Flying Between Pages


“There is no such thing as a stooped or a graceless bird”, writes Krishnan. PHOTO: Scroll


“Chugging out of New Delhi Railway Station on an early morning train, I’ve often amused myself by looking out for the “telefauna,” or birds perched on telegraph wires.” Bird lovers on here, there’s a new word for you right there. Of Birds and Birdsong, penned by Indian writer Krishna, is all at once a journal and a tribute. To him, it’s a record of winged creatures sighted around, while to his reader the names of these beauties bring to heart a familiar nostalgia.

Krishnan has a deep and genuine affection for the most ordinary and even the pariahs of birds. He calls the common partridge the “finest poor man’s dog,” and a “most confiding and attached bird.” Seeing through his eyes, you will be hard-pressed to think of pigeons, or Rock Pigeons, as the vermin of the bird world. And if you ever want to train a pigeon to deliver messages, all you have to do is follow Krishnan’s painstaking instructions on every aspect of this precise art, down to how to build a loft and to what to feed the Racing Homer, including “an occasional diet of finely chopped green vegetables.”

He’ll tell you all about a particular bird, its appearance, its eccentricities (endearing and otherwise), its call, its mating habits, its nest, and its mention in Indian Classics, its parenting philosophy, absolutely everything you’ve always wanted to know about birds (and never dreamed you would). The tiny, pert sunbird looks as if it feeds entirely on nectar, and yet who would have guessed that its diet consists of spiders, insects… and nectar.

A male Purple Sunbird loses its purple-blue-black iridescence when the breeding season is over. Only a thin purple line running from its buff throat to its belly distinguishes the male from the female. The Tailorbird too sheds its tail pins after the breeding season. Though the Common Hoopoe may be uncommonly beautiful, its nest is a “foul mess!”

Read more about the book here.

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