Paravaigal…, a Tamil field guide on birds from the plains

In the Kundankulam Bird Sanctuary there lives a bird rescuer called Pal Paandi. He takes care of injured birds and others that have fallen from their nest. He’s knowledgeable about every bird in the area and their migration pattern. He spreads awareness about them among the local populace. Paandi and other field workers like him have no access to books on birds, simply because these books target a different audience.

“Most books are in English and do not necessarily cater to people who live amid birds,” says P. Jeganathan, who, along with Asai, has co-authored Paravaigal: Arimugak Kaiyedu, an introductory field guide in Tamil of common birds in South India.

Jeganathan, wildlife biologist with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Valparai, says the book aims to help the common man understand and appreciate Nature better. “We hope it will sensitise people about birds and their habitat.”

Asai, one of the editors at Tamil publishing house Crea, says that Tamil books on specialised subjects have suffered from bad photographs or bad writing. “You can’t expect an expert in birds to be an expert in Tamil too. Likewise, expertise in Tamil need not mean deep knowledge in another subject. What works for this book is that Jeganathan is an expert on birds and I take care of the Tamil.”

The book, which took a year in the making, has some photographs of rare species as also everyday birds such as the crow. “It’s so difficult to come across good pictures of the crow. It’s a beautiful bird, you know,” says Jeganathan.

Asai, who has authored Kondalathi, a compilation of poems on birds, says that with this book, they stuck to simple phrases. There’s a dash of humour too. For instance, the chapter on Indian Roller calls it the vimaana saagasa veerar (acrobat in the sky), an ode to its mating behaviour when it performs rolls in the sky.

“We’ve also tried to bust some myths. People think the barn owl (koogai) is exotic. It’s not. You just don’t see it often because it is nocturnal.” Remember Sathi Mutha Pulavar’s famous Naarai Naarai… For years, many thought the naarai was the painted stork. But, now, with help from experts, including Theodore Bhaskaran, we have concluded that the sengaal naarai is the white stork, says Asai.

Also, the andril paravai, revered in literature for its quality of sticking to a mate for life, is nothing but the Ibis (arivaal mookan), he says.

Box

The 186-page Paravaigal… has photographs by people such as Ramki Sreenivasan, Radha Rangarajan, Kalyan Varma, Gnanaskandan and Vijay Ramanathan. It focusses on birds from the plains, but does mention some hill (hornbill) and coastal birds (gulls and terns), too. It has 166 photographs and brief accounts of 88 bird species commonly found in Tamil Nadu. To help identify birds better, photographs also show the plumage and posture. The descriptions are in simple Tamil.

Paravaigal… lists various Indian research institutions, including those that offer courses on ornithology. It also carries a list of other field guides on Indian birds and tips on bird watching and bird identification. There is a brief section on bird migration, a list of bird sanctuaries and links to important bird areas in Tamil Nadu. Parvaigal… is priced at Rs. 250 and is available online. For details

This article has been corrected for an editing error.