April 12, 2015 by Jhilam Chattaraj  
Filed under Features

This essay is primarily about a collection of photos of certain birds found in the sprawling and lush campus of the University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India. It includes birds like, Red-ringed Parrot, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Golden Indian Oriole, Green Bee-Eater, Indian Pond Heron, King Fisher, Little Black Cormorant, Oriental White eye, Red-wattled Lapwing and Spotted owlet.  The photographs capture the everyday behaviour of the birds within the natural spaces of the campus.

Although birds are delicate and small in appearance yet they have inspired some of the most challenging human quests for freedom, flight, beauty and nurture. But what have we given them in return? I ask myself this question, as I see the city gradually replacing its rocks and trees with glass and steel corporate structures.

Birds in and around Gachibowli, a place which is fast becoming a symbol of India’s hyper-modern corporate sheen, seem to have found refuge in the campus. The calm and green expanse of this institution has become a ‘Birdopia’: a place where these birds can live, love and laugh, freely. The purpose of this collection is not only to highlight the beauty and diversity of the birds but also their discovery of an almost utopic space within the swamps, trees and gardens of the university.


Indian Red-ringed Parrots

Asian Paradise Flycatcher

Indian Golden Oriole

Green Bee-Eater

Indian Pond Heron

Indian Kingfisher

Little Black Cormorant

Oriental White Eye

Red-watteld Lapwing

Spotted Owlet

Article contributed by Jhilam Chattaraj

The Office Birder

April 30, 2014 by Ernie Allison  
Filed under Features

As an avid birder the only thing worse than an office job is not having a window nearby to catch a glimpse of a passing bird. Luckily, technological advancements provide a solution to at least one of those problems. As many birders out there may know, there is a lot of live footage from bird cams put in place by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and a few other organizations that provide us access to the great outdoors and exclusive footage of birds nesting, hunting and feeding their young from anywhere.

It’s the perfect time of year to watch with wonder.

I have spent many an hour watching the Red Tailed hawks sit on the nest incubating, and rolling their eggs with patience. It is really fascinating to see the teamwork between the pair of hawks as they carry out their instincts as protective parents. My co-workers must think I’m crazy because of how excited I am to see the eggs hatch… Any day now!

A variety of viewing options.

The best part of Cornell’s site is that you can watch whatever birds you feel like watching – there are hawks, barn owls, albatross, ospreys and even a birdfeeder in Ithaca that attracts a variety of species. Don’t forget my favorite – the Heron Cam. I doubt there is a more regal bird than the Great Blue Heron. They should start nesting soon and I cannot wait to see it.

Opportunities for interaction.

One of the best things about these cams is the fact that they encourage you to interact with the moderators and other viewers. If you have some free time, or just need a break from office work, it is fun to read what people are saying on the live chat. A lot of times they pose some really great and educational questions. You might even get lucky enough to get on one where they have a prize for guessing the day the eggs hatch for a prize! This interaction makes you feel like you are more involved in the entire process, especially so in a nesting pair of birds.

It’s not only Cornell that offers great bird cams.

The advancements in technology and the corresponding drop in equipment prices have allowed more people to start recording the birds, and in effect bring the joy of bird watching to a larger audience. There are so many great web sites that offer nest cams, just doing a quick search for your favorite bird and ‘nest cam’ will provide hours of entertainment. I love hummingbirds, so naturally I went searching for some nest footage one day. I found out that a mother hummingbird deserted a nest along with her two chicks, and luckily the nest cam was in place so they could get some help. Watch the young hummingbirds go crazy with joy to be fed in the video below.

Video of Hummingbird Rescue

If you’re looking for something a little more majestic, look no further than the Decorah Eagles cam and watch our national bird raise its young. You could even go so far as getting yourself some new birdfeeders and a web cam and create your own page to watch.

As you can see this is one of the great ways I have found to cope with being surrounded by walls. The next time you find yourself staring at the wall of your cubicle, no need to get down. Just fire up a bird cam, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the great outdoors and see how many birds you can identify! It’s a great way to make the day go just a little bit better.

Article contributed by: Ernie Allison


May 15, 2009 by Editor  
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Bird Species F-J

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Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

February 9, 2009 by Editor  
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The Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is a wading bird that can be seen near water across North America and breeds throughout the eastern United Sates, Western Texas and New Mexico. It is 14 inches in length, with short yellow legs and a wingspan of 25 inches. This wading bird has a black head that runs into a blue-gray back and wings. The neck is chestnut in color with a white chin, and a white stripe that can be seen on its neck. Females are a little smaller in size with duller and lighter coloring. The Green Heron is almost invisible as it stands completely still, waiting for a fish to be lured into striking distance.

The Green Heron lurks near the edge of the water and feeds on fish most of the time. It is not unusual, however, for them to include spiders, leeches, reptiles, insects, mollusks and crustaceans in their diet. What makes the Green Heron unique is his tool-using fishing method. The heron will use bait to lure the fish close enough for him to strike. Bait such as twigs, insects, feathers and earthworms are dropped into the water, where the Green Heron waits patiently and motionless for his catch. Due to its diet, the heron will often wander to different locations, but will always choose a freshwater site or water marshes. They usually do not travel vast distances, but on occasion, they have been found in France and England.

During the breeding season the male heron will first find an adequate nesting location before finding a partner. This nesting location will be fiercely protected, as the nesting location and a visual display forms part of the male’s bait to lure a mate. He will only mate with one female in a breeding season. Both the male and female heron will contribute in the building of the nest, with the male finding the material and the female taking care of the construction. She will then lay between three to six eggs, after which both birds will assist in the three weeks incubation period. At two weeks, the chicks are able to snap up insects and fledge the nest at three weeks old.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

February 9, 2009 by Editor  
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The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is the largest of the heron family. They are approximately 38 inches in length, with a 70 inch wingspan. The male and females are similar, with white faces and crowns, and blue-gray and black plumage covering the rest of their bodies. These birds also have long legs and necks that enable them to walk into the water to fish for food. The Blue Heron can be found across North America, the Caribbean, Central America and most of Canada. They are not generally migratory birds, but some do migrate to South and Central America during the winter months. Great Blue Herons are located near watery areas such as lakes, swamps, marshes, rivers or any area that has a water source. Although some can be seen along the coastal areas, the Blue Heron prefers living inland.

March to May are the general months to spot the population of the Great Blue Herons that are located in the northern areas, and they breed in the southern hemisphere from November to April. Nests are made high up in trees that are on the edge of the body of water. The female Great Blue Heron can lay between two to seven eggs, that are light blue in color. The females that are in the northern regions are known to lay more eggs. Male and female Blue Herons both assist in the incubation of the eggs that varies between 26 to 30 days. The chicks fledge the nest after two months, as they are completely independent and will become sexually mature at approximately twenty-two months. Even though the chicks are ready to live and survive on their own, they are most vulnerable during the first year, with more than half not surviving the first year. Great Blue Herons have a life span of about fifteen years, although it has been recorded that the oldest wild heron lived to the age of twenty-three.

The best times to spot the Great Blue Heron is in the early mornings and just before sunset. These are the best fishing times. Even though the herons will sleep and live in great flocks, they prefer to hunt alone and are very aggressive in regard to their nests. They feed on aquatic insects and fish and their spear-like bills assist them in catching fish, and other food sources such as lizards, snakes, frogs, crabs, dragonflies and grasshoppers. Food is swallowed whole and it has happened that herons have choked to death because of their catch being too big to swallow. The Great Blue Heron assists in controlling the insect and fish populations and fish farmers used to see them as a threat. However, it has been shown through research, that the herons eat the sickly and near-dead fish that are located close to the surface.

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