The thick tamarind trees which lean into a large compound on Hayes Road, from the Kerala Varma family home on Richmond Road, form a parrot green, leafy canopy, which attracts the regular Barbets and Rose-ringed Parakeets. During the COVID-19 lockdown, imagine the residents’ utter surprise, to have an Indian Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi) pirouetting through the trees, with its fabulous tail doing a ribbon dance. It seems to have taken a shine to the area, say the residents, because it is a regular visitor now, alerting them to its presence with its loud and raucous call.
Ayesha Fernandes was birding in Cubbon Park with a friend when she saw the Asian paradise flycatcher flitting through the trees and finally into the thick bamboo groves. “It likes thick vegetation and so we followed it into the clusters of bamboo, to take a picture. It was pretty difficult, as it darts around searching for insects, never really sitting still. Plus, it was quite dark in the bamboo grove — one has to be really quick to get a good picture.”
The first time Ayesha saw the bird she said she had tears in her eyes at its beauty, especially the tail, which looked like it was made of lace. She had waited to see a flycatcher for so long and was thrilled to see it right in the city limits.
The bird is stunningly attractive, with the adult male sporting a long ribbon-like tail. The males can be found wearing two colours of plumage — cinnamon and white and sports a glossy black head with a delightful crest, with a blue ring around the eye. The females are quite dowdy in comparison, with cinnamon above and a greyish throat, and a shorter tail, and they lack the male’s blue eye-ring. The birds make short aerial sallies after insects, their tails swishing through the branches behind them. They prefer thickly wooded habitats and can be spotted by their signature harsh call, that is so utterly removed from their elegant appearance.
“The Paradise Flycatcher is a handsome-looking bird that feeds on flying insects. Unlike many birds which feed on insects flying in open areas, this bird prefers to look for insects under the canopy of trees in gardens,” says Krishna MB, a bird ecologist and ornithologist in the city. “They are often seen diving towards bird baths and splashing water all over themselves. Thus, the presence of even a small garden with plants around our homes becomes all important if we are to attract birds like these into the city.”
The female lays up to four eggs in a neat cup nest made with twigs and spider web silken strands at the end of a low branch. In approximately 21 to 23 days, the chicks hatch. The Indian paradise flycatcher’s breeding season lasts from May to July. Interestingly the birds are socially monogamous, with both male and female taking an active part in nest-building, incubation, brooding and feeding of the young. The incubation period lasts for 14 to 16 days, with a nestling period of 9 to 12 days.
“The Indian paradise flycatcher can be seen in the city during the winter months as being insectivores, they migrate here,” says Chandrashekar M., an amateur birder, who works with an MNC in the city. “They belong to a species of birds that catch insects mid-air. Thanks to the dense green cover in the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens and Cubbon Park, I was thrilled to see an adult male in the city.” He says it is tough to spot them if you are new to bird watching but their numbers are more at the Anjanapura and Turahalli Tree Park.
Hopefully, the mature trees in the CBD area of the city will remain intact, attracting the Indian Paradise Flycatcher and delighting residents.
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