Society

How much of a passage migrant is the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo?

A Chestnut-winged Cuckoo in Nanmangalam. Photo: Jithesh Babu  

Jithesh Babu, a resident of Thirumalai Nagar, found on a section of Sembakkam from where the Nanmangalam lake is only as distant as the boundary is from the cricket pitch, has not got over the excitement of sighting a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo this month.

This year, he is part of an informal birdwatching-residents’ project that lists the migrants in their neck of the woods.

“While we do a lot of our birding around the lake, sharing boundaries with Nanmangalam Reserve Forest, our neighbourhoods give us the advantage of watching many birds found on the peripherals, while standing right outside the forest,” says Jithesh.

The sighting of the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo — also known as the Red-winged Crested Cuckoo — is the high point of this migrant-documenting exercise, nascent and only a few weeks old.

The bird being known as a passage migrant as far as Chennai goes, Jithesh counts himself fortunate.

“Red-winged Crested Cuckoos are mostly passage migrants, headed further south, but some of them may be staying back,” says ornithologist V. Shantaram, who is the director of the Institute of Bird Studies, Rishi Valley.

“There are many records of Red-winged Crested Cuckoos being sighted in March and April on the return migration. They are also seen in November-December. Nobody sees them in large numbers — one or two at a time. Sometimes four, usually during March,” says Shantaram.

Shantaram recalls a period when he has had a closer association with the Red-Winged Crested Cuckoo: “In the 1980s, in Santhome, I have had the experience of holding Red-winged Crested Cuckoos in my hand, having had to rescue and later release them in safe conditions. These birds would have flown into houses, chased and pecked by crows. I had to rescue a Red-winged Crested Cuckoo so attacked and driven into my neighbour’s house. On another occasion, I attended to a call from a resident of the locality to rescue a Red-winged Crested Cuckoo in similar distress.”

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 9:31:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/how-much-of-a-passage-migrant-is-the-chestnut-winged-cuckoo/article33148355.ece

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