Many birds feel shy around humans. Perhaps, they are just terrified. Why wouldn’t they be? Our species has a dubious track record. We are like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs, except that we think we can repair the damage. Start all over again. Make everything bloom.
Look at me, for instance. I pollute the air that birds breathe in just by driving to where they live. I also contribute to a process that takes away food from their beaks. Yet I fetishize their existence. And I spend time promoting my passion for them instead of helping conserve their habitats.
Birds needn’t feel shy around me. They should be terror-stricken.
Over the years – some of them have been presumably shyer than the rest. The Jungle Bush Quail, the Great Indian Hornbill, and the Asian Paradise Flycatcher haven’t been easy to spot. But the shyest one of them all, thus far, has been the White-Eyed Buzzard
This buzzard is a mid-sized and coffee-colored hawk. It wears a streak of white that scissors a bulbous head; a pair of ivory irises – sitting pretty on either side of dark grey cheeks. The sharp beak is a picture storybook unto its own.
The call of a White-Eyed Buzzard sounds like a banshee if the mythological screamer thought she was a kitten. I first heard it at the Vedathangal Bird Sanctuary. I went looking for the source and saw one perched upon an electric pole.
It took to the skies the moment I angled my camera and found another pole. And every time I inched towards the buzzard, it flew away. Even if I took a tiny step – poof, gone. I zigzagged, thinking that I could outwit the bird. I felt like a stalker who wasn’t good at his own shtick. Since then, I have seen them on many occasions. But each time around, they acted the same way.
A part of me is glad that the White-Eyed Buzzards have been wary of me. Birds need to survey all of us with some amount of caution. They can’t rely on our goodwill. We can’t even trust each other. It is in our nature to self-destruct. Some call it self-preservation. Irrespective, we are still taking down everything else in the process.
Speciesism wasn’t something I was aware of until Shannon, curator of the spectacular Dirt N Kids blog, told me about Earthlings – a documentary about the predatory instincts of human beings. The total disregard that we, as a species, have for other contributing members of a shared planet. It doesn’t matter how much we love birds. We cause damage to them just by consuming, traveling and doing little things that lead to large problems on a daily basis.
I like to think that I am a bird-friendly person. But I won’t kid myself. I know they will be better off without me snooping around. In fact, I feel embarrassed when people assume that I am an expert birder, an ornithologist or even a good photographer. I am certainly none of those things. I am just a writer, with a love for birds and a Nikon Cool Pix camera. And I enjoy sharing it.
But if you want to follow a professional birder with a passion for conservation, please check out Enviro Ganeshwar‘s blog. This young man from Chennai has won many accolades in the field, as well as the admiration of stalwarts. He also helps me with the identification of many of the birds that I write about.
You can also watch the Earthlings documentary for free.
my skin peels over
the rogue fireplace
in your plumage.