World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated twice a year, on the second weekend of May and October, to raise awareness of migratory birds and the need for international cooperation to conserve them. So today, 9th October, is the day. Migratory birds are a clear example of how the world is so closely connected and how everyone plays a role in conserving our ecosystems. Something happening in the harsh cold of Europe can affect us here in India, through the passage of these resilient creatures. We currently haven’t encountered any of the migratory birds in our limited urban space in Kandivali East, but realise that our local resident birds are very important too, and we must ensure that we do not destroy their habitats.
When you think purple, which birds come to mind? Having lived near a lake in Bangalore, the Purple Heron and Purple Swamphen are the ones I immediately used to think of. These days, it’s the Purple-rumped Sunbird (Leptocoma zeyonica), found only in the Indian sub-continent, and a resident of our park.
Tiny at just about 10 cm, and very light, weighing about 10 grams, the sunbirds are delight to watch – if you can keep track of them.
Sunbirds feed primarily on nectar and are particularly attracted to bright-coloured flowers like the Ixora, Calliandra and Hibiscus. Once can see them deftly grip onto flower stems and even the veins of leaves as they push their beaks into the flowers.
Nests are made by the females but both the parents incubate the eggs. There are reports of sunbirds falling victim to “brood parasitism”. In the example below, picked off Twitter (see the thread here), a Purple-rumped Sunbird is feeding a much larger sized baby Cuckoo. [The Cuckoo lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and bullies the foster parents into rearing them as well.]
Sunbirds, like other nectar-feeding creatures such as butterflies, are important pollinators. However, at times, they do not fulfil their pollinating tasks as they do not enter the flowers to get the nectar. One can see them attempt to pierce the base of the flower to suck out the nectar instead – an act that is referred to as “nectar robbing”.
All the pictures have been taken by Srivathsa, in the Whispering Palms Park, Kandivali East. We initially struggled to spot the birds while trying to trace them through their “titou” calls and the quick glimpses they offered us. Now we know their favourite spots. A great way to relax!