10 Birds at ISB

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When one starts thinking of birds on ISB campus, but obviously the first to come to mind is our National bird the Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus). The gorgeous male with his long tail feathers as well as the smaller mottled females can be sighted all over campus. The rainy season also has us hearing their calls through the day. Apart from them our campus is also home to other such magnificent birds. Here we present ten birds photographed in the campus.

About the Photographer
Raghoo Sinha, began his teaching career in 1978 at the Department of Psychology, University of Allahabad. He specialised in Clinical Psychology and later taught Organisational Behaviour. He retired from teaching in 2004. Apart from being an academic and a researcher, Raghoo Sinha is also a national-level billiards and snooker player. He has won 16 state titles and participated in the 2007 World Championship. He is also an avid birdwatcher and has turned to bird photography after being a nature-watcher for many years. Currently, he mentors the next generation in all of his passions including billiards, snooker, psychology and environmental conservation issues.

These birds were photographed by Raghoo Sinha, during his visits to the ISB, where his daughter, Professor Ruchi Sinha teaches. Raghoo lives in Allahabad with his wife Maya, who retired from the Indian Railways in 2004 and is now a painter. Maya mostly paints watercolours of birds inspired by the photos taken by Raghoo. Raghoo can be contacted for copyrights to the images presented here.

  • 1. Purple Sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica)

    This metallic dark purple bird is the most striking of the sunbirds on campus. From a distance the bird looks almost black. When the sun falls on it, it shines in multiple shades of a stunning iridescent purple. The female looks completely different though, it is dull grey with a yellow belly. About 10 cm in size, they are almost the same size as a Sparrow. These tiny jewels mainly feed on the nectar of flowers, by hovering like a hummingbird, whenever they don’t find a suitable perch. Its slender curved bill and tubular tongue are admirably adapted for feeding from flowers. They also feed on insects occasionally.

  • 2. Common Coot (Fulica atra)

    Normally around 38 - 42 cm in size this is a very duck like water bird. The Common Coot is seen at the ISB Lake more so in the winter months. The adult Coot is identified by its fully black body except for the whitish beak and facial shield. The juvenile however is paler with a whitish breast and without the white facial shield. Both sexes are alike. It is an omnivore and feeds both by grazing on land and by diving underwater in search of its food (live prey of insects, mollusks etc., aquatic vegetation, algae, seeds and fruit). Like all divers it has feathers which are water repellent.

  • 3. Plum headed Parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala)
    The Plum Headed Parakeet is a beautiful green bird with the males having a striking plum-red head and the females having a grayish head which distinguishes them from the common parakeet. Although commonly called parrots it is pertinent to note that there are no parrots found native to India. About 36 cm in size, it is usually found on tree-tops and has a loud and noisy call. It eats seeds, fruits, nuts etc. Known to nest in holes in tree trunks. Seen all around campus, these photographs were taken near SV3.

  • 4. Spotted Owlet (Athene brama)
    The Spotted Owlet is a rarely seen, shy and wise resident of the ISB. A squat, white-spotted grayish brown little owl with large round head and forwardly directed yellow eyes. Its is around 20 cms in size. Late in the evenings, it can be sighted amongst the trees between the Executive Housing and SV1 where it sits on low branches searching for small rodents and insects. It has white spots on the upperparts and the top of its head and a distinct “collar”.

  • 5. Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala)
    Slightly larger than a Sparrow, around 17 cm in size it is also called the Crimson breasted barbet. It is a colorful bird found especially in and around SV1 as well as behind the ISB Dam (near the Sewage treatment plant). It is identified by a bright crimson red on its forehead and breast and by the typical barbet characteristic of the bristles near its bill. Before visual sighting however, you can almost always hear its distinctive “tuk-tuk” call, which is said to sound like a coppersmith striking his hammer on metal! The Coppersmith barbet is a fruit eating bird but also feeds on insects occasionally.

  • 6. Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)
    Speckled and barred in black and white with the typical stout dagger shaped kingfisher bill this bird is 25 - 30 cm in size. It is mostly a winter visitor to the ISB dam. It hovers in flight over the lake as if it is standing upon its tail. From this midair “perch” it targets a fish in the water, makes a nosedive and catches its prey with a fare degree of success. Truly spectacular method of fishing. Once it catches the fish it sits on it favored perch and swallows it.

  • 7. Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis)
    About 16-19 cm in size, it is slightly larger than a Sparrow. Found on most parts of the campus, more commonly near the Dam, around ’08 Lounge, the Nursery, SV3 and SV4. It is a slender green bird, with bluish cheeks and a golden brown head. It is also identified by a long “pin” tail and its slender long slightly curved bill. Bee-eaters feed on insects such as bees, wasps, flies and ants. These acrobatic birds effortlessly catch their prey in the air, return to their perch and thrash it against a surface before swallowing their meal. The sexes are identical and are known to roost in small groups. Often seen roosting around the dam.

  • 8. Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros birostris)
    The Grey hornbill is about 50 – 60 cm in size. A clumsy brownish grey bird with an enormous black and white curved bill surmounted by a peculiar protuberance called a casque. It can be seen amongst the taller trees beyond the dam towards the sewage treatment plant. The hornbill is mainly a fruit and berry eater but also feed on insects, lizards, young mice etc. The Hornbills demonstrate a rather interesting nesting behavior. The female usually settles in a natural hollow of a tree and covers the opening until it is just small enough for the male to feed her with his bill. She then lays and incubates the eggs and comes out of her “jail” only after the chicks are hatched! Sighting of young on campus gives us reason to believe that the Hornbill does nest within ISB.

  • 9. Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda)
    A long-tailed chestnut brown bird with a sooty head and neck. This handsomely colored but noisy crow sized bird prefers open scrub land and urban gardens too. It is most often seen between the Executive Housing and Recreation Center as well as near the football field. The Treepie is an opportunistic feeder and eats almost anything viz. fruits, insects, reptiles and eggs of other birds. Both males and females look similar and are known to have large variety of calls.

  • 10. Shikra (Accipiter badius)
    This list would be incomplete without a bird of prey. The Shikra is a small raptor frequently seen at ISB especially at the AC6 lawns and near SV3. A lightly built hawk, ashy ble grey above and white below with rusty brown cross bars. It can be seen sitting on a high perch from where it dives upon its prey, which consists of rodents, squirrels, small birds, small reptiles, small snakes and insects. The word “shikra” or “shikara” means hunter in the Hindi language and to celebrate this characteristic the Indian Navy, in 2009, has named a helicopter base after this bird.

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