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Last month, while boating on the lake in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden (a mouthful, eh?) at Kolkata, I saw some birds on the watermoss growing thickly towards one end of the lake. Of the three occupants of the boat, I was the one sitting idle while my sister-in-law pedaled and so did Shiva, the driver who had accompanied us.

I urged those pedaling towards the general direction of the birds I had seen walking on the watermoss. I didn’t know yet what birds they were, suffice to say they were birds which was THE most important thing, and so ‘Thataway!’ became my clarion call. They obliged and that-a-way we went.

As we got closer I realized they, the birds that is, weren’t the White-breasted Waterhens I thought them to be at first glance from afar. They HAD seemed different somehow for sure. Closer now, they revealed themselves to be Bronze-winged Jacanas, immature ones with ‘brown upper-parts, white underparts and buff fore-neck’ unlike the ‘mainly black adults with dark brown inner wings and red tail with striking eye-stripes’. Now I would have loved to see one of THEM adults, but none were around. It was just the young ones enjoying the day, having a swim, feeding on insects, chasing each other.

This ability to strut around on the watermoss appeared real cool to me. What enables them to walk on vegetation with ease is supposedly their huge feet and claws, not that huge feet and claws (if I had them) would have let me do the same thing. I bet weight is an important factor too.

You know what else I found interesting on reading up about these birds? They are polyandrous. The females compete with each other for harems of males to incubate their clutches of eggs. Each female’s territory encompasses one to four males and their individual territories. (More on Wiki)

The boat had reached pretty close to the watermoss, with me clicking away, when we heard a shout from the boathouse which fortunately wasn’t too far off. They wanted us to turn around pronto and head back because going any further could be dangerous. Our time was up too. Fortunately, by then I had got my pictures and we turned back.



©Shail Mohan 2018