There will be blood: Weaver birds, cuckoos and hawks

Nothing is ever cruel in the bird kingdom. It’s not as though they hold talons and waltz their differences away. They can be vicious too. They kill their own babies. They invade foreign territories. And wreck each other’s air travel plans. But they do so only for survival.

The most brutal attack I have seen took place two years ago at Pulicat. Two Jacobin Cuckoos invaded a Baya Weaver nest colony. It was agonizing to see them tear to shreds each painstakingly-woven nest. I was also confused. They are known to feed on insects and fruits only.


Baya Weaver, Pulicat

I shrieked and waved my arms in the air like I was in a cheesy 90s hip-hop video. I caught their attention but they didn’t seem to care. Right then, two Black Drongos came to the rescue, like dark knights with forked tails, and chased them away.

It might have been because their nests were close by too. Still, I wanted to believe that it was a heroic act.

I couldn’t say the same for my own actions. It ranked up there with “try to remove a porcupine quill from a pony’s butt out of sympathy” as one of the dumbest things I have done.  I realized that I had been an interference. And that it is never a good idea to go against nature’s orders. Even if I didn’t understand some of them.

It is pertinent that we contribute, how much ever we can, to sustain our ecosystem. Interrupting a territorial fight or a feeding session between wild souls just isn’t a part of it.

Nature is no place for our god complexes.

Months later, I watched as another Baya Weaver colony was under attack. This time – a female Shikra went in for the kill, make an amuse-bouche of the young ones. I didn’t feel great about it. But I just stood and watched.

Soon the Shikra took off, with a few baby Baya Weavers. I watched as the adults in the colony came back. There were songs of lament. The air was thick with murder. Five minutes later, everything was back to normal.

Some began repairing the older nests, and others were collecting material to build new ones. I was gazing at a particular couple who were putting the finishing touches on their new home. They seemed excited when it was done.

About 1oo meters ahead, two surviving juveniles flew away and perched themselves on a wire, accompanied by Green Bee Eaters and Spotted Munias.

Everything was fine.

Home isn’t always a place
your feet can take you to,
but you can build a house
anywhere your heart takes root.

(Photographs: Pulicat Lake) 

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61 comments

  1. Cute captures. πŸ™‚ (Wait, did I just say cute? Birds are rubbing off on me, I guess. πŸ˜› )
    Come to think of it, you’re right. Birds are also one among the many wild beings humans have a tendency to disturb. Usually, we (or I) see things on a larger scale – hunting of animals, animal cruelty, etc. But even our small actions, such as what you mentioned, make a difference and play a role in disturbing the ways of Nature. We need to back off in more ways than one – say, put a brake on hunting/fishing – and maybe, that can be achieved by starting small.
    An insightful post, to say the least. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am so tickled peach that you said “cute”. Yaaaay!

      And yeah Sheth, you hit the nail hard and in the right place. Given how much imbalance we have caused, it is sort of our responsibility to give it equilibrium by, as you said, curbing unscrupulous fishing practices and hunting. It would go a long way.

      Thank you for your kind compliment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such brutality. Just to survive they are getting extinct if this furthers.. what kind of birds are these Shikras? Can’t they just eat fruits and seeds? Rather than killing off baby birds from other nests??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww shikras are these gorgeous sparrow hawks, one of the smaller birds of prey. I do understand the sentimentality of wanting them to eat fruits instead. But nature has decided that meat is a part of their necessary diet. Also it may sound brutal but it wasn’t unlike those natural geographic channel videos in which packs of wild dogs bring down young ones of bisons. Brutal, yes but also natural, in my humble opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘Nature is no place for our god complexes.’ It is difficult sometimes to reconcile that we have systematically removed ourselves from nature, but at the same time will return to it, once we can no longer prop up our walls with petroleum. I wonder what the ‘natural’ world for American might one day look like; probably, much like the cuckoo and bay weavers.

    Great post, Christy. You are gifted with art of word (and photos).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Giggles. American cuckoos. There’s an entire TV show unto itself. I won’t throw stones from a glass house though. It’s exactly what urban india would do given half the chance.

      Thanks again for the positive feedback Shannon, it means the world to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There is an irony here. At times we’re the ones who cause the bloodshed, and at other times we stop them doing it. I know I would have done the same, on both occasions, but then that is me.
    Very thoughtful post. And beautiful pictures, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s this messiah complex that we subconsciously subject the lesser privileged to. This kid with the magnifying glass looking down at an anthill, pretending that he is too kind to burn it to the ground.

      Thanks Usha for the kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I’ve done it, too, Sweetie. Two years ago I spent an entire afternoon in my side yard where the giant old tree lives that so many nest in. There was a nest of baby robins, and crows had attacked it. I ran around like fool waving my arms and yelling. Of course it did no good.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Birds, I believe, are not as sentimental as humans. The first time a pigeon built a nest in our balcony, the egg fell down and broke. The foul stench was bad enough, watching the birds abandon the nest was disheartening. Almost as if we were the cause. But they came back soon, and started over. A few baby birds followed. Since then, the pigeons seem to have formed a certain bond with us and keep returning – much to our frustration!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yikes yeah Blue Rock Pigeons are hmm well they are what they are. You are right about humans being much more sentimental.

      I once wept (not cried, mind you) when a sparrow flew into the ceiling fan in one of my childhood homes. Just because I liked a song called “ehh kuruvi chittu kuruvi”. Now I teeter on the verge of bestiality with birds (shhhhh at an emotional level).

      Sigh I want to be more birdy-like.

      Like

  7. delightful verse and provocative story, a needed nudge pushing my heart and brain into action. Why is it so much easier for so many to respond sentimentally to the plight of animals in distress when we walk right by homeless and helpless humans without so much as a twitch of concern?

    Perhaps this is one of Nature’s gifts to us, an awakening of compassion, a stirring in deadened souls. Please keep sharing such stories, perhaps they will stimulate human hearts to connect with their own brothers and sisters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Tio, always a real pleasure to hear your perspectives and it is a privilege to share my own through these birds.

      Interesting side of the story about animals awakening the compassion in us rather than our own. I like it very much!

      Perhaps there is hope after all.

      Like

  8. Nice article and educative too! As far as behavioral aspect is concerned how we, the so called human beings differ from the animal kingdom ? Life is full of cruelty. Either you kill or get killed.The formula is ‘ survival of the fittest ‘ / ‘ struggle for existence ‘
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks doc! Perhaps the difference is that our cruelty is neither based on necessity nor takes into account the ecological consequences. Kill or get killed indeed, such an unfortunate web we have tangled ourselves in.

      Thanks again for your support!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She is a wonderfully talented angel, hopefully with her own passions and interests that she develops over time by herself. I don’t want to influence her at all, sushi.

        Of course, she loves painting, elephants and eagle feathers, so I can’t help but be overjoyed!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I am having second thoughts on birds now. I always thought it was only humans who were selfish and vicious. I remember reading an Amar Chitra Katha story Owls and Crows as a kid where they fight and kill each other for territory. Your post reminded me of that story. Thought provoking post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes, it’s bloody difficult to stand by and watch as nature takes its course. But I don’t know about never interfering. Suppose an elephant or a bear were to suddenly interrupt a smaller animal’s or a bird’s activities, would it be wrong of the elephant or bear to intrude or interfere in another species’ business? Surely it’s when we inflict upon animals our so-called superiority that it becomes wrong (such as dissecting birds eyes and brains or putting them through tests to find out ‘how they work’?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting situation you have presented, Val. I think I still wouldn’t interfere though, as cold as it may sound. I have this unrehearsed belief that they know what they are doing. And I barely know what I am doing, much less – their incompressible ways.

      Of course, I am also terrified of being trampled by an elephant or mauled by a bear.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww lucky Raven to find such lovely people. But yes, this sounds more like a rescue. And yes, I am confused about where to draw the line now. Thanks for the profound insights, as always, Val.

      To add on, in India, there’s something known as the Kumki elephant. It’s a domesticated elephant that helps us stop rogue ones on the rampage.

      I am thankful that humans and animals have found harmony in curious forms in quiet corners. I can only hope it spreads wider in the future. Much much wider.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m curious about how you feel about working Elephants in India, Christy. Like logging or moving or pulling things, etc. Is that still the norm, there? Because that would seem to me, to be going against nature too. (Mind you, I am of the mind that putting a bit in a horse’s mouth and riding it is wrong, too.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yes it is. Well I can say that it’s cruel and sadistic, a form of slavery – right down to the chain. I’d be right too. But we’ve come to far, Val. Removing them from labour force would also hinder how we help sustain harmony in the ecosystem (clearing pathways, controlling rogues, lugging fallen trees, etc).

        Using them to fuel religion and its fantasies (role of elephants in temples and processions) is something I am against though.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I recently had a conversation with someone about how nature will start wiping out, with discrimination, our species. But when we think along those lines, ethnic cleansing happens. Those aren’t good. As you said, comrade, knowledge is the key.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. That’s a different post of the lot I have read here…. have often wondered about human interference in the lives of other inhabitants…. may be you’re right about the complexes!

    I don’t know… earlier I could never rest till we rescued or restored a fallen baby sparrow back to its nest …. but now all that I do is just wait at a distance till its mom or dad turns up! Sometimes it’s best to leave as is for their parents make best use of the opportunities!! Nature has its ways! …… But once (kinda) mothered a baby squirrel for 5 weeks when its mom failed to return… the eyes were yet to open when it was first found in the backyard and….that was a beautiful experience! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a pleasure reading your blog…. reading isn’t the word – the metaphors and your descriptions adding to it are the photographs – kinda brings alive some scenes!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I generalised here a little too much about the complexes. A conservationist read this one, and gave me a few hypothetical scenarios that had me zapped. I couldn’t be sure what I would do or how much I would end up interfering.

      Loved your squirrel rescue operation. Have you written about it? You write such beautiful poetry, MH!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. About the complexes … I understand … it’s indeed complex! πŸ™‚

        I don’t know what I would’ve done in a scenario as above. But sure I would’ve looked all foolish and stupid! But as to interfering… don’t know Christy.. …may be it’s situational…they don’t trust us basically – as you had written they are truly afraid of our species on the whole – I give them(sparrows) food, water and don’t disturb their nest near my window, but still they don’t trust me near them. For each priorities differ! Not sure how they would respond to our rescue operation!!

        I remember – quite long long back my mom had rescued a fallen baby sparrow and placed it in the nest – but alas, when the parent returned, it just pushed the baby out of the nest onto the floor – still do not know why! It just happened once! But it still remains so vividly in memory!!

        And about my squirrel – no haven’t written yet! That was a beautiful experience that brings smiles even now and doubt whether I would ever do justice to the feeling by writing!

        And… thanks so much for those last lines….it does mean a lot!

        Liked by 1 person

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