Common City Birds

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Common Indian City Birds


There are birds around us everywhere, some living in parks and gardens near our homes and some even sharing space with us in the heart of the city. It just takes a little curiosity to identify and know a little more about these direct decedents of the dinosaurs and develop a green hobby that can give you a lifetime of pleasure for free! 

Birds of India helps you come to grips with our feathered neighbours with this two part introduction to city dwelling birds of India. 

Sumit Sen
Kolkata, India

UPDATE: You can now download Common Indian City Birds (2 parts) for viewing on your mobile phone.

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Part - 1

Some of our birds are well adapted to a life around human settlements and indeed many can be found only around habitations. This two part presentation will cover the birds that are most commonly seen around the 5 metropolises of India. Not all the species are common in all the cities and some do not even occur in some places. But based on feedback from over a hundred skilled birders from across the country, the list of the top 20 should be fairly representative of what the city birder will get to see without a great effort.

The thought behind these pages is to familiarize beginners with the obvious - it will help them to know the birds a little better and, more importantly, interest and equip them to look for birds outside this list - birds that are scarce and worth observing when met because opportunities may be limited.

A word about the species covered. All these birds share one thing in common - they are very adaptive and can cope with varied climatic conditions, food sources and nesting/roosting sites. Most are gregarious and mid-sized. Lastly, they are also very visible - part of the reason why they make the "Top Twenty" list and the reason why they make a good choice for introduction to new birders.

 Sumit Sen
Common Myna

Scientific name: Acridotheres tristis
Size: 26cms
Description: Vinous-brown body, black head and yellow orbital area. Sexes alike.
Habits: Bold and aggressive, noisy. Usually in pairs. Often feeds on the ground and has a varied diet which includes kitchen waste. Roosts communally in great numbers. Nests in abandoned tree holes or buildings.
Habitat: Found around human habitation. Open country, farmlands, cities and hills up to 3100m
Range: Widespread resident across the country

 Sumit Sen
Black Kite

Another image

Scientific name: Milvus migrans
Size: 40 to 60cms.
Description: Dark brown plumage with a forked tail. In flight forked tail and long angled wings are noticeable. Sexes alike.
Habits: Scavenger found around human settlements. Commonest bird of prey that we get to see today. Circles in the sky for hours and often seen in the hundreds at roost or near a preferred feeding area. partial to feeding on earthworms. Nests in tall trees.
Habitat: Open woodland, forest edge, farms, towns and cities
Range: Widespread resident across the country

 Sumit Sen
Rock Pigeon

Scientific name: Columba livia
Size: 33cms
Description: Steel blue-grey with 2 broad wing bars, broad blackish band at tip of tail. Feet red. Feral birds widely occur in cities and come in varied plumages including very dark birds. Sexes similar.
Habits: Gregarious and bold. Large flocks attend favoured feeding areas which include granaries and cultivation. Feeds on seeds and shoots. Much given to aggressive courtship display. Nests on ledges/holes.
Habitat: The natural habitat consists of rock faces but feral birds occupy humans constructions. Found at elevations up to 3400m.
Range: Widespread resident across the country - one of the most commonly met bird anywhere in India.

 Sumit Sen
Rose-ringed Parakeet

Scientific name: Psittacula krameri
Size: 41cms
Description: Slim green parakeet with a bright red beak and greenish grey feet. Lacks maroon shoulder patch. Males have a black and rose collar which the female lacks.
Habits: Noisy and gregarious, the species moves in fast moving flocks to feed on a variety of plant matter including fruits and crops. Well adapted to city life, Rose-rings are also popular in the cage-bird trade. Roosts communally in huge numbers and nests in tree holes.
Habitat: Woodlands, mangroves, grassland, open farmland, parks, gardens and human vicinity.
Range: Widespread resident across the country and up to 1600m in the hills.

 Sumit Sen
House Crow

Another image

Scientific name: Corvus splendens
Size: 43cms
Description: Unmistakable. Note greyish collar on black plumage. Sexes alike.
Habits: Bold, smart and very adaptive, this gregarious species is an omnivorous and opportunistic feeder. Many roost is large colonies though breeding pairs roost together in their territory. Pair bonding is strong. Nests in trees and is brood-paracitized by the Asian Koel.
Habitat: Near human habitation including very small settlements.
Range: Widespread resident across the country and up to 2000m in the hills.

 Sumit Sen
Indian Pond Heron

Non-breeding - flight

Scientific name: Ardeola grayii
Size: 47cms
Description: This overall drab bird sports a brownish buff head and neck, buff brown breast, maroon back and white wings during the breeding phase. The non-breeding colours are a striped dull earthy-brown but the wings are conspicuously white in flight. Sexes alike.
Habits: Affects any stretch of water which may contain food. Patiently stalks and hunts prey which range from insects to fish from the waters edge. Usually wary. Roosts and nests communally in trees.
Habitat: Lakes, jheels, rivers, flooded fields, swamps, mudflats, mangroves etc.
Range: Widespread resident. Absent from the dry west.

 Sumit Sen
White-throated Kingfisher

Another image

Scientific name: Halcyon smyrnensis
Size: 28cms
Description: Commonest kingfisher species seen in the country. Bright red bill, chestnut head and belly, white throat and bright turquoise upperparts. Sexes alike.
Habits: The most adaptive of all our kingfishers. Can stray far from water in search of food which include insects, lizards and fish. Usually solitary and territorial. Nests in holes on earth-banks near water.
Habitat: Open country, fields, towns,  forest edges, streams, gardens and wetlands.
Range: Widespread resident across the country and up to 2500m in the hills.

 Sumit Sen
Red-vented Bulbul

Another sub-species

Scientific name: Pycnonotus cafer
Size: 21cms
Description: A dark and crested medium sized bird with black head and throat and red under tail coverts. Sexes alike.
Habits: A bold, pugnacious, cheerful and vivacious bird, Red-vented Bulbuls are usually seen in pairs or small parties. This species is highly adaptive and can be found in both cities and in deep forests. Their catholic taste in food and ability to build a nest in the most unsuitable spot has something to do with their success.
Habitat: Scrub, forests, secondary growth, towns and cities.
Range: Widespread resident across the country and up to 2300m in the hills. Four races in the country with some plumage differences.

 Sumit Sen
Cattle Egret

Breeding - in flight

Scientific name: Bubulcus ibis
Size: 50cms
Description: A pure white bird with a stout yellow bill and greenish or blackish legs. During the breeding period the head, neck and parts of  the back become a washed buff orange. Sexes alike.
Habits: A gregarious bird seen in small flocks in open areas. Often moves with cattle and other grazers to pick up insects disturbed by them. Nests and roosts in large colonies on trees. Subject to some local migration.
Habitat: Not water dependent. Wet fields, marshes, swamps, pastures, grassland, parks and golf courses.
Range: Resident practically all over the country up to about 1500m.

 Sumit Sen
House Sparrow


Scientific name: Passer domesticus
Size: 15cms
Description: The cinnamon-brown male has grey upper tail coverts, white ear coverts and large black patch in centre of breast. The duller female has black streaks on back and two whitish wing bars
Habits: Familiar companion of humans - chirpy and cheerful. Numbers seem to be declining lately and one cause could be lack of suitable nesting sites. Mainly a seed-eater, House Sparrows have a mixed diet which includes insects. Usually seen in pairs, they move in small flocks and roost communally. Nests exclusively in human dwellings.
Habitat: Grassland, farmlands, towns, cities, human habitations
Range: Widespread resident replaced by the Eurasian Tree Sparrow in the hills and in the extreme north-east.

 Part 2


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