A case for the commoners: Red-Wattled Lapwing

She’s not a canvas
for the weak to
paintbrush their dreams in,
she’s a coat of paint
for the weary
to re-imagine the world with

Many summers ago, I was at the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, minding my own business and that of a few passerine birds. Suddenly a shrill sound – tee-tee-tiri – started echoing in the air; as though a celestial object was trying to connect with my brain.

I ignored it at first but then it turned louder; a bit chaotic even. I frantically looked around. But I couldn’t locate the origin of this unwelcoming sound. I gave up soon enough, chalking it down as just “one of those things”.

Red-Wattled Lapwing, Puducherry

Over the next few months I heard it on several occasions. While I soon realized that it was the call of a bird, I just couldn’t find her! It also started to bother me that the she had been ratting me out to the other birds. Many of them refused to stop for a photograph when she was around.

It was getting on my nerves to the point that I began angrily hurling questions at her.

“Please stop, what have I done to you?”

“You again, can’t you just keep quiet for one second?”

“Who are you? Where are you!?”

Eventually I figured out that it was the Red-Wattled Lapwing.

The Red-Wattled Lapwing is a wader found in wetland habitats across the Indian subcontinent. One of the most recognizable features about her is how vigilant she is. No matter the hour – she is the first to raise an alarm about intruders. It is why, in the Tamizh language, she is referred to as aal kaati (indicator of humans).

In some parts of the world, they are known as the “did-he-do-it” birds because of the unique sound they make.

Since then I have become an apologist around her. I feel bad about having mistaken her righteousness for rudeness.  Whenever I spot her these days, I make sure that I leave her in peace.

I hope that some day that she appreciates the efforts I take to give her space.

Isn’t that love too?

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21 comments

  1. Interesting article about the bird Red-Wattled Lapwing.Mother Nature’s ways of dealing with the intruders is unique for each species,but I always wonder about Humans.Being at the top of the food chain,do they have any reactions at all !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks doc. Intriguing question about how we react to intruders. I think we are defensive about it to the point of paranoia. It is why many of our instincts center on having to run away from the sight of danger without thinking if we are sinking deeper into a bigger threat.

      Like

  2. Love. That is aplenty here ❤
    I recently discovered her, after having joined the birding groups, however virtually it was. There is a pair that nest in the paddy fields in front of my parents’ home that unfaiilngly flail and raise alarm when I take the dogs for a walk that way. The unique sounds they make, I’ve heard it all these years, but it is only recently I had a name for her!

    As always, a beautiful apt verse to go with the sweet write 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a cheeky little girl! My woodland birds love giving me away to the owl I might be stalking. It’s the only time I get a little annoyed with the cute chickadees. They’re only saying ‘Good morning,’ after all, but they give away my position every time!

    Lapwings. I don’t think I have a single one here I can put on my list. A little jealous here…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha! Yes, you are right about the Sunday comics. I got quite a few looks from passersby while shooting the ibis in the roosting tree a while back.

        You may not have our chickadees, but you have the coal tit — cutie pie! I’m sure he’s no less feisty (chickadees are also tits).

        Liked by 1 person

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