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Wildbuzz | A whatszapped koel

Koels are members of the cuckoo family and are reviled by House crows as the female koel bids to lay eggs secretly in their nests as the male koel distracts the raucous crows.

punjab Updated: Jun 25, 2017 15:08 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times
A maid rescued a juvenile Asian koel from crows at the garden of a bungalow in Sector 2, Chandigarh.(Opinder Kaur Sekhon)

The plight of an injured bird — hailing from a very common species — but hopping around the garden of Nandita Sekhon in Sector 12, Panchkula, was destined to traverse the far seas to London. This was because the bird had unwittingly landed in the lap of the ‘whatszapped intelligentsia’. A devotee of nature and gardening, Nandita came upon the bird and discerned it was injured in the leg, and was sipping water limply from her hose pipe. She moved towards the bird to help the hapless creature.

While her endearing mannerisms and motherly entreaties would have the won the day with any stricken human or dog, the bird scurried for safety! Though unable to fly initially, the injured bird scampered around in panic with an affectionate Nandita, tailing her like a steel-willed mother with a glass of milk in her hand. The bird finally took off, never to be seen again in Nandita’s garden. Phew! If only birds could understand the depth of humanity’s noble intentions.

The injured female koel sips water from a hose pipe in Sekhons’ Panchkula garden. (Nandita Sekhon)

The cuckoo had flown the proferred nest of respite, but her injury and charisma left Nandita both troubled and curious. She thought the bird may have been a rare species. So, she put up pictures in her WhatsApp group. There was a flurry of suggestions and excitement, and many ‘coos, oohs, ahhs and sundry sighs’. Some friends obliged by suggesting imaginative identities, such as a ‘pheasant’ in Panchkula’s Sector 12. However, one of Nandita’s friends in London, a lady doctor, was a bird enthusiast and she posted on WhatsApp that it looked like a female koel. Not trusting the diagnosis fully, a determined Nandita finally had the identity confirmed from experts. The injured bird in her garden was indeed a female Asian koel. A bird that screeches (kik-kik-kik) and dashes around with such ferocity that I daresay it can startle the most stately and unflinching of trees.

Koels are members of the cuckoo family and are reviled by House crows as the female koel bids to lay eggs secretly in their nests as the male koel distracts the raucous crows. Female koels can even dislodge crow eggs from the nest to give her eggs a better chance and her offspring, which are brought up by the foster parents, the crows. So, crows will chase and mob koels, and the fleeing, screeching bird often crashes into window panes with a loud thud, injuring feet and other body parts.

Salim Khan (right) paid a courtesy call to a grateful and relieved SK Sharma (left) on Saturday. (Navita Sharma)


The tricity’s snake-rescue expert, Salim Khan, is virtually an illiterate, but he is truly a master at assessing and anticipating reptile behaviour in urban/peripheral ecosystems. A tailor master by profession in the snake off-season, Khan likes to jest that he has earned a ‘desi PhD in snake rescue’ through sheer volume and intensity of field experience of 12 years. On June 20, Khan exhibited this command of the subject by remote-controlling a snake escape while he was miles away from the spot. An 8-foot-long, non-venomous rat snake slid into the Maruti Swift car of a retired Canara Bank official, SK Sharma (63), at the NFL Enclave, Sector 48, Chandigarh, at about 4.30pm. Sharma called up Khan to rush to his apartment and rescue the snake, but Khan told him that by the time he would get to the enclave, the sun would have cooled down.

Instead, Khan asked Sharma to drive the car to the nearby park with long grass, make it face the sun, open the bonnet, keep well away from the car and ensure it was not encircled with frenzied, babbling onlookers. However, the thought of the snake coming through the clutch plate or brake pedal opening so unnerved Sharma that he could not get himself to drive the car to the park. His son, Mandeep (39), volunteered and drove it to the park. The hiding snake obliged by not creeping in and coiling around Mandeep’s ankles!

Eureka! After a few minutes, the Khan trick began to work as the stationary car heated up in the sun’s glare and the snake wanted to quit the car’s cover. Since there was no disturbance around, the snake moved and the tail appeared in view. After 35 minutes, the snake ‘jumped’ from the chassis and slithered into the grass. “Khan kept ringing me and advising me while this operation was underway. His understanding of the situation was masterly as the snake behaved just the way Khan predicted,” Sharma told this writer.

First Published: Jun 25, 2017 15:08 IST