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In the internet, magic happens. No, not the kind over which many of my friends sigh and swoon with regularity. Not the kind the ‘believers’ insist happens to those who believe in it. How very convenient, and a perfect way to discount the voices of skeptics, methinks. Anyways… like I was saying, magic happens on the net, but I am not referring to the above kinds but something in a different category altogether.

One day I was cruising along – surfing, if that’s what you prefer to call it – when I chanced upon a photograph of a bird, a sunbird to be exact. But the person who posted it was calling it a ‘humming bird’ and he said he had spotted it in India. Now if that isn’t magic, tell me what is. Of course, it could have been a mistake, and mistakes do happen to all of us every now and then.

Someone or other is sure to ask at this point how I was sure it was not a humming bird but definitely a sunbird. Elementary, my dear Watson! They, the sunbirds of the kind in the picture, abound in my neighborhood, or used to, what with bushes and trees having been mercilessly chopped, the thingamabobs seem to have moved to greener pastures. *sob sob*

During the good old days when they, the sunbirds, resided here, we got along rather famously. The little birds knocked on my windows and played peekaboo, delighting me and annoying the dog. They chirped and flitted about on the cables looking as cute as could be, also sipped honey from the ixora growing in the garden, and made their homes in the garlic vine, now long gone. In turn, I took their pictures (the least one could do in return for all the joy they imparted) and flashed them around, the pictures I mean, boring my friends to tears and earning the sobriquet of Sunbird Mohan.


Here was this guy calling them ‘humming birds’. I could not let it pass, which incidentally has been/is my undoing. When I see something that’s not right I am wont to call it out while I have noticed that others generally prefer to ‘let it go’ and are ready to ‘live happily ever after’ wallowing blissfully in ignorance and denial. I believe divesting someone of wrong impressions and enlightening them as to the right facts helps not just them, but also those looking for such (correct) facts on the net, a fact that seems to escape the I-can’t-be-bothered and I-am-happy-even-if-my-friends-spread-tall-tales kind.

The other day. I had concluded that the bird Gray Francolin I had clicked was something else, though it escapes me now what I thought it was, rest assured that it was ridiculously off mark. (And that’s not all. I have called a Plains Cupid butterfly a Gram Blue. More recently, I thought the Crimson Rose was a Common Rose. Fortunately someone or other always has come along to help with the right answer) Along came a Good Samaritan and told me the bird wasn’t whatever I was calling it, but a Gray Francolin.

I quickly went to Google-Know-At-All to check, though I needn’t have, he being an experienced birder and all that. But there is no harm in verifying things for yourself, in fact one MUST do that and satisfy oneself rather than blindly believe. So yes, I checked, and found he was right. I returned to the page and thanked him for letting me know, also assured him I’d update the information, which I did promptly. But what if I had gone on calling it something it wasn’t? Wouldn’t at least a few people have been misled unnecessarily?

So, yeah.

This guy with his picture of a sunbird was calling it a hummingbird. A long time back I thought sunbirds were hummingbirds too before I *enlightened myself* by reading up on it. So, I left a comment on his blog saying it wasn’t a humming bird, but a sunbird. Nothing more, nothing less. I prefer to give people a lead and let them take the fact-finding journey on their own unless and until they ask me specifically for more information. Always more than willing to help, that I am.

The young man responded by asking me, ‘How do you know?’ I was nonplussed. Errr… ummm… how do I know?! Do people ask these type of questions still, in this age of Google-Know-It-All? All he needed to do was go out there and find out for himself. Or, did he want me to give my reasons: the fact that the bird in the picture had a long curved beak characteristic of a Loten’s Sunbird? There was more. But the deciding factor was/is this that India has no hummingbirds (Correct me if I am wrong!).

The last I saw, the picture was still up there on his page along with the wrong name attributed to it. He had apparently decided it was indeed a hummingbird and nobody, definitely not that random lady on the net anyway, was going to make him change his mind. This is not the first incident of its kind nor will it be the last, I am aware.

Recently I came across someone calling a Common Mormon butterfly by a fancy name of another which does not even occur in the region specified. The lines, the dots, the colors, the region… I had lots to offer, and I made a feeble attempt too, but gave up. I didn’t have the heart to pursue it any further because the ‘enemy’ section of my ‘friends’ list is already too full and choking with people who resent my suggestions/interference (it’s a matter of perspective)

It is no skin off my nose, I keep reminding myself, trying to forget all about the greater good and *useless* stuff like that. But it doesn’t fail to bother and puzzle me: Why wouldn’t anyone want to know the right name/right answer? Why do they prefer to remain ignorant and deceived? Is it such a great threat to the ego to accept you were wrong about the bally name of a bird or butterfly (or even fake news for that matter)? Wow. Simply wow.

Question: How many times have I used the word sunbird in this post? 😉

©Shail Mohan 2007