This essay is primarily about a collection of photos of certain birds found in the sprawling and lush campus of the University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India. It includes birds like, Red-ringed Parrot, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Golden Indian Oriole, Green Bee-Eater, Indian Pond Heron, King Fisher, Little Black Cormorant, Oriental White eye, Red-wattled Lapwing and Spotted owlet. The photographs capture the everyday behaviour of the birds within the natural spaces of the campus.
Although birds are delicate and small in appearance yet they have inspired some of the most challenging human quests for freedom, flight, beauty and nurture. But what have we given them in return? I ask myself this question, as I see the city gradually replacing its rocks and trees with glass and steel corporate structures.
Birds in and around Gachibowli, a place which is fast becoming a symbol of India’s hyper-modern corporate sheen, seem to have found refuge in the campus. The calm and green expanse of this institution has become a ‘Birdopia’: a place where these birds can live, love and laugh, freely. The purpose of this collection is not only to highlight the beauty and diversity of the birds but also their discovery of an almost utopic space within the swamps, trees and gardens of the university.
Indian Red-ringed Parrots
Asian Paradise Flycatcher
Indian Golden Oriole
Indian Pond Heron
Little Black Cormorant
Oriental White Eye
Article contributed by Jhilam Chattaraj
This popular annual event offers birders the opportunity to explore south Floriday in search of spectacular and rare birds in cypress swamps, everglades prairies, marshes and more. Target birds for the event include prairie warblers, common myna, wood stork, snail kite, crested caracara, burrowing owl, purple galinule and red-whiskered bulbul, to mention a few. For more information visit www.evergladesbirdingfestival.com/
Date: 15-19 January 2015
Location: Everglades, Hollywood
With the goal of promoting environmental conservation through education, Wild Wings Inc. serves as a sanctuary and rehabilitation center focusing primarily on raptors, and offers educational programs to encourage awareness of, and personal responsibility for, the natural world of which we are all a part. Operating as a not-for-profit corporation, Wild Wings is located in the Mondon Ponds Park, near the intersection of Pond Road and Clover Street, Honeoye Falls, NY. Visitors to the sanctuary will be able to view the more than twenty birds of prey which, due to their injuries, are unable to be released into the wild and have become permanent residents at Wild Wings.
The permanent residents of Wild Wings include a magnificent female Golden Eagle named Isis that broke both wings when colliding with a car in 1995. Athena is a female Bald Eagle that suffered a gunshot wound and is no longer able to fly, while the male Harris’ Hawk Sierra was unsuccessful as a falconry bird and is unable to hunt for his food. Resident owls that have suffered various injuries and are unable to fend for themselves include the male Barred Owl named Hunter; the one-eyed female Eastern Screech Owl named Wink; the male Long-eared Owl named Cody; and a Saw-Whet Owl named Blaze. The birds are housed in large enclosures along a pathway, offering visitors a close-up view. Feeding of the birds is not permitted, and visitors are asked to refrain from making sudden movements and not make too much noise as this startles the birds.
Workshops, demonstrations and other educational programs are all part of the effort Wild Wings is making to educate the public about the difference each one of us can make in preserving nature and the environment. Among the Wild Wings Classes are Owls and Creatures of the Night; Nest Boxes; Animal House; Critter Class and Owl Pellet Program. The Wild Wings Raptors on the Road is a series of programs where trained volunteers travel to various venues to perform live bird of prey demonstrations, conduct owl pellet dissection workshops, give art and photography students the opportunity to use live raptors as models, and a general ‘meet and greet’ with a variety of birds. Wild Wings also offers programs to fulfill requirements for New York State Boy Scout and Girl Scout badges.
The beautiful setting at Mendon Ponds Park offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a day in the outdoors with nature hikes and guided tours. Add to this a visit to the Wild Wings facility and you have the perfect venue for a family outing.
Established in 2006, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in South Africa cares for more than 180 birds representing 50 different raptor species. The sanctuary’s permanent residents have either been bred in captivity, or have sustained injuries which significantly limit their chances of survival in the wild. Located close enough to both Durban and Pietermaritzburg to allow easy access for a day trip, the sanctuary offers unique insight into South Africa’s amazing predatory birds which is both educational and entertaining.
The sanctuary’s permanent residents include vultures, eagles, falcons, kestrels, goshawks, sparrowhawks, buzzards, hawks, kites and owls. Many of the birds have been named, with a record of their rescue story available to visitors. Eagles are rightly viewed as the mightiest of the birds of prey and the sanctuary’s Eagle Alley allows visitors a close up look at some of these majestic birds. Other sections of the sanctuary are Hoot Hollow for the owls; Honeycomb Habitats housing diurnal raptors; and the Vulture Hide with its eight indigenous vulture species, all of which are considered to be threatened.
In addition to being a popular tourism attraction, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is dedicated to ongoing research, including breeding and rehabilitation projects, with a view to conserving the birds in their natural South African environment. The Raptor Rescue operation run by the sanctuary is kept separate from the public area and is not open to visitors. If rescued birds are to be rehabilitated and released into the wild again, it is in their best interests not to be exposed to too many people. In addition to being stressful for them, too much interaction with humans could make the birds tame, thereby hampering their chances of survival in the wild. For research purposes birds are ringed before being released into a suitable habitat, if possible where they were found.
One of the most exciting features of the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is the flying display, and visitors should be sure to plan their day to include one of these demonstrations, bearing in mind that they are weather dependent. Flying display times are Monday to Friday at 10:30am, and at 10:30am and 3pm on weekends and public holidays. As a privately funded conservation initiative, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary relies on entrance fees to continue their work. So, why not support this worthy cause, and enjoy an outing you are not likely to forget.
Nature not only surrounds us with sheer beauty but also offers an abundance of fascinating new discoveries that continue to amaze us. Just when we think we know everything about an animal or bird, they seem to prove us wrong. More recently, birds have revealed that crests and beards are not merely used for finding a mate, but serve a greater purpose, allowing them to explore their surroundings as well. Research on birds, such as the auklet, has opened up a new door into the world of birds and their feathers.
Professor Ian Jones, St John’s Memorial University, and Dr Sampath Seneviratne, University of British Columbia, shared their insights and suspicions that certain feathers on a bird’s body could serve to heighten the sense of touch. When looking at birds, such as the auklet, which have intricate feathers on their heads, scientists found that by putting them through a simple navigational test, much was revealed in regard to the role that crests and head feathers play. Using a dark maze, as this breed tends to breed in dark crevices, it was found that when the birds navigated the test, they succeeded in completing the maze with less difficulty than when researchers flattened their head feathers. It was also noted that in general, if birds have ornamental feathering, they tend to be birds that are active at night.
Researchers then looked at bird species that do not feature elaborate feathering, including pheasants, kingfishers, parrots, penguins and owls. They suggest that even if some birds do not have crests and rectal bristles, longer wing feathers may also serve as a means of touch. Many birds use their feathers and coloring to show off their abilities and to either startle or camouflage themselves from their predators, but there is good reason to believe that feathers have various other functions that we have not been aware of until now. The new insight into facial feathers and flamboyant feathering could lead to further studies,to confirm these findings and the preliminary research. This use of their feathers for touch and orientation has revealed a more complex side to birds, and will have us gazing a little more intently whenever we look at these colorful creatures of the skies.