Most Mumbaikars would have heard the Indian Golden Oriole’s flute-like call, even if they haven’t seen the bird. Its melodious song is as unmistakable as its black and bright yellow plumage. Called Haladya in Marathi and Peelak in Hindi, this bird is found across the country. However, its numbers can’t be stated with any certainty and it is categorised as a species of ‘least concern’.
It is one of the more common birds found in Mumbai too. However because of its shy nature, it is rarely spotted, except by bird watchers. This is especially true of the greener females who are well-camouflaged by the canopy. However, if one keeps a close watch on trees like banyan or peepal, there is a good chance of spotting one of these lovely birds as they hop around, looking for a juicy meal of fruits, berries or insects.
The Indian Golden Oriole (Oriolus Kundoo) was once thought to be a subspecies of the Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus), but is now considered to be a full species. Although very similar, the two species can be told apart by a few key differences. One of the most striking differences is that the black eye stripe of the male Indian Golden Oriole extends behind the eye, unlike that of his Eurasian cousin. The Indian species is a partial migrant, and those that reside in the northern parts of the country move to the more salubrious south during winter.
According to Raju Kasambe of the BNHS IBA (Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas) team, the Indian Golden Oriole has adapted remarkably well to Mumbai’s urbanisation.
“This is mainly because it’s a canopy bird that lives almost its whole life on fruit trees like peepal, banyan and cluster fig trees. These are all trees that are abundantly found in Mumbai,” said Kasambe. Given its diet, it plays a vital role in the re-distribution of seeds from the fruits of these trees.
The nest of the Indian Golden Oriole is a tightly woven, deep cup that fits snugly into the forks of trees. It usually builds its nest close to that of a Black Drongo. The latter being a much more combative bird, furiously defends its nest even from crows and predators like shikras and offers a general protection to all the small, less aggressive birds nesting in its vicinity. As such, the Oriole remains safe from predators as long as it is high up in the canopy. The only real danger it faces is the destruction of its habitat by humans.
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