Mynas hop as it rains
There was a debate last week in our office about how to decide if Monsoon has arrived in the national Capital. The chief reporter had an easy answer that we could look forward to the bulletin of the Met department.
Well, that’s true, but the Met department could also turn back and say that although Monsoon has arrived, the rains are deficient by 90 percent. In this time and era, when everybody is in a rush, I do not know if people would have time to read, forget devouring a Monsoon copy of yore.
I certainly do not purport this week’s Notebook to be a copy on Barkha-Bahar but wanted to share with you one of my idiosyncrasies, watching the behaviour of the mynas, India’s most ubiquitous neighbourhood bird. Mynas and the flowering gulmohar trees are integral features of capital’s summer.
The brown mynas have replaced the crows and the sparrows as the most spotted urban bird. In the national Capital, with their grey coloured cousins, they dominate the sky. The common myna has a brown body, black head and yellow patch behind the eye. Down South, the brown hue is deeper and it starts to get a tinge of grey as we move north.
With high-rise buildings becoming integral to the city’s skyline, the mynas have found home in these gargantuan concrete structures, croaking, squawking, chirping, whistling, singing, and screeching from the nooks and crannies of the tall rises. However, when in pair, they prefer silence and solitude.
Given my preoccupation, like any other journalist, in the office in the evenings, I have seldom been a witness to their roosting but do observe their waking-up activities through the year.
In winters, I see them getting down the tree in our apartment parking around 8 am. However, come spring, with the sun rising one can see them singing at 6.30 am. This they do to escape hot winds which, as the summer advances, would start blowing from as early as 11 am. What better indicator of the weather when you do not have a thermometer and a barometer to refer to.
As the summer advances you can watch them, their beaks open looking for water to quench thirst even at 6 am. This summer indeed was miserable for them with the temperatures going as high as 47 degree Celsius.
Though it’s also true that Delhi looks brightest in the summer and the best when the mynas chirp sitting on the gulmohar trees. A native of Madagascar, this tree which flowers in the hot season has become synonymous with Delhi’s summer.
Gulmohar gets its name from Gul meaning red and Mohar meaning peacock thus meaning red peacock. In Bangla, it’s called Krishnachura or Krishna’s crown which has the peacock plumes. More the heat, deeper the red colour of the flower which grows in a natural bouquet with its green fern-like leaves adding to the beauty.
Over the years, the Government has encouraged planting gulmohar trees, which during the summer months gives a flier a view of the national Capital as one big bouquet. Despite all the evils, Dilliwalas have still retained the philanthropic streak of giving food and water to the birds especially during the summer months. This has helped the Capital retain its avian population.
However, some ornithologists have blamed this habit of Dilliwalas for driving sparrows out of the city. They believe that large populace of the bigger birds – pigeons and mynas – are elbowing sparrows out of their habitat and leaving them without places to nest and feed. They add that until feeding of pigeons is brought under control and Delhi gets rid of its termites — the main food for the mynas — the population of sparrows will never find a home in Delhi.
This is quite a complex situation. In fact, watching from the balcony, I see pigeons occupy the nestling space created by the mynas. With pigeons multiplying much faster than the mynas, the former move in large groups and shoo away the latter from their habitats and nestling places. But then isn’t that true of every community and every habitat.
Coming out of the science of ornithology to the more immediate issue of the Monsoon, come rains and you can watch these birds get down from the trees at 6 in the morning and enjoy splashing waters in the small pools created all over by the rains. The beaks, with thirst taken care of, are seldom open during the Monsoon and they can be seen merrily hopping around.
Do start watching the birds and the tree-line of the national Capital. This can be done without having to take a trek in whatever is left in the name of jungles in the national Capital. You can watch them even in your neighbourhood park or, even better, just outside your car window, and sometimes find a myna perched on a signal post in super-cop like regalia keeping an eye on the traffic, even frowning at times.
I was used to further enjoying their company in my 13th floor flat with its balcony converted into a study. As the days got hotter, I could hear them squeak and screech, hanging from the window frames, with great ferocity. I never hear them screech in winter months. Unlike the pigeons, who dirty and destroy anything kept in the balcony, especially potted plants, the mynas sitting on these plants added to their beauty.
(Sidharth Mishra is President, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post. The views expressed are personal.)