Just as lantana bush to some butterflies, so is papaya tree to some birds. They love it, especially if there are fruits on it for the taking. If you have one in your neighborhood – the tree I mean not the birds – and the fruits on it have ripened just so, within no time at all the bird grapevine will be abuzz with the news. You can bet your last falling rupee that soon, very soon, there will be winged visitors flying in to stake claim to portions of the succulent fruits. Which is why I was not surprised when I heard the Rufous Treepie and walking out to the balcony saw one perched on the tree next-door.
Rufous Treepies are birds not too sold on the idea of the strong and silent types much popularized by humans via books and movies. They, the Rufous Treepies, have things to say, and by God, others are going to listen to it whether they like it or not. So they shriek out loud wherever they are and whatever they are doing. Now, that’s the kind of bird, I like, one which shouts, ‘Hey there, here I am! HERE I AM!’ because it then means I can stop whatever I am doing and rush out to see just where it is. No prizes for guessing. It was on the papaya tree.
Now contrast this with the over-cautious White-eyed Barbet. It sneaks in quietly and feasts on the ripe papayas with nary a word to anyone. With the leaf green outfit it has on, it is so well camouflaged that only the minutest movements can pick it out from among the foliage. Still, even a slight movement from a watcher standing meters away on a balcony makes it fly away to hide on some tall leafy tree, out of reach of prying eyes and camera lens. Bummer!
I can understand the Woodpecker being nervous of company. It is disadvantaged by the bright red plume on its head, which gives it away from a great distance. This one is another of those too quiet customers who silently sidles up the tree to peck at papayas, taking a well deserved break from an all-insect diet. Well, it’s hard work, banging on trees to get at them, isn’t it? And papayas are soft and squishy and easy to get at. Besides, who isn’t fond of dessert anyway?
At first, the Asian Koel seemed to be having no part of all this mad morning exodus to the papaya tree. It sat on the half wall thinking things over. To eat or not to eat. The struggle didn’t last long. When papayas beckoned, hadn’t better birds than it succumbed? Not that it thought they were better in any way. It was just a turn of phrase. Duh! The spots and stripes and the red eyes were proof that she was alright, a beautiful specimen actually. And by golly, she was going to gobble those papayas.
Obviously it was no tryst and yet there I was on the balcony, on the same morning, the same time, all thanks to the very vocal Rufous Treepie.
©Shail Mohan 2018