He’s a family guy: Great Indian Hornbill

It’s been 72 hours since I spotted Great Indian Hornbills in Valparai for the fourth time. A few things have changed in my life since then.

It’s as though someone turned my life’s volume knob way down. The bedroom walls are starting to whisper back. Last night, we watched each other peel in strange places. It was unsettling in a sexy way. Or vice-versa. I am unsure. Either way, we didn’t make eye-contact in the morning.

But there’s no confusion in my mind about how it feels to be close to Great Indian Hornbills.

Great Indian Hornbill, Valparai

Once again, I saw the male play the role of a loving and caring monogamous mate. This time, he was also a devoted father. He went out to collect berries every 10 minutes for the family. He came back, within two-hour intervals, to the nesting tree, like a phoenix under the influence of the sun.

Patiently then, he fed his wife and children – one berry at a time. He was chivalrous in his movements and grand in his earnestness to bring home the berries.

I was lucky to see the juveniles for the first time. One of them took a peak outside to taste the air in a free world. While it is never a good practice to photograph nests, I just couldn’t help it.

I watched them for about 6 hours before my legs started to feel like crumbling wafers. There was a gathering crowd too, given how popular this spot has become over the years.

I had all the love I needed from them to survive for a few months more. So I moved on.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them since. It’s like washing my face with rainwater. Well, more like sticking my finger deep inside my throat. It helps me regurgitate all the nasty stuff it takes to be in pursuit of freedom, restitution or harmony.

All I am left with now is a clandestine glow that has escaped through the cracks along my abdomen wall. It has filled my esophagus with folk music. A banjo note may roll down my tongue and tickle the cool morning air in Valparai during the next trip.

I will hunger, until then, for you, my big-beaked beaus.

Even silence
is a song
when it finds
a hornbill.

(Photographs: Valparai)

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43 comments

  1. You with your horn bills share the sentiment I feel for even the common ole Northern Cardinal these days. Must find joy where I can and…exuberance! As for wallpaper peeling and lacking eye contact, that totally both made me laugh and reconsider the relationship I’ve been having with my ceiling fan these past few mornings. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hornbill in Malayalam is called ‘vezhambal’ , Though there aren’t many people who have seen it ,it’s quite famous, especially as there is a saying of ‘ waiting eagerly for the rain like a Vezhambal’ and a famous movie song incorporating Vezhambal. So Hornbill has almost a mythical status in Malayalam art and literature.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I heard the Vezhambal in Thekkady! There is a sad and poetic truth about how these hornbills cry during summer since they can only drink water by pointing their beaks upwards, and the rocks and trees are mostly dried up. When monsoon comes in, they fly around – ecstatically, knowing their thirst is about to be quenched.

        Thank you for the informative comment!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Never knew it was based on real facts.. Till the other day I didn’t think these birds known as vezhambal existed in real life… Then I chanced upon a a whatsaap post with the pic of hornbill and I put two and two together.😁

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Christy, but as you have mentioned in your reply to Manjulasidhan, is it a fact that they wait for rain? I have heard that in some African(?) countries people consider the cry of the horn bill as a prediction of oncoming rains. Here is a Malayalam song referring to Horn Bill. I think that is the only south Indian flick, Amol Palekar has acted – OLANGAL and it was directed by none other than Balu Mahendra! ( !982)

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes buddy, both forest officers and locals have told me so. It isn’t really a prediction, it’s just knowledge they have that we don’t. Given Kerala’s monsoonal timings, I hear it’s easy to spot them in the sky, at certain areas near the KL-TN border, waiting for the rain.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. To be able to live among such a natural beauty is a dream to many… The Great Indian Hornbill is the epitome of beauty and majesty sitting on that tree trunk. I have always liked them and felt they are a bit mysterious but seeing one in such a glory here, all I want to do is pack my bags and shift.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It certainly is a dream for me. Ironically though, life in the hills is unkind to those in particular economic classes. It’s a tragically ironic scenario – a place which holds so much beauty is home to so much sadness too.

      But I digress. Hornbills are majestic, no matter which skies that soar across. I hope you get see one real soon!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 thanks 🙂 I hope I see one soon. Life in the hills is sure not everyone’s cup of tea but it sure is addictive to those who have wonderlust. I wish you luck in your adventures Christy Bharath. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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