Savitri is a cheerful 6-year old girl with twinkle in her eyes and swiftness in her feet. She is extremely delighted to pen down the curvy tip of the beak of Purple-rumped Sunbird in her note, her 100th bird species to be identified during her birding trips. The alluring plumage, swift flight, striking songs of these feathered friends fascinate not only her, but the entire mankind! Ornithology, the study of birds and its behavior, habitat and ecology, is a branch of science that also helps in understanding the ecosystem and aims in monitoring the population, breeding behaviour and the migratory routes of birds.
Birdwatching, also called or “birding”, is a recreation for many that involves observing birds. Before the binoculars and field guides, people would observe these magnificent creatures with their naked eyes, and note some of the starkling features that help in identification. The ‘birdman of India’, Dr. Salim Ali’s ‘Book of Indian birds’ is one of the first scientific documentation of ~ 1250 bird species of India, and even today, acts as the Bible for birdwatchers.
Birdwatchers use field guides for identifying birds and use field notes to draw any striking features of the bird. The amateurs observe the silhouette of the bird -- its body size and shape, the structure of the beak, and the sounds the bird makes, as keys for bird identification. The advent of camera aids in taking pictures instead of sketching in the field notes or viewing the behavior through binoculars. Experienced birders, on the other hand, can recognize the bird species just by listening to the bird calls, as each species have a unique vocalization. Passionate bird watchers join hands with ornithologists and nature clubs to conserve birds and their habitat.
If you are like Savitri, expect your day to start early since the best time for birdwatching is between 6 to 9 in the morning and from 4 to 6 in the evening. Birds are busy looking out for food during these periods of the day. So, are you ready to pack your binoculars and your field guide and start birding? Well, good things begin at home. Place some bird feed and water in your balcony and observe birds flocking your home, bringing out the birder in you.