Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Common Jezebel


Common Jezebel
(Delias eucharis)

  • Description: Upperside of male white or bluish white with prominent black veins and black outer discal band in both wings. Marginal black band with arrow of white sots in forewings and light pink spots in the hindwings. Female dull white with yellow and pink tinge. Veins and spots heavily marked in the forewings. Underside hindwingspale yellow ( rarely dark ) with black veins and a row of white ringed red or pink marginal spots, bordered black on both sides in both the sexes. Wingspan 66-83mm. Only species of Delias, widely distributed in our country with unmistakable bright colours on the underside of the wings unlike other butterflies to warn the predators. Weak flier fluttering about but on the wing throughout the year. 

  • Distribution: In most of its range, this species is common. Generally found all over India, except in the desert tracts, and up to an altitude of 7000 feet in the hills. The butterfly may be found wherever there are trees, even in towns and cities, flying high among the trees and visiting flowers.

  • Habits: It is commonly seen in gardens. The females can be seen flying amongst the trees in search of its foodplants, while the males are more frequently observed visiting flowers for nectar or mud-puddling. It rests with its wings closed exhibiting the brilliantly coloured underside. The Jezebel often flies high up in the canopy and usually comes lower down only to feed on nectar in flowers. Due to this habit apparently, it has evolved a dull upperside and a brilliant underside so that birds below it recognise it immediately while in flight and at rest.
  • Reproduction: The Common Jezebel, like the Pioneer, but quite unlike other Whites and Yellows, is a butterfly which lays eggs in batches, instead of laying them singly. Each batch consists of about ten to twenty eggs, although in rare cases up to a hundred eggs may be laid together. They are usually laid on the underside of leaves. the eggs are oval, shiny, and bright yellow. All the eggs from one batch hatch together. the new-born caterpillars devour the eggshells and then move on to eat fresh leaves. They live and feed together and always stay in a disciplined army fashion: all resting side by side with their heads in one direction, and whatever they do they do together.
  • Host Plants: The host plants are various species of small shrubs which are plant parasites growing on branches of trees such as Loranthus. Their ability to form dense aggregations as caterpillars and to feed on Loranthus has led to suggestions that they could be used for control of this parasite.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Common Rose

Common Rose
(Pachliopta Aristolochiae Fabricius)

  • Description:  
  • Male: The Upperside of male is velvety black. Fore wing with well-marked pale adnervular streaks on the discal area that do not reach the terminal margin, the latter broadly velvety black; the streaks beyond end of cell extended inwards into its apex.Hind wing with elongate white discal markings in interspaces 2-5 beyond the cell.In dry-weather specimens these markings are very short and do not nearly reach the bases of the interspaces; beyond these a curved series of subterminal lunular markings in interspaces 1 to 7 dull crimson irrorated with black scales, the spot in interspace 1 large, irregular, diffuse, margined interiorly with white.On the Underside of the males, the ground-colour and markings is similar, but the red subterminal spots on the hind wing much brighter;it is not irrorated with black scales, better defined, the anterior four subquadrate, the next two crescentic, sometimes quadrate also, the spot in interspace 1 triangular and pointed. Antennae, thorax and abdomen above up to the preanal segment black; the head, sides of prothorax above, and of the whole of the thorax and abdomen beneath vermilion-red; anal segment vermilion-red.
  • Female: Female is similar the males; they differs from the male only in the comparatively broader wings and this is most conspicuous in the fore wing. 
  • Distribution: Common Rose is distributed all over the Oriental Region and is very common throughout India. It is found mainly in open, cultivated areas, scrubs and deciduous forests. A common Visitor to garden flowers, it is also seen in most crowded cities. it is more frequent during very cold or very hot period of the year.
  • Habits: It is the commonest of the large tailed butterflies of India and one of the most interesting butterflies for the Indian amateur naturalist to observe. The red body, slow peculiar flight, bright colouration and pattern of the wings are meant to indicate to predators that this butterfly is inedible, being well protected by the poisons it has sequestered from its larval food plant. It also emits a nasty smelling substance when handled to further enhance its unappealing qualities. Hence it is rarely attacked by predators, a strategy so successful, that edible butterflies have evolved to mimic it, the classical example being that of the female morph of the Common Mormon that is Papilio polytes, female form stichius. The Common Rose is active much earlier in the mornings than most butterflies and remains so throughout the day until dusk. It flies just as readily in the shade as in the sun, and frequently visits flowers. In drier regions around noon, the butterfly rests in thickets to avoid the mid-day heat. Here, it will rest and ventures forth only in the late afternoon once again. In the evenings, it retires into wooded areas or thickets in search of dead twigs or small branches on which to roost. It prefers sites that are 10 to 15 feet above ground, below the canopy in trees with sufficient cover from the elements, where it frequently roosts in the company of others of its type, and, sometimes, in the company of the Crimson Rose.
  • Reproduction: The female has been observed inspecting the host plants and selecting healthy plants with verdant growth to ensure adequacy of food for its voracious caterpillars. It lays round and reddish eggs with fine black markings. The eggs are laid singly on top, the underside of leaves or even on shoots. The caterpillar is a beautiful velvety maroon colour and has a beautiful white band on a segment on its middle reminiscent of a belt or collar. It has numerous fleshy red-tipped white protuberances on the body. It is bulky and slow in its movements. It is a beautiful caterpillar. The Pupa is brownish with various shades of brown and pink markings. It is attached to its support by the tail and held at an angle by a body band. The support is usually a stick. The distinguishing feature of the Common Rose pupa is the presence of large semi-circular projections on the back of the abdomen, thorax and head.
Caterpillar of Common Rose

Pupa of Common Rose

  • Host Plants: The larvae feed on creepers and climbers of the genus Aristolochia, Family Aristolochiaceae and they sequester toxins such as aristolochic acid in their bodies. This makes the adults toxic to vertebrate predators such as birds and reptiles. However the Braconid wasps which parasitise the caterpillars have apparently co-evolved with the butterfly and are not affected by the toxins. Larval foodplants include :-
    • Aristolochia bracteolata ( Kitamari)
    • Aristolochia indica. [Isarmul {Hindi}, Sapsanda {Marathi}]

Thursday, March 5, 2009

White Throated Kingfisher

White Throated Kingfisher
(Halcyon smyrnensis)

  • Description: This is a large kingfisher, 28 cm in length. The adult has a bright blue back, wings and tail. Its head, shoulders, flanks and lower belly are chestnut, and the throat and breast are white. The large bill and legs are bright red. The flight of the White-throated Kingfisher is rapid and direct, the short rounded wings whirring. In flight, large white patches are visible on the blue and black wings. Sexes are similar, but juveniles are a duller version of the adult. There are four geographic races differing mainly in the plumage shades, but H. s. gularis of the Philippines has only the neck and throat white. Race fusca is found in Peninsular India and Sri Lanka and is slightly smaller, bluer and with a darker brown underside than the nominate race found in northwestern India. Race saturatior is found in the Andaman Islands and is larger with darker brown underparts. Race perpulchra (not always recognized) is found in northeastern India and is smaller than fusca with paler underparts. Albinism has been noted on occasion.
  • Local Names:  Hindi: Kilkila, Kourilla;Himachal Pradesh:Neela machhrala; Punjabi: Wadda machhera; Bengali: Sandabuk machhranga; Assamese: Masroka; Cachar: Dao natu gophu;Gujarati: Kalkaliyo, Safedchati kalkaliyo; Marathi: Khandya; Tamil: Vichuli; Telugu: Lakmuka, Buchegadu; Malayalam: Ponman; Kannada: Rajamatsi.
  • Nesting: The White-throated Kingfisher begins breeding at the onset of the Monsoons. In its courtship display it spreads out the wings with bill raised high to show the white patterns. Some perform a courtship flight, flying straight up then spiralling downwards. White-throated Kingfishers nest in steep earth banks besides roads and stream, and occasionally, termite mounds. They dig out a tunnel about 7 cm wide, 50 cm to nearly 1 m deep ending in a breeding chamber about 20 cm in diameter. During the construction period, the mated pair are very vocal and call and display to each other continuously. 4-7 white eggs are laid. Both parents raise the chicks.
White Throated Kingfisher with a Prey (Toad)
  • Habits & Habitat: White-throated Kingfisher is a common species of a variety of habitats, mostly open country with trees, wires or other perches. The range of the species is expanding. It perches conspicuously on wires or other exposed perches within its territory, and is a frequent sight in south Asia. This species mainly hunts large insects, earthworms, rodents, snakes, fish and frogs.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
(Tyto alba)

  • General Information: These pale, nearly worldwide, birds are closely associated with man through their traditional use in the old world of barn lofts and church steeples as nesting sites. Although widely known beforehand, it was in 1769 when the Barn Owlwas first officially described by Giovanni Scopoli, an Italian naturalist. The species name "alba" also refers to the colour white. Other names for the Barn owl have included Monkey-faced Owl, Ghost Owl, Church Owl, Death Owl, Hissing Owl, Hobgoblin or Hobby Owl, Golden Owl, Silver Owl, White Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, Scritch Owl, Screech Owl, Straw Owl, Barnyard Owl and Delicate Owl.
  • Description: The Upperparts are light grey with numerous fine dark lines and scattered pale spots on the feathers. There are buff markings on wings and on the back. The underparts are white with a few black spots, occasionally none. Feathering on the lower legs may be sparse. The heart-shaped facial disc is white with a brownish edge, with brown marks at the front of the eyes, which have a black iris. Its beak is off-white and the feet are yellowish-white to brownish. Males and females are similar in size and colour, females and juveniles are generally more densely spotted. Generally nocturnal, although it is not uncommon to see this species emerge at dusk or be active at dawn, occasionally being seen in flight during full daylight. Flight is noiseless, with wingbeats interrupted by gliding.
  • Nesting: Barn Owls will breed any time during the year, depending on food supply. In a good year, a pair may breed twice. Rodent plagues cause Barn Owl numbers to increase dramatically. During courting, males may circle near the nest tree, giving short screeches and chattering calls. The majority of Barn Owls nest in tree hollows up to 20 metres high. They will also nest in old buildings, caves and well shafts. 3 to 6 eggs are laid (occasionally up to 12) at 2 day intervals. The eggs are 38 to 46mm (1.5-1.8") long and 30 to 35mm (1.2-1.4") wide and will be incubated for 30 to 34 days. Chicks are covered in white down and brooded for about 2 weeks, and are fledged in 50 to 55 days. After this, they will remain in the vicinity for a week or so to learn hunting skills and then rapidly disperse from the nest area. Young birds are able to breed at about 10 months.
Barn Owl Chicks
  • Hunting & Food: Barn Owls specialise in hunting small ground mammals, and the vast majority of their food consists of small rodents.  Mice are an important food item, as well as pocket gophers, shrews and rats. Barn Owls breed rapidly in response to mouse plagues. Other prey may include baby rabbits, bats, frogs, lizards, birds and insects. Prey are usually located by quartering up and down likely looking land - particularly open grassland. They also use low perches such as fence posts to seek quarry.

  • Calls of Barn Owl: The Barn Owl calls infrequently, the usual call being a drawn-out rasping screech. The courtship call of male at nest is a shrill repetitive twittering. Adults returning to a nest may give a low, frog-like croak. When surprised in its roosting hollow or nest, it makes hissing and rasping noises and snapping sounds that are often called bill snapping, but possibly made by clicking the tongue.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Red Headed Vulture

Red-headed Vulture
(Sarcogyps Calvus)

  • Description: The Red-headed Vulture, also known as the Asian King Vulture, Indian Black Vulture or Pondicherry Vulture, is the species of Old world Vulture found in South Asia. Up to 85 cm. long and weighting 3.7 to 5.4 Kg, this gaudy-faced vulture was historically abundant with range over South-central and South-eastern Asia extending from Pakistan to Singapore. Today the range of the Red-headed Vulture is localised primarily to Nepal and Northern India where it is found in open country and in cultivated and semi-desert areas. 
  • Ecological note:  It frequents open country (often near human habitation), well-wooded hills and dry deciduous forest with rivers, usually below 2,500 m. Nesting has been recorded in tall trees. It occurs at lower density than Gyps vultures owing to its predominantly territorial behaviour, and movements are poorly known. Vultures play a key role in the wider landscape as providers of ecosystem services. They were previously heavily relied upon to help dispose of animal and human remains in India. Furthermore, since the collapse of the vulture population the number of feral dogs in India has doubled since the 1980s and rabies now poses an increased threat to human populations in the Indian Subcontinent. As a consequence, the majority of respondents during a socioeconomic study in Nepal, were strongly in favour of vulture conservation and were willing to contribute towards it.
  • Threats: The disappearance of vultures from Asia is linked to a suite of factors: notably the demise of wild ungulates, the intensification of agriculture, increased sophistication of waste disposal techniques, direct persecution and disease. However, rapid declines over the last eight years are believed to have been driven by the pharmaceutical NSAID diclofenac used to treat livestock, which has proven highly toxic to vultures, causing mortality from renal failure resulting from visceral gout
  • Conservational Measures: The Indian government has now passed a bill banning the manufacture of the veterinary drug diclofenac that has caused the rapid population decline across the Indian Subcontinent; their aim was to phase out its use by late 2005, although it was still in widespread use in 2007 and is likely to remain so for several years. Similar laws banning import and manufacture of diclofenac are now in place in Nepal and Pakistan. Efforts to replace diclofenac with a suitable alternative are ongoing; drug companies have now developed meloxicam, an alternative to diclofenac. Monitoring of vultures has been conducted in a number of protected areas in India. Monitoring of vulture populations, combined with supplementary feeding, is underway in the northern and eastern plains of Cambodia. Captive breeding efforts are not as advanced as they are for Critically Endangered Gyps vultures and these are urgently needed.