384; Reid, S.F. x, p. 22; Davids. Ibid. p. 296; Barnes, Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. i, p. 61; id. Birds Bom. p. 106; Oates In Hume’s N. E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 74; Ogilvie Grant, Cat. B.M. xvii, p. 394

2. Fry, C.H., Fry, K. & Harris, A. (1992) Kingfishers, Bee-eaters & Rollers.

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