Sorry, we are not bringing sexy back

I don’t have bucket lists. My existential excuse is that they seem too purposeful. It would be a disaster given how instinctive I am. Of course the obvious reason is bucket lists require a lot of planning; something I am not good at.

I did once try to think of five birds I would want to spot in India. The list started with Black Baza and ended with Fire-Tailed Sunbird. I never gave it much thought until recently when it occurred to me that I might be a discriminatory birder.

I realized that I have been judging birds by their wing colours.


House Sparrow (male)

There were some gorgeous birds on the list. I doubt if anyone could deny just how enchanting each one looked. But there was a troubling pattern to their physical appearances. They were either bathed in bright hues of the rainbow or blessed with unique aberrations. I had picked colourful birds with extravagant crests, peculiar posteriors and striking tail-feathers.

My parameters for selection were purely cosmetic. I felt like one of those film protagonists who stalk women under the pretext of true love. While it is obvious that mere physical attraction is the reason.

It got me thinking about how superficial my appreciation for aesthetics is. Can I ever see the beauty in house sparrows if they are surrounded by fire-tailed sunbirds? Probably not. Does is it mean that the sparrow looks any less magnificent? Certainly not!

House Sparrow (male)

Like so many, I too respond positively to bright colours and blatant irregularities in the natural world. But in doing so I limit my understanding of what may constitute to true beauty in my eyes. After all there is inescapable love in even the most ordinary of grey and brown plumage.

In case you were wondering, here is the list:

  1. Black Baza
  2. King Quail
  3. Long-Tailed Broadbill
  4. Rufous-Necked Hornbill
  5. Fire-Tailed Sunbird

A poem for the house sparrow:
She burns, but never breaks;
my cheeks thirst for her songs
and with hope – I lay awake,
quaking in the fire of her embrace.

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44 comments

  1. Ooh, these sparrows seem so endangered now – well, they are – that I felt so good on seeing one in the rural part of town and pointed it out to my cousin as if it were the most amazing thing on Earth. 🙂 They look so cute, hopping from one place to another. Of course, my cousin looked at me as if I was crazy and I guess, yeah, we subconsciously give importance to superficial appearances more often than not. Enjoyable read, and once again, beautiful photographs! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Sheth, I have a soft corners for sparrows too since my city was blessed with them during the 90s. Lovely to hear you react that way!

      And I do want to kick myself in the head for not paying enough attention to the brown shrikes, pied bushchats, mynahs and wrens.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry, didn’t mean to sound coy. It’s titled “Chorus of the Nin-description,” and it went up on May 18, in case you’d like to find it. I’m not good about categories and tags, so that’s the easy way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brown and plain, but oh so cute! Once, a regular visitor to our balcony, now a rare sighting. I miss these darlings. I saw a few near my old office building and pointed towards them with joy. My colleague wasn’t impressed. I remembered thinking at that time, what sort of an individual doesn’t get excited about seeing sparrows? And I realised most ‘urban’ people find excitement only in malls. Sigh! I’ll take the great outdoors any day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said K! It’s so strange that a lot of us have been shocked by people’s indifference to sparrows. They have become such rare sightings in our state! I ll take the outdoors any day too, dear friend, only a terrace garden can have me appreciating the indoors.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes it’s hard to love the LBJs as much as the brightly-colored and highly visible. But still, there is an undeniable joy in simply watching them – and I think therein lies the difference. The colorful birds you point out are to see, and there you find the joy – birds like sparrows, though not immediately visually pleasing, can reveal immense pleasure in simple observation.
    (A side-note – I share most of the same birds on your list, except the Black Baza, which is the only one I’ve already seen. Not a good view by any means; it was a hundred meters away across a reservoir, but an enjoyable one nevertheless.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very well said about simple observations! The more colourful ones are lost to complex and sometimes befuddled gazes. Thanks for pointing this out.

      Black Baza (shudders) look at him! Apparently he soars above chennai in winter. He’s incredibly rare. Sigh (but not really). I heard he is seen often at thekkady reserve forest although I have never seen him there. Must have been an invigorating experience for you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In Singapore he’s fairly common, actually – relatively speaking, of course, during migration. It was quite a fantastic experience, though if I have to be truly honest I was somewhat distracted from it by the presence of a grey-headed fish eagle and later a black-capped kingfisher, as well as ospreys and white-bellied sea eagles (it was a raptor-plentiful day).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s a good thing I didn’t and resigned myself to happy squeals because if memory serves me right it was later on that very walk we spotted a twin-barred tree snake (the posts about it are on my other blog, savemacritchie.wordpress.com). MacRitchie Reservoir never fails to surprise. 😜

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A sparrow! A sparrow! A sparrow! * dancing around in circles * They’re just going the extinct path in cities. Where my parents stay, the nature lovers have posted “MISSING” posters all over the city to grab the attention and for urging to keep the environment clean. Sigh. I love sparrows. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Woaw now there’s a response arig! Blow up the excitement barometer to smithereens, I say. A nice initiative too (although I am not the biggest fan of printed material). These little beauties must be brought back.

      In China, the govt once ordered people to kill sparrows due to misinformation on crop damage. It took months for the idiots to realize that sparrows have been eating the insects that actually damaged the crops. In the end, the farmers lost their businesses and the land – its soil. The government had to bring in sparrows from Burma to restore balance.

      I wonder what india has to lose to learn.

      Like

      1. Hmm.. At least the nicer parts (untouched by cement jungles) still have sparrows and likewise, many other wonderful birds in abundance. I miss sparrows chirping on my window in the morning. Those kinds of mornings are the best, that are wished well by sparrows 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I recollected this morning that a song from a shivaji movie – “yeh kuruvi chittu kuruvi” was a constant reminder of this moment. Do listen to the song when you get the time, it’s from a movie called “muthal mariyathai”.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. What a spectacular bird bucket that is! ‘Discriminatory’ indeed. LOL I like you, will still love the House Sparrow as well as the pigeons and doves. You have to hand it to them for their persistence and cunning and confidence — traits I hope my young people to have as well. Flashy is so overrated.

    Liked by 1 person

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