Friday, January 7, 2011

Oriental White Eye

Photo taken at Baroda
Oriental White-eye,
(Zosterops palpebrosus)

  • Description: This bird is small (about 8–9 cm long) with yellowish olive upper parts, a white eye ring, yellow throat and vent. The belly is whitish grey but may have yellow in some subspecies. The sexes look similar. The taxonomy of the group is still unclear with some island populations being distinctive while some subspecies are not well supported. The population from Flores, Indonesia for instance is found closer to the Pale White-eye. The family itself is now questioned since they are nested along with the Stachyris babblers. About eleven subspecies are well recognized. These include the nominate form (type locality Bengal, India) which is found from Oman and Arabia, Afghanistan, northern India and extends into China and northern Myanmar.

  • Distribution: The species is found in a wide range of habitats from scrub to moist forest. They sometimes occur on mangrove areas such as in the Karachi area. And on islands they may lead a more insectivorous life. They are somewhat rare only in the drier desert regions of western India. A feral population was detected in San Diego, California in the 1980s and subsequently eradicated.

  • Behavior and Diet: These white-eyes are sociable, forming flocks which only separate on the approach of the breeding season. They are highly arboreal and only rarely descend to the ground. The breeding season is February to September but April is the peak breeding season and the compact cup nest is a placed like a hammock on the fork of a branch. The nest is made of cobwebs, lichens and plant fiber. The nest is built in about 4 days and the two pale blue eggs are laid within a couple of days of each other. The eggs hatch in about 10 days. Both sexes take care of brooding the chicks which fledged in about 10 days. Though mainly insectivorous, the Oriental White-eye will also eat nectar and fruits of various kinds.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

White Eye Buzzard

White-eyed Buzzard

(Butastur teesa)
Photo taken at Tadoba - Andhari Tiger Reserve

  • Description: This slim and small sized hawk is easily identified by its white iris to the eye and the white throat and dark mesial stripe. A white nuchal spot is sometimes visible. When perched the wing tip nearly reaches the tip of the tail. The ceres are distinctly yellow and the head is dark with the underside of the body darkly barred. In flight it shows rounded but narrow wings with black tips to the feathers and the wing-lining appears dark. The upper wing in flight shows a pale bar over the brown. The tail is barred with a darker subterminal band. Young birds have the iris brownish and the forehead is whitish and a broad supercilium may be present.

  • Distribution: This species is widely distributed in South Asia, throughout India in the plains and extending up to 1000 m in the Himalayas. It is a resident in Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. It is absent from Sri Lanka and is probably absent from the Andamans. It is a summer visitor in northeastern Afghanistan. It is mainly found in the plains but may go up to 1200m in the foothills of the Himalayas. The usual habitat is in dry, open forest or cultivation. They are numerous in some areas but declining. A survey in the late 1950s estimated about 5000 birds in the vicinity of Delhi in an area of about 50,000 km2.

  • Diet and Breeding: The feed mainly on locusts, grasshoppers, crickets and other large insects as well as mice, lizards and frogs. They may also take crabs from near wetlands and have even been reported to take larger prey like the Black - naped Hare (Lepus nigricollis).

    The breeding season is February to May. The nest is loose platform of twigs not unlike that of a crow. The usual clutch is three eggs. Both sexes share nest-building and feeding young; female alone incubates.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Knob billed Duck (Comb Duck)

Photograph taken at Thol wild life sanctuary- Ahmedabad

Knob-billed Duck
(Sarkidiornis melanotos)

  • Description: This common species is unmistakable. Adults have a white head freckled with dark spots, and a pure white neck and underparts. The upperparts are glossy blue-black upperparts, with bluish and greenish iridescence especially prominent on the secondaries (lower arm feathers). The male is larger than the female, and has a large black knob on the bill. Young birds are dull buff below and on the face and neck, with dull brown upper parts, top of the head and eye stripe. The adults are unmistakable. Immature Knob-billed Ducks look like a large grayish female of the Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelicus) and may be difficult to tell apart if no other birds are around to compare size and hue. If seen at a distance, they can also be mistaken for a Fulvous Whistling - Duck. However, Knob-billed Ducks in immature plumage are rarely seen without adults nearby and thus they are usually easily identified too. The Knob-billed Duck is silent except for a low croak when flushed.

  • Distribution: It breeds in still freshwater swamps and lakes in the tropics. It is largely resident, apart from dispersion in the wet season. Knob-billed Ducks often perch in trees. They are typically seen in flocks, small in the wet season, up to 100 in the dry season. Sometimes they separate according to sex. The Knob-billed Duck is declining in numbers locally, but due to its wide range it is not considered globally threatened by the IUCN.

  • Diet: Konb-Billed Ducks feeds on vegetation by grazing or dabbling and to a lesser extent on small fish, invertebrates, and seeds. It can become a problem to rice farmers.