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Thursday, June 24, 2021

How avian therapy can help beat the doom and gloom

From clowny parakeets, romantic grey hornbills to wheeling black kites, birds teach us a thing or two about cultivating an upbeat take on life

Written by Ranjit Lal |
Updated: May 23, 2021 2:16:02 pm
As for parakeets, I can watch them all day! They seem to know that they are born clowns.

In these grim days, it isn’t a bad idea to stand by the window, in the balcony, up on the terrace, or garden and look at birds. Here are a few common species that make me smile:

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A great way to start one’s day is to wish good morning to the brisk, cheerful little red-whiskered bulbuls. A delight to behold, they’ve been waking me up with their mellifluous calls for years now. Lissome, in coffee brown, black, white, adorned with scarlet whiskers on their cheeks, these perky little birds, dressed like decorative palace guards, will gaze at you with cocked heads — their hilarious crests bobbing this way and that.

Their cousins, the red-vented bulbuls, however, are spoilsports. Stubbier, with coal-black heads, truncated crest, dark-brown bodies and a patch of scarlet on their bums, the belligerent killjoys always seem to be crashing the red-whiskered bulbuls’ parties. These pugnacious birdies when compared to the elegant red-whiskered appear disgruntled!

These days I’ve been having breakfast (and tea) with a flock of soft-voiced, scaly-breasted munias — their gentle chirping is a soothing refrain that calms you down after you’ve read the papers. They’re tobacco-brown birds with attractive black-and-white scales on their chests. They make you smile when they suddenly whir off in a rush, like schoolboys scattering from a mango orchard they’ve been caught raiding!

As for parakeets, I can watch them all day! They seem to know that they are born clowns. Watch a parakeet hang upside down on a clothesline and go around in clumsy somersaults, nearly falling off in the manner of the best clowns. There’s also something totally exuberant about the way parakeets streak across the skies, in dozens, screaming — like green chillies gone berserk — their greens changing shades in flight.

They have fairly good table manners and their modulating vocal range signals they are discussing matters of the day. Sometimes harsh and loud, but never offensive — there’s always something eternally upbeat and optimistic about their take on life. Normally, we see the rose-ringed parakeet, the guy with the dark ring around its neck, but you may be lucky to come across the plum-headed parakeet (gents only, the ladies have grey heads).

The less-exuberant larger Alexandrine parakeet is the more serious senior of the trio with a harsher squawk. Parakeets score high because they are the only birds I’ve so far seen to hold coaching classes in kissing! Killjoys take that! Mynahs — I wrote about them in an earlier piece, so, will give them the go-by here except to reiterate that there seems to be nothing they like better than a scrap in the dust, feathers flying, shouting at the top of their voices or discussing matters in the most civilised way possible!

Jungle babblers, too, make me grin, wickedly so. They have taken to hopping up to the window and doors yelling and hammering on it with their beaks, all fluffed up, wings beating the glass, too, clearly demanding I open up because they suspect me of hoarding contraband (what, cockroaches?). They’re dressed rather like shabby cops in khaki drill and it’s always such a pleasure to cock a snook at authority and be able to get away with it — they flee ignominiously when I approach the window with that disrespectful grin plastered on my face. They, too, can make a hell of a racket when they want to, and it’s always worthwhile checking why because they may be mobbing an owlet (usually, they’re just jeering at a cat slinking away).

Grey hornbills are also pretty shabby but have beautiful eyelashes and a huge romantic streak. Watch a gentleman offer his lady a tiny emerald neem berry, held delicately in his humongous rhino-bill, with great tenderness and affection. Courting is, probably, over at the moment and hornbills must be busy bringing up families.

The dumpy little coppersmith barbet is another mood-lifter. It’ll perch on a branch, on tiptoe, look in one direction and then another, letting out a “tuk-tuk” hiccup each time, like someone who’s had a little too much gin but doesn’t give a damn!
The other day, I encountered a resplendent peacock hammer at its reflection in a car window, furious that someone as handsome (and blundering-ly egoistical) as him could be a challenger. Don’t we all know such people!

And then, every time I track black kites with my binoculars, admiring the way they wheel, with barely a wing beat, steering with tiny flicks of their tails, I wonder, when will we be able to do that again

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