Common Birds of India

Home sweet home:a family and its struggle

Home sweet home:a family and its struggle
-Devendra Singh

It was towards the middle of March and already summer seemed to have set in with its typical scorching heat. Out early for my morning walk in a moderately forested and relatively isolated trail close to my house, I spotted activity on the upper reaches of a Silk Cotton tree. I gazed upwards. Next, a screeching call attracted my attention and to my pleasant surprise it was a pair of Indian Grey Hornbill(Ocyceros birostris) trying to communicate with each other. Indeed, it was a nice sight to see them together.

In the next few days I would see the same pair flying around, on the lookout for a site to make a nest, most certainly in a tree hollow of the Red Silk Cotton tree(Bombax ceiba). Their painstaking survey was a sight to watch particularly when both would fly over the tree to assess the suitability of the space. I could imagine that the mating season and the imminent birth of the young ones was adding urgency to seek out a space where the children could be kept safe from the vagaries of nature and interference by others.



This search and effort continued persistently for a few days, keenly observed by me daily on my walk, until one day the female ventured to explore and scrutinize the probable nesting site in the silk cotton tree from close quarters. The pair now paid repeated visit to the chosen nesting site on the tree one by one and tried to widen the small entry, their long beak pecking away at the trunk. This continued for a couple of days as the couple were now building their home.  My morning walks now became all the more enjoyable as I would relish this sight of the home makers!


What a spectacle it was! The female entered the hole. To my naïve eye, it seemed too small for her size but in a whisper, and seamlessly, she vanished inside while the male perched himself close by overseeing with a keen eye. She must have arranged the house inside with love and affection as all ladies do. After some time she decided to come out and it was a treat both to the eyes, mind and soul, in the manner that she maneuvered out through the small hole and came out literally part by part with very finely tuned skills. It was  certain that this was home to the pair of Hornbills and it was now timefor them to start their family. 


I wondered as to how a tree, that too a Silk Cotton , would have a natural hollow  midway in its trunk which could be utilized by the Grey Hornbill to make a home to rear the new ones.Then came the thought, which flashes in my mind every other day, that actually we know so little about our surroundings and nature… 

Well, to return to the homemakers, they made innumerable rounds to the tree trunk to put it in order. One could hear some cacophony sometimes when common Mynas would be making rounds of the same tree but the Grey Hornbills were successful in shooing them off.  Time was ripe for mating and making babies. They mated, which could luckily be captured by the camera.


( To be continued)

The author is Devendra Singh, a Naturalist, Bird watcher and Civil Servant with Indian Railways at Delhi.  The pictures were taken at Rail Eco Park, North central Ridge, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi.




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