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Britney Spears? So does the Darter!

Darter, Kabini -

Out in the jungles of Kabini, there exists a rock star like no other, a phenomenally successful performer who doesn’t believe in casting a wide net, but in transfixing his audience on the tip of his spear. Meet the Darter, Kabini’s spearman par compare, and discover how he captures the imagination (and his supper) with a seemingly insouciant flick of his graceful neck that would elicit oohs and aahs, if only the witnesses to his virtuosity hadn’t been rendered speechless already. The most enduring paparazzi image of this bird is not of him in flight, but of his sinuous neck skimming the water like a periscope, whilst the rest of him is submerged. In fact, this expert diver and submariner is also called as the ‘snake bird’ because of the way his long neck and small, reptilian head sways back and forth as it skims the surface. The reason for this becomes apparent when the innocent periscope suddenly transforms into a lethal harpoon when a tasty morsel is spotted swimming past. The powerful neck muscles and a specially constructed vertebra allow him to spring-load and shoot his sharp bill out like a javelin being cocked and released. If ever you had doubts about his marksmanship, they’d be laid to rest at the end of his bill, where a succulent fish is bound to be found impaled, rather unappreciative of her karmic role in this flawless performance. As he tosses up the morsel, ready to catch it deftly in his bill, one is left to contemplate on how some of the greatest performers in the world don’t ever play to packed houses. And, with his tribe diminishing rapidly, one wonders if this endangered superstar will play for much longer. That would be a sad day for bird lovers, but music to the ears of the fish of Kabini.

Photograph: Jayanth Sharma Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

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