Papamoscas… Gobemouche… Tickellblauschnapper… as this blue and yellow bird, about the size of a sparrow, is called in Spanish, German and French respectively, which recently moved in to human habitations, like home gardens and parks — since two years, from its original habitat of lakeside and riverside bamboo thickets and shrubs, is called in Common English as Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher and Cyornis tickelliae in Ornithology.
Visitors to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, as they enter the paths leading into the boating area and the surrounding riversides, are very likely to be greeted with a sweet tweeting song with polyphonic notations, but the singer remains elusive, until earnestly searched, in the direction of the sweet songs. It is then one sights this beautiful blue bird with a bright azure head and brows, with rusty reddish-yellow under body, calmly perched on a bamboo branch or the imitation bamboo railing on the paths, singing to itself. A bird that is more heard than seen, which is a delight to hear and see both.
The Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher carries the scientific name Cyornis — in Greek meaning KUANOS – dark blue + Ornis meaning bird (Cyornis), tickelliae the specific name, named after Col. Samuel Richard Tickell (1811-1875), an Officer of the British Army in India, who was an author on nature, a field Ornithologist and an artist par excellence, the person who first discovered the species and categorised them. Many species of birds in India are named after this Naturalist.
Recently (since two years exactly), these blue birds, the Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers have been sighted in home gardens also in Mysuru. These birds are shy and avoid human interference. But they visit home gardens, in recent times and if they find a Bamboo thicket close-by, they even nest there. As the very name suggests, these are insectivorous birds and forage on Insects and insect grubs. Gleaning the insects off the underside of leaves and twigs, these birds are very fond of bathing.
A birdbath placed in shade, well protected by shrubs are a sure way to attract these birds to your backyard. Once the birds get used to the home occupants, they get bolder and amuse and enliven the compound with their beautiful songs. Blessed are persons, whose compounds are occupied by these beautiful blue birds. These birds form bonded pairs and both male and female (slightly smaller and lighter in the blue upper parts) dedicate their life to bring up a brood. March to August being their breeding season, both the birds build a nest with plant fibre, dried leaves, cobwebs and raise a clutch of 4-5 eggs. All domestic chores are shared by both the parents.
With our callous attitude and indiscriminate degradation of habitats, specially in our backyards, we have lost the lovable House Sparrows. Now these gracious birds have moved in, they are trying to set down in a new environment, by adapting to the changed conditions.
Let us help ourselves, by helping these birds to feel safe and secure in our environs. These birds being insectivorous may not be able to survive the onslaught of indiscriminate use of pesticides in our gardens. We can help them settle down and thrive in our compounds, by keeping the gardens bird-friendly.
—Ragoo Rao, Ethologist
[Pics. by Star of Mysore photographer M.N. Lakshminarayana Yadav]