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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Chandigarh Birdwatch: Blue Whistling Thrush, the alert mountain beauty

Hugh Whistler, an English police officer and ornithologist who worked in India, described the bird as "the living embodiment of all the qualities of vitality and fitness that one associates with nature and the hills.”

Chandigarh |
Updated: January 12, 2022 2:11:16 pm
Easily identified, the Blue-whistling Thrush (adult) is dark-blue with a paler metallic-blue forehead, darker face, glossy pale-blue speckles and a yellow bill.

Written by Dr. Gurpartap Singh

Chakkimod, rather the road from Chakkimod to Bhojnagar (District Solan, Himachal Pradesh), is a popular and well-known site for bird watchers. While birders from the tricity are regular visitors, it is now also starting to pull in birders from other parts of the country.

Several birds can be seen at different places in the area. However, no visitor will say that they didn’t see the ubiquitous Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus).

Easily identified, the Blue-whistling Thrush (adult) is dark-blue with a paler metallic-blue forehead, darker face, glossy pale-blue speckles and a yellow bill. The call is a penetrating kreee and tzeet tze-tze-tzeet. Its beautiful, sweet song is composed of a meandering series of short, soft and remarkably human-like whistles.

A resident of the area, Blue Whistling Thrush is known to make vertical movements; coming to lower elevations in the winters. It is almost invariably found near streams and other water bodies, commonly in gorges and ravines. It can also be seen in undergrowth and ground near running water of various types and also sometimes along forest paths and roads.

Usually found singly, it hops around on rocks and moves about very quickly. It can be seen turning over leaves and small stones, cocking its head to one side and checking for the movement of its prey. Its diet includes invertebrates such as water beetles, ants, larvae, dung beetles, slugs, snails, small frogs, earthworms, and also some berries and seeds. When alarmed, its tail spreads and droops. Any attempt to go very close to this ever-alert bird will make it fly away and vanish out of your sight.

Though seen commonly, it is a visual delight and its whistles are a treat for the ears. Hugh Whistler, an English police officer and ornithologist who worked in India, described the bird as “the living embodiment of all the qualities of vitality and fitness that one associates with nature and the hills.”

The writer is a retired college principal and a keen bird watcher

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