Majestic, white birds

I am a rock: The bird waits for its prey Photo: Vinay Bharadwaj  

If you are an avid bird watcher, you must head out to one of the city’s water bodies, and look out for the elegant, dazzling white great egret (Ardea alba).

This is the season to spot the males, that grow extra feathery plumes to attract their mates.

“It was an amazing sight to watch the bird preening itself. I took a few quick snaps on the way to work,” beams Vinay Bharadwaj a bird watcher.

According to a bird website, great egrets are slightly smaller and more svelte compared to the great blue heron, but they are still large with impressive wingspans. These birds were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumes in the late 19th century, which were used to adorn women’s hats!

“When the great egret is in mating plumage, it has long lacy and delicate plumes on its back that curl over its tail,” explains Bopanna Pattada, who organises bird watching tours in South India. These are tall, long-legged wading birds, with S-curved necks and dagger-like bills. In flight, the long neck is tucked in and the legs extend far beyond the tip of the short tail. They hunt in classic heron-bird fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to capture fish with a deadly jab of their bills. They normally wade in shallow waters — fresh and salt — to hunt fish, frogs, and other small aquatic animals. They stand still and watch for unsuspecting prey to pass by. Then, with a startling speed, the birds strike with a jab of their long neck and bill.

Deepa Mohan an avid birder says, “It is one bird that I’ve seen across four continents — Africa, America, Asia and Europe. It’s a large heron with white feathers, and during the breeding season, delicate, lacy ornamental feathers on its back give it a beautiful appearance. The beauty of the breeding plumage is something that always fascinates me. I still am amazed at how the bird can maintain that snowy white plumage even in muddy waters.”

The birds are known to nest in large colonies, in typical untidy stick nests, high in trees, or often on isolated islands. Most of the lakes and water bodies in the city and surrounding areas, will have these birds, which are a treat for watchers.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 3:18:51 AM |

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