For the scorched-by-summer Hyderabadi watching news by the hour tracking the monsoon in Kerala, any information about the rain is welcome.

News is that the Pied Crested Cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus) is here and the monsoon cannot be far behind. Known as the harbinger of monsoons in the sub-continent, this migratory bird can be sighted in the country a few days before the onset of the South West Monsoon.

The bird was spotted on June 3 in an Acacia grove at Raidurgam talab by Yokesh, a member of Birdwatchers Society of Andhra Pradesh, and S. Chandrasekharan, a naturalist and life member of Bombay Natural History Society (BNSH).

Legend about the bird

“There is a legend about the Pied Crested Cuckoo, also called the ‘monsoon bird', that it precedes monsoon in its journey from south to north in the country. It is spotted in May-end or June first week. Since it always precedes the monsoons, we can now heave a sigh of relief as the rain can be expected pretty shortly,” observes Shaafaat Ulla, Hon. Secretary - Birdwatchers' Society of Andhra Pradesh (BSAP).

There are about 8-10 species of cuckoos native to India, including the Asian Cuckoo or ‘Koel'. But the Pied Crested Cuckoo or the ‘papiha' holds a special place in the Indian folklore for its ‘rain heralding' significance. Birdwatchers in the city thus have been on the look-out for the feathered friend that continues to announce the arrival of monsoon.

“The moment you sight the bird you are likely to get good rain. More birds can be seen in the coming days. Last year, we spotted the birds in SVP National Police Academy. Other possible locations one can find them at are ICRISAT, University of Hyderabad campuses and Chilkoor. Pied Crested Cuckoos prefer sparse vegetation or semi arid land and Acacia trees. Acacia patronises insects and caterpillars, which are preferred by cuckoos,” says Mr. Chandrasekharan.

Adds Mr. Shaafaat Ulla, “As in the case of other cuckoos, brood parasitism is associated with this bird. Pied Crested Cuckoo does not build its nest. The Yellow Billed Babblers mostly serve as hosts.”

Incidentally, evolutionary ecologist from the twin cities, Suhel Quader, who heads Migrant Watch, the programme on migratory birds at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, has done extensive research for his Pied Cuckoo Campaign towards understanding the sighting of the rain bird. “The reason one associates Pied Cuckoos with monsoon is because these are sighted a week or 10 days before the rain. They are weak flyers and ride on pre-monsoon winds over Arabian Sea to reach the sub continent from Africa. They migrate back in October November over land. Pied Cuckoos are interesting birds,” he says.

Never mind the folklore or biological rhythm; it is time to finally bring out the rain coats and umbrellas in the city.

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