Birds of Indian Metropolises

The COVID 19 has most of India under lockdown. Life seems to have come to a temporary standstill. While these are trying times where most of us are left incarcerated to the confines of our homes, there couldn’t be a better time to witness the birdlife prevalent in our cities. It is within this stillness that you might get a glimpse into the extraordinary lives of the feathered co inhabitants of your neighborhood. And who knows, this might even spell a gateway that opens up a new world of birdwatching, taking your newfound passion to some of the most biodiverse regions across India. But before you dive in to plethora of avian species, your backyard awaits, teeming with abundance you may haven’t noticed yet.

This also serves as great start to your journey as city birds are far more comfortable around humans as they have adapted to living with us in close quarters. More often than not, when new birders enter the realm of the birdwatching, they often struggle as they get fleeting glimpses of their subject. However, with the bids in question more habituated than others, you will get a considerable time on multiple occasions to appreciate the beauty and behavior of such species.

The list below contains most of the common species found across the major cities of India, however it also depends on the season and the type of vegetation/habitat where they are likely to be seen:

Rock Pigeon

The Rock Pigeon can be widely seen, their large numbers owing to the very domestication by us human beings. They were’ initially used as messengers to send letters and information across long before our current modern technology replaced them. By far the most common and gregarious, the feral pigeons display a plumage that is blueish grey with bars on their wings along with a broad blackish band at tip of tail. They’re widespread in most buildings, nesting under air conditioners and other building crevices, where they feel most protected to rear their young.

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Gliding with their loud raucous calls. These slender green coloured parakeets sport a bright red bill with greenish grey feet. While both Males and Females look strikingly similar, the Males have a black and rose collar which the females lack.
Highly gregarious, the species move swiftly in flocks, feeding on an array of fruits and grain. Unfortunately, many of them are illegally caged for pet trade. Their habitat varies from woodlands, farms, parks, gardens well close to human proximity.

House Crow

Birds display a black plumage where males and females are similar. Known for their remarkable intelligence, it’s no surprise these birds top the list to adapt close to human settlements. They are widely known for their opportunistic feeding having taken to an omnivorous diet Many roost is large colonies though breeding pairs roost together in their territory. Their habitation lies near buildings to even smaller small settlements.

White-throated Kingfisher

Regarded as the most adaptive kingfisher, it is fairly common species that can be seen throughout the country. Often perching on wires along the roads, it displays a fine plumage with a bright red bill, a chestnut head, a bright blue upper body and a distinctive white throat from where it gets its name from. Their adaptive nature owes credit to their versatile diet which ranges from lizards, frogs, fish, insects and so on. Their habitats include fields, towns, woodlands, wetlands, streams and gardens

Red-vented Bulbul

Assembling in smaller parties and known for their sweet melodic calls, the Bulbul is a bird with a crested black head with a bright red coloured vent as the name suggests.
They’re a highly adaptive species and can be found in both cities as well as deep forests. Predominantly frugivorous, these bulbuls feed on fruits, nectar, leaves while they do resort to feeding their chicks insects post breeding. They are popular around greener patches such as gardens and forests.

Common Myna

Blessed with a range of complex calls which at times can be quite loud, the Common Myna has brown body, black head and a distinctive yellow ring around the eye.
Mostly seen in pairs. They often feed on the ground with a versatile diet which includes fruits, figs, insects and even diving into food waste generated by households which makes them so prolific.
They can be seen close to buildings as well as farmlands in and around the periphery of cities.

Black Kite

Has to be the most common raptor soaring in the skies of the city scape. Contrary to its name exhibits dark brown plumage with a forked tail. Though, it is widely accepted as a scavenger, it does prey on rodents and occasionally on Rock Pigeons, if it does find an opportunity. They can be seen roosting close to settlements, buildings, farms etc. where food is abundant, riding hot air thermals through most of the day.

Cattle Egret

One of the best ways to be sure that you’ve spotted a cattle egret is by noticing that a flock of these birds are usually seen following grazers, picking out grubs a that are left disturbed by their movement. The bird can be identified through characteristic features such as long pointed yellow bill, a white body with blackish legs. Although, in the breeding period, the plumage around the head turn to faded buff orange. Highly gregarious, they are usually seen around farmland. They also roost in large colonies on tree tops.

House Sparrow

While the birds exhibit a slightly rufous brown body, the male has grey upper tail coverts, white cheeks and large black patch in centre of breast. The female has black streaks on back and two whitish wing bars. Though, at one point, these birds were familiar companion of humans, their numbers have declined lately which may be due to factors such as food availability and nesting sites. While they do feed primarily on seeds, House Sparrows have a varied diet which includes insects. Usually seen in pairs, they move in small flocks and roost communally. They are usually seen around farmlands, towns and cities where there’s ample food.

Common Tailorbird

Known for their expertise in nest building, sewing some remarkable structure using leaves, Common Tailorbirds have an olive green body with a rufous cap. Their diet consists of smaller insects which they thoroughly search for in greener patches. They can be seen close to human habitation, most likely as they feel protected here from the sight of predators.

Oriental Magpie Robin

The Oriental Magpie Robin is pied in its plumage with distinctive white wing markings and white underparts. While the Male displays a glossy blue-black plumage, the female on the contrary has grey above.
Known to orchestrate some of the most well-crafted bird songs, the male can be heard as it pours out a rich melody often from a well-lit perch. Their diets comprise of insects. Their nests are usually in manmade structures that are mostly abandoned.

Coppersmith Barbet

This strikingly small barbet has beautiful markings on its face that looks like war paint with reds and yellows. Though mostly green throughout its head along with a short tail gives it a rounded appearance. Most often heard than seen, the species announces its presence to potential mate in peak summer by its iconic loud and repeated ‘tuck, tuck’, call which sounds like a coppersmith at work.

Green Bee-eater

Known for its acrobatic nature, flying swiftly to catch insects mid-flight and coming back to the same perch, Green Bee-eaters are delightful to watch. Displaying iridescent blue cheeks, a black collar and a black band around the red eye, the bird can be seen in small parties, perched along the roadside on electrical cables with a sweet call that sounds like tricycle bells.

Black Drongo

Regarded as one of the most intelligent birds to grace our planet, the Black Drongo is highly observant and skillfull. With a glossy blue-black plumage and deep forked tail, t is agile and aggressive. This successful species is a feature of all our open spaces where its favoured insect food is abundant. Individuals are territorial outside breeding season and have favoured perches from where they announce their presence with a medley of harsh calls mixed with skilled mimicry of calls of other species.

Spotted Dove

An overall pinkish medium sized dove, distinguished by the presence of a speckled neck-patch. Their behaviour is graceful as they silently move about in pairs picking up food from the street and open places. Their Diet is mostly comprises of grains while they are known to nest in trees.

Purple Sunbird

With iridescent ink splashed across its body, the purple sunbird resembles a jewel in the concrete cityscape. The purplish-black breeding male has reflective metallic feathers that are extremely eye catching. The female on the other hand is far duller in comparison. Usually seen in pairs, these tiny humming bird like species can be seen around flowers in bloom through the course of the day and use their long scythe like beaks to probe for nectar.

Asian Koel

A cuckoo species with bright red eyes and a hooked beak. Males are glossy black while females are dark brownish with heavy spotting and barring. Asian Koels are found wherever you can find House Crows – a species which the Koel brood-parasitizes. Despite its striking colours and large size it is often hard to see the bird when it is perched. Its far ranging ‘ko-yu, ko-yo’ call and a maniacal screech are often the only indications of its presence in the locality.

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