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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Birding the Tiger's Kingdom: Avian Treasures from the Indian Jungle

[RNP, June 2016]

On day 362 of his epic quest, when celebrity birder Noah Strycker had to pick one destination to complete his goal of 6,000 species in a year, he chose to make a repeat trip to India rather than visit a new country. 

Within a couple of months of Noah's visit to India (where he famously succeeded in sighting his 6000th species), the American Birding Association organized the ABA India Safari.  

Indeed, with a checklist of over 1,300 birds, it is small wonder that India is a preferred destination for many birders including this blogger. This is in part due to the many sanctuaries and nature reserves established across the vast country. One prime example of this is Ranthambore National Park (RNP); and, although RNP is is better known for its tigers, it also harbors some spectacular birdlife -- avian species that share the tiger's kingdom, such as:
  • Painted Spurfowl
  • Crested Serpent Eagle
  • Indian Pitta
  • Indian Peafowl
  • Indian Golden Oriole
  • Indian Paradise Flycatcher
  • Common Kingfisher
  • Tickel's Blue Flycatcher
  • Barred Buttonquail
  • Jungle Bush Quail
  • Striated Heron
  • White-bellied Drongo
  • Black-rumped Flameback
The above were observed during a quick summer vacation to India, and while the objective was primarily social, a couple of days were set aside by the blogger to take advantage of the birding opportunities in the region.

We start with the Painted Spurfowl:

The male Painted Spurfowl is a stunning species -- richly colored in rufous, brown, black and tan with bold white speckles.

This incomparable landfowl is endemic to the subcontinent and one of the best places to observe it is at RNP.

Crested Serpent Eagle, as its name implies, is a predator specializing in eating snakes and lizards.

Unlike the Spurfowl which is an endemic, the Crested Serpent Eagle ranges East through SE Asia (indeed, this blogger has observed it in the forests of Malaysia).

Indubitably, the most colorful bird seen on this trip was the Indian Pitta:

Teal, turquoise, blue, gold, buff, white, black, red and pink -- these nine colors are behind the Pitta's name in the local language "naurang". An endemic of the subcontinent, it is best observed in the mosoon season when it disperses across the country to breed.

Another endemic is the Indian Peafowl:

Although widely introduced as a garden bird in many parts of the world, its home is here in India. And, at this time, during the monsoons, it puts on the grandest spectacle of perhaps any bird: the male peafowl, or peacocks, gather in a lek and start to display with their enormous and incredibly lavish tail feathers.  

Another endemic is the Indian Golden Oriole:

Sweet sounding and brightly colored, the Old World Oriole serves in the same ecological niche as in the New World.

The Indian Paradise Flycatcher:

Looking at the male (below), it becomes obvious how this species earned its moniker -- an impressively long tail that dwarfs the female's (see above).

Also seen were:

Common Kingfisher:

Tickel's Blue Flycatcher:

Barred Buttonquail:

The female Barred Buttonquail is polyandrous and more richly colored than the male in a reversal of the usual gender roles.

Jungle Bush Quail:

Unlike the buttonquail, the male is more strongly patterned and colorful while the female is a warm pink-cinnamon.

Striated Heron:

White-bellied Drongo (another endemic of the subcontinent):

And, finally, a striking woodpecker, the Black-rumped Flameback:

The wildlife attractions of the subcontinent are many. The highlight for most visitors to India will surely be the Royal Bengal Tiger; however, for the intrepid birder, there are spectacular avian treasures waiting to be discovered in the Indian Jungle. A truth that Noah Strycker, this blogger, and many others have so delightfully experienced.


Bob Pelkey said...

It was fun to periodically check in with the adventures of Strycker via Audubon 2015 big year, Hemant. His book is greatly anticipated, as is yours.

Digital Plume Hunter said...

LoL -- the blog gives me all the writing pleasure I need, Bob!