By Ragoo Rao, Ethologist
This is the repetitive, monotonous, steady sound, one hears in a grove of trees, or a single standing heavy tree, that gives the bird that makes this sound, the name Coppersmith Barbet – Megalaima haemacephala as known in the Ornithological world.
In yesteryears, when the metal copper was manually beaten into sheets, for our requirements, before the advent of machines, the coppersmith’s wooden mallets, that were beating the copper into thin sheets made this continuous hammering sound, exactly like the Barbet’s call. Hence, these birds were called Coppersmiths. The Coppersmith Barbet, one of the members of the bird family of Megalaimidae, is a cousin of the more familiar White-cheeked Barbet, a green bird which goes “Kutroo… kutroo… kutrooo…” continuously in home gardens and forests, aptly called in Kannada as “Kutruhakki.”
Slightly larger than a sparrow, green in colour, with crimson head and yellow eye rings, a yellow breast with a crimson band, is a fruit-eater. Foraging on the wild fig fruits like Ala, Goni, Athi, Arali, and also relishes Guavas and Sapotas.
These birds, have a country-wide distribution and are at home in home gardens and also heavy Rain Forests. Apart from fruits to forage, the other major requirement of these Barbets are nesting trees. They select heavy branches of trees like Banyan, Raintree, Mahogany and Peepal. They make a burrow or improvise an existing cavity, on the underside of these heavy branches entering the nest-hole from below the branch. This keeps any predators from getting either eggs or the young nestlings.
A lovely bird, heard before being sighted, is very cautious and once it creates eye-contact with the observer, stops the sound and clambers away to another place in the tree, noiselessly, leaving the observer to wonder where the bird went.
Though not much concern is expressed in the IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature), the species still need protection in isolated pockets, where tree felling has brought down the nesting site requirements, an important need of life of several species for their continuing the race.
Protect trees… to protect the species it supports.
[Pic. was captured by SOM reader H.S. Sreeranjini near her residence at Sharadadevinagar 1st Stage]