Metallic turquoise, iridescent green, elegant white….no these are not the colours that latest car in town is available in, they are the shades of the Kinfisher’s, the Bee-Eater’s ,the Great Egret’s wings respectively… the list is endless and I haven’t even mentioned the National Bird. The colors evoke a flight of fancy and most of us would think that to see all these exotic-sounding birds would mean a trip to the jungles of the Amazon at the least. If you’re one of those people, then prepare to be pleasantly surprised. You can see all of these birds (and many, many more) on a single morning in the most populated areas of one of most heavily populated cities of the world- our very own Delhi. The surprises don’t end here; according to official estimates Delhi has the second-highest total bird-species count of any urban area in the world!
To continue with the statistics (for only a little while), a whopping 450 species of birds have been recorded in the Delhi area. To put things into perspective, only about 925 have been reported from the USA and Canada! The reasons for this amazing variety of birds are varied. The city has a good number of open green areas, both man-made parks and the original forest cover of the city- popularly called the Ridge. There is an equally large variety of trees in the city, either on the roadsides or the gardens of housing colonies. Apart from resident species Delhi has a number of interesting summer visitors which move out of the peninsula to breed before and during the summer monsoon. However, the single largest reason is the position of Delhi on the north-south flowing Yamuna which is across one of the major Asian migratory flyways. This brings a striking number of winter visitors and passage migrants. Delhi enjoys the added advantage of being close to the hills, which are home to countless number of other species.
Some of you might say to yourself that even if there are so many birds, a beginner would have absolutely no idea where to start. There is good news on that front as well. This is an oxymoron, but bird watching, or ‘birding’ as some people like to call it is big in a small way in Delhi and many other cities, including Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune. There are dedicated clubs and groups, composed of people ranging from all walks of life and at various levels of expertise in birding. Some are absolute beginners while a few are absolute pros with decades of experience behind them and can identify a bird by its song alone or even if all they get is a fleeting glimpse. These groups organize weekly (usually Sundays) bird walks which start at easily accessible points across the city. And the best part of all is that it is absolutely free…All you need to do is check the next week’s start position off the website, get there and be ready to enter the majestic world of aves.
And in case you do take a fancy to birds, the equipment required is, simply put, cheap. All you need is a decent Field Guide (which will list all or the commonly found species in an area, along with enormously descriptive pictures) and binoculars. Believe me, it is easy to get completely absorbed and before long, you’ll be correcting people when they call those high-flying black birds eagles (“they’re kites, you fool”) or the green ones parrots (“Parakeets”).
So all you nature-lovers out there, lack of time just isn’t an excuse any longer. All that is required is a free Sunday morning and afternoon and you’re all set to witness the dazzling colors and unbelievable beauty of these marvelous winged creatures in the backyard of your very own city.