The right to soar: Scaly-Breasted Munias

Scaly-Breasted Munias, like many other finches, are prostituted into the pet trade business. I’m not surprised that people are illegally selling them. I know the kind of things that people are willing to do for money. We all do. It’s why the seller doesn’t bother me as much as the buyer does in this business.

I wonder how anyone can find love in a caged bird. Do they find perverse pleasure in clipping its wings? How can they romanticize slavery because it involves creatures that don’t speak our language of pain? Is it a manifestation of their messiah complexes?

I am unsure what to think. All I know is that Illaiyaraja, a legendary musician, wrote a beautiful Tamizh song about this sick fetish of ours.

Scaly-Breasted Munias are as adorable as gregarious birds can be. It is why they are hot commodities. To see these Munias in the wild is something else. They are like tiny vaudevillians zinging by, in flocks, practicing complex dance manoeuvres.

Draped in gorgeous brown cloaks, they have conical beaks larger than gravity might seem to accommodate. The undersides of their white bellies have haunting black scales painted on them. Peter Gabriel ought to write a song about them.

I once saw two near the Pulicat Lake in a lover’s quarrel. One was holding a long blade of grass. The wind was making him sway more than he ought to. The other was chirping orders at him, telling him to quit being an idiot and go for a smaller one.

He eventually did. She looked happy about it. They flew away together. So happy together.

A small part of me wished they weren’t this cute.

There is something
about the way she bends
before she is supposed to break,
a drunkenness of the soul,
splattered all over her clothes,
that has the rest of us,
spellbound and awake.

(Photographs: Vedanthangal, Pulicat, Ponneri, Nellore)

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35 comments

  1. One afternoon last month I saw one hop around on a lopped branch lying on a pavement! Stared at it to my heart’s content and a watchman’s thorough amusement. They are a sight for sore eyes….. such lovely details on the breast of something so small. That moment was everything I love about noticing birds in a city. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    Also recall seeing more than a pair of these in sinister birds market in the city. The space was as menacing as Pran’s eyes when he meant business.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oooh I’d imagine they make the best matinee tea partners. I am glad you’ve shared and cherished such moments with them.

      Sigh yeah bird market. We have a few of those in our city too. Do report it to the Forest Department office or WWF India contact in your location if you ever see them again. Those thieving monsters deserve the longish arm of the law smacking them in the head.

      Like

  2. ” I hope they get over their need to imprison the subject of their affections.” Excellent! The way in which you connect human psychology with simple observations about the beautiful way of nature and birds..wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. People, I guess, like slavery in all its forms. If given a chance, they would enslave other humans as well. This attitude reflects in their interest for caging birds and admiration of the “beauty” of a bird whose flight has been clipped off.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I once saw a brightly colored bird quite like a munia. I quickly took photographs, all the time wondering which bird it could be. The color, a bright red, didn’t seem to fit any munia I knew. Long story short, I found out it was a munia that had probably been colored and sold but had somehow escaped confinement.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful verse! As always I love the way you describe them – speaks well for your love… affinity … indulgence!!

    I always wished their chats and banters were far better than ours – how convenient & comfortable!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! You said it perfectly, convenient and comfortable indeed. You should listen to the way the common babblers (aka the seven sisters) communicate with each other. They can be commonly found in TN and Kerala, and they make babbling sound like music!

      Liked by 1 person

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