Bird Brain

Earlier this year, in winter, I started hearing the high-pitched cries of predatory birds near our home. This was new for me, because in the few years we have been here in Mumbai, I’ve only ever seen crows, pigeons, and sparrows in our area, with the occasional common myna and magpie making an appearance. Not exactly a smorgasbord in terms of avian life.

I’ve always been rather fascinated by birds and other flora and fauna, thanks to having grown up in a desert country. The books I read [Enid Blyton mostly] described leafy green trees, and birds with gorgeous plumage, but these didn’t translate into everyday life in Dubai. Perhaps that’s the reason our home was filled with living creatures: dogs, birds, fish, rabbits, and so on. This interest – and it is purely a mere interest – led me to take a somewhat keen if untrained look at my surroundings.

So when I heard these cries, I knew that a different type of bird had taken up residence in the area. Added to that, we saw fewer crows and pigeons in the area, and air was conspicuously lacking in their caws and coos. And then I saw it one day, perched precariously atop a tree: a brown kite.

Now, brown kites are not rare in the city. They are quite prolific in many areas, especially ones where there is an abundance of rats. I couldn’t fathom what had changed to make them come to our area, even though it was a mere few blocks away from their other habitats.

The kites didn’t stay for very long though. I think the summer proved too daunting for them here. But, nonetheless, it was tremendously thrilling to see one sailing around on its broad wings.

A few weeks ago, I was looking out the window and I saw a tiny bird hopping on the leaves of the tree outside the bedroom window. I’d never seen the bird before, and it was smaller than a sparrow. Its back was a greenish yellow colour, and it has a white belly. I wasn’t able to discern much more because it soon hopped off, and I didn’t have my glasses on.

I tried to Google the name of this tiny little creature, with a silver-toned voice. But no dice. Google evaded all attempts to discover its name.

Then, on Monday, I was applying makeup at the window, and I happened to have my contacts in. I suddenly heard musical chirps, and I looked out to see this beautiful little creature sitting a mere foot in front of me. It had an orange beak, and a grey head. It was adorable, and I figured I finally had enough information to locate it on Google.

However, that afternoon, I happened to chance upon a book about Indian birds. I pounced on it, and quickly flipped through to the urban birds section. And there it was: the common tailor bird.

There is nothing extraordinary about any of this, and honestly I will end up forgetting it happened altogether. But there was a great deal of simple joy at discovering something new about my environment.


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