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Noisy little treepie

As I sit at my desk on the first floor of our house in Dehradun, I can hear a ruckus in the garden below. Peeking out of my window, I spot a bird with a large tail in our neighbour’s garden. I recognise the bird as the Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda). The treepie is haranguing other birds, namely sparrows, pigeons and parakeets, all of which are gathered around a feeding bowl for the birds kept out by our neighbours.

“Mine, all mine, all mine,” the rude treepie seems to say. Fortunately, the other birds choose to ignore this noisy brat, and continue to enjoy themselves in the garden. The cold shoulder by the other birds seems to antagonise the treepie even further, and its harsh call notes become even louder.

“The food is all mine. The water is all mine,” it seems to proclaim. The birds continue to ignore the treepie, which then flies up to a nearby branch to sulk.

This ill-mannered bird, the Rufous Treepie, is a common corvid (a bird of the crow family) that is found throughout India. It is endemic to the Indian subcontinent, which means that it is only found in this region, and nowhere else in the world. The bird is the size of a myna, but with a long tail. It is found in open forests, woodlands, groves and gardens in cities and villages. It has a large variety of calls some of which are harsh and loud, while others are surprisingly fluty and melodious. The treepie’s call that I love is a fluty “buckling” which carries a long distance.

Little foragers

The treepie is an omnivore, which means that it eats a wide variety of food including seeds, fruits, insects, lizards, frogs, small birds and eggs. It also scavenges and can be found around garbage dumps in homes. In the forest, the treepie often hunts in the company of other similar-sized birds, such as the drongo and the woodpecker, both of which are largely insect-eaters. By hunting together in the tree canopy, the birds collectively disturb a lot of insects, which they feast on in a group.

The local name for the Rufous Treepie is the “taka chor”. Literally translated, this means, “coin stealer”. This name for the treepie comes on account of its habit, like many other corvids, to seek out and steal shiny items such as coins, jewellery and other similar objects. They collect these objects, and often line them up in their nests, possibly to attract the female treepie. The next time you end up losing a shiny object, do make sure that a “taka chor” is not hanging about near your home!

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 2:02:13 PM |

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