A nest with a bit of swing

By Dr. R. S. Walgama

My home garden in Matara is visited by a large number of birds like the Spotted dove, Little green bee eater, Blue tailed bee eater, Rose-ringed parakeet, Greater coucal, Asian koel (both male and female), Stork billed kingfisher, Black capped kingfisher, White bellied drongo, Crested drongo, Black headed oriole, Common mynah, Red vented bulbul, Yellow billed babbler, Asian paradise flycatcher (female), Common tailorbird, Oriental magpie robin, Long billed sunbird, etc.

Among them a Red Vented Bulbul (RVB) became a star attraction recently as it decided to build a nest in my home. As a keen bird watcher I was a fascinated observer to the sequence of events. The male explored different locations in my house for his dream nest and finally selected the chandelier in the dining room, probably thinking of having the nest with a bit of swing!

He soon started bringing small pieces of twigs from the garden and constructing the nest (Figures 1, 2 and 3) until finally we could see an architecturally sound cup-shaped nest (Figure 4) emerge. The female visited the nest during the construction, probably to inspect whether the future nest for her brood was in good shape. A day or two after the nest was completed, I observed the female sitting in the nest -probably an indication that the eggs would have been laid (Figure 5 – arrow points to the bird). Out of curiosity, I climbed on to the dining table one day and had a look at the nest and to my amazement saw three whitish coloured eggs with brown specks all over inside. (Figure 6 – not clearly visible, though).

A week or so later I saw that the RVB (both parents) were hovering inside the house catching the insects flying around and then returning to the nest. Since it was a rainy period there were some termite alates (“meru”) and both parents enjoyed chasing after them. I presumed that the eggs might have hatched and the parents had started feeding them. Again out of curiosity I stood on the dining table and peeped into the nest to see there were three nestlings cuddled into a single reddish mass of flesh. The relatively large but unopened eyes of each were clearly visible (Figure 7). Some time later the developing wings were also seen as blackish outgrowths (Figure 8).

Both parents were seen feeding the nestlings and they took it in turn to catch insects from the garden and bring them to the nest. Grasshoppers were the frequent victims. The female would feed the nestlings, sit with the young for a while and then fly away. The male would come next bringing another insect and feed the young but did not sit with them to provide them with warmth. The nestlings were feeding voraciously and would make their peculiar squeaks on hearing the sound of the parents. (Figure 9). They grew up in no time and soon were covered with plumage (Figure 10). One fine day both parents escorted them to the windows and though unsteady in flight they made valiant efforts and finally made an exit to the world outside.

I was puzzled as to why the RVB’s selected a domestic site, despite the risk associated compared to a site in a natural habitat. Is it because the RVB’s prefer human dwellings or did they think there would be less risk inside than outside?

This may not be a strange phenomenon but can any bird lover share with me similar observations? Though reluctant to disturb and distract the birds, out of curiosity, I used my age old digital camera with its very poor zoom to record the proceedings.

(Email sampath

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