Posts Tagged 'bird nest'

Indian Grey Hornbill—the seed dispersers

Posted by on 07 Aug 2016 | Category: photography, prakriti

There are about 54 species of hornbills in the world, out of which 9 occur in India. The hornbill pictured here is the Indian Grey Hornbill, which is common across the Indian subcontinent, except the wettest (Western Ghats and northeast) and the driest (northwest) parts of the country.

Indian Grey Hornbill, Ocyceros birostris at Pune, Maharashtra

Breeding/Nesting
Hornbills have unique breeding habits, where the female confines herself into a nest cavity in a tree, with only a narrow opening through which the male shares the food throughout the nesting period. For the Indian grey hornbills, the total nesting period is about 87 days, where the female is confined to the nest cavity for an average of 76 days. Most of the grey hornbill nests are in hollows of the Mahagony tree family, located nearby riverine habitats. Deforestation, agriculture and other developmental activities have restricted the range of many species like these hornbills.

Grey hornbills as seed dispersers
Hornbills play a key role in seed dissemination, germination and regeneration of trees. This is because they are mainly frugivores (fruit consuming) and can break up/swallow large fruits, and regurgitate the seeds without damaging, making them the perfect dispersers. Since they travel long distances in search of fruits, they are capable of moving these seeds to distant locations.

Grey hornbills are effective seed dispersers for trees such as Premna tomentosa (a teak like tree), Putranjiva, Fern trees and even Sandalwood trees! Many of these are medicinally and commercially valuable trees but they generate very few seeds and propagation depends on birds like these hornbills.

Mid-air play and fight
Like many other hornbills, the grey hornbill has a long curved bill, which has a casque (helmet) on the top. The male hornbills engage in midair clashes where they jar against each other’s casques to establish their dominance and as part of their social play. This behaviour is known as aerial jousting.

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nest raiders at our backyard

Posted by on 01 Jul 2009 | Category: photography, prakriti

One day we heard a lot of commotion just outside of our house. We saw 3 or 4 purple sunbirds, red whiskered bulbuls and yellow browed bulbuls at the same location, hovering and squeaking around. Though the possibility of a snake was there, it was ruled out because we saw a crow-pheasant (greater coucal) nearby, which is another enemy and nest raider of the smaller birds. Probably there is some bird nest nearby and the crow-pheasant was after it.

greater coucal, centropus sinensis

The greater coucal, Centropus sinensis, at the scene of action.

As usual, we took our camera and though the birds were in a distance, captured some photographs. These photographs were taken on 15 Feb 2008, from our home at Kerala. As usual, the photographs were processed and closely checked very late, more than a year later. We were taken in for a surprise. All of a sudden there is a snake in the picture! That too, a long snake with its long tail entwined all over the all-spices tree in our backyard…

purple sunbirds and the snake

The male purple sunbird, cinnyris asiaticus (~ nectarinia asiatica), as you see, is in the breeding plumage. They are glossy purple during breeding time and have brownish upper and greyish-white under sides during non-breeding time. You can see the predating snake sneaking through the all-spices tree on the right.

Birds, especially the smaller ones, have an effective (well, sometimes) defense system against snakes. If one of them finds a snake, they make sure that the whole world knows about it, by flapping and chirping out loud. This brings the rest of the community to the scene of action. Altogether, they make an aggressive attempt to mob and drive the snake away.

red whiskered bulbul, pycnonotus jocosus

Red whiskered bulbuls, pycnonotus jocosus, at the scene of action. We had earlier discovered that the red whiskered bulbuls are nesting nearby. Some of these >> red whiskered bulbul nests were photographed around the same time. So it is of ultimate interest to both these birds to get rid of the enemy off their domain.

yellow browed bulbul, lole indica

Yellow browed bulbul, lole indica, at the scene of action.