Top 10 Birds of Dudhwa National Park
Top 10 Birds of Dudhwa National Park
Alive with the songs and colours of more than 400 species of birds, Dudhwa National park in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh is truly a birder’s paradise. Here are 10 birds you can expect to see on a safari in the grasslands of Dudhwa.
The grasslands of Dudhwa are home to elephants, one-horned rhinoceros as well as the elusive tiger. Host to several threatened species, Dudhwa is also the perfect winter home for several species of birds such as wagtails, minivets, finches, buntings and flycatchers. Wild ducks and teals fly in from Laddakh, Central Asia and Siberia to make Dudhwa their home for the winter. Dudhwa also has nine endangered bird species, namely the Black-Crested Baza, Great Indian and Indian Pied Hornbills, Laggar Falcon, Shaheen Falcon, Red-Headed Merlin, Osprey, Peafowl and the Bengal Florican. Read on for 10 of the more common birds found in the park.
#1 Egyptian Vulture
Call: Mostly silent, occasional high-pitched whistling
Egyptian Vultures are endangered and found in South-Western Europe, Northern Africa and Asia. They are carrion-eating, but also eat small birds, bird eggs, reptiles and small mammals. They roost in large trees, cliffs or buildings and their nests are generally an untidy platform of twigs. Wild vultures are rusty or brown, with soiled plumage. Captive birds with little access to soil are usually white. Females are larger and heavier than males, and both have yellow-orange facial skin. Though known to live for up to 37 years in captivity and 21 years in the wild, these birds fall prey to electrocution, poisoning, lead and pesticide accumulation.
#2 Black-Hooded Oriole
Call: A whistled wheet and a short chatter
A Bengali folklore tells of the young wife of a goldsmith, who was tortured and starved by her mother-in-law. One day while cooking, unable to bear the hunger any longer, she began to eat the food she was cooking. Frightened by her mother-in-law who walked in and saw her eating, the young girl jumped into a nearby pond and drowned. Her sari, stained with the yellow turmeric from the food, her head black from soot, a goddess turned the girl into a beautiful bird—the ‘Benebou’, or goldsmith’s wife. As in the legend, the oriole is a brilliant yellow with a hooded black head. It feeds mainly on insects and fruits especially figs, and though it is a shy bird, the oriole is often found around human habitation.
Call: A range of calls that include imitating other birds
If you are in Dudhwa and see what look like two large bees pursuing a black bird—you’ve just spotted a Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo in mid-flight. A distinctive tail with two rackets at the end, the Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo is also an excellent mimic, and is known to make raptor calls to frighten away other birds to steal their prey. Their local name ‘Kotwal’ means ‘policeman’ or ‘guard’ and comes from the common whistle that it makes. Drongos as a species are insectivorous and belong to the Dicruidae family. In Dudhwa you can find Black, White Bellied, Greater Racket-Tailed and Ashy Drongos. They are diurnal and active well before dawn and late at dusk.
#4 Long-Tailed Minivet
Call: A high-pitched, metallic trill
The Long-Tailed Minivet belongs to the family of Campephagidae. Ranging from Afghanistan to China and Pakistan to Vietnam, it has a black hood, with blue-black upperparts and a scarlet rump. The under-parts are also crimson. The male has a shorter bill than the female, which has pale yellow under-parts. The Long-Tailed Minivet is nomadic in winter and feeds in parties, hunting insects.
#5 Spotted Owlet
Call: A harsh and loud chirurr-chirurr-chirurr that ends with a chirwak-chirwak
If you happen to disturb a Spotted Owlet from its daytime site, it will bob its head at you and stare, challengingly. This small and stocky grey-brown owl is entirely nocturnal and feeds on small insects and vertebrates. They call during dawn or just after the sunset, with a harsh and loud sound. They breed successfully near human habitation, probably because of the availability of rodents.
#6 Indian Roller
Call: A harsh crow-like chack sound
Named after the aerial acrobatics it performs, the Indian Roller is the state bird of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka. It has a brown breast, blue crown and vent, with feathers that are deep purplish blue with a band of pale blue. The tail is sky blue and Prussian blue, while the central feathers are dull green. They eat insects, arachnids, small reptiles and amphibians. Popularly known as Neelkanth, which means ‘blue throat’, it is attracted to fires, which artificial lights and moving tractors, all of which it uses for catching its prey. It is often seen plunging into open waters for a bath, and both male and female incubate their eggs for 17-19 days.
#7 Green Bee Eater
Call: A nasal trill tree-tree-tree-tree
Green Bee Eaters are not very early risers. Colourful, with bright green and blue, they eat insects, especially bees, wasps and ants and remove the sting and break the exoskeleton by beating it on their perch, before swallowing the prey. Green Bee Eaters often dive into water and also take frequent sand baths. They are ground nesters, and dig tunnels of up to 5 feet long, and both sexes incubate clutches of 3-5 eggs.
#8 Indian Grey Hornbill
Call: Squealing call, like that of a Black Kite
The grey feathers and the equally drab grey beak of the Indian Grey Hornbill allow it to remain inconspicuous in its surroundings. Usually found in pairs, the male has a casque which extends up to the point of curvature in its beak. Fruits, mollusks, scorpions, insects, small birds and reptiles are high on the Grey Hornbill’s diet, and their nesting habits are quite interesting. Usually made in the hollow of trees, the female seals the cavity of her nest using her own faeces, mud, cattle dung and tree bark, which the male brings to her. She remains there for an average of 76 days, while the male feeds her through the tiny opening. The Indian Grey Hornbill usually has two fledglings, which remain in the nest for about 13 days after the female emerges.
#9 Indian Peafowl
Call: Loud Pia-ow or may-awe
The Indian Peafowl, the national bird of India, is a large and very brightly-coloured bird, with a diet that ranges from grains, fruits, snakes and lizards to small rodents. Peacocks are known for their beautiful feathers, which begin to develop each February and moult by the end of August. Males perform an elaborate mating dance for Peahens who have dull brown feathers, and a white underside.
#10 White-Throated Kingfisher
Call: A chuckling chake-ake-ake-ake-ake
Found in Eurasia White-Throated Kingfishers eat small reptiles, rodents and birds. Their wings and tail are blue-back, while the head, shoulders and flanks are chestnut. The throat and breast are white. Like other kingfishers, they nest in tunnels made in earth banks, with a single clutch of 4-7 eggs. Chicks hatch in 22 days and fledge in 19.