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Tea for Two @ Coorg!

Pied Bush Chat, Coorg

We’ve all heard of the legendary hospitality of Coorg, and how the denizens readily share their table and cellar with any chance visitor. So, it won’t come as a complete surprise if you’re accosted in the woods with a whistled invitation to ‘tea for two’ even if, normally, coffee is the cup that cheers in these parts. Of course the invitation doesn’t hold good if you’re not female, or a passerine bird of the same feather, for this unique tune is naught but the mating call of the male Pied Bush Chat. Short, dark and handsome, with a rakish dash of white on his rump, wing patch and underbelly to set off his black raiment, this soulful singer is most voluble at dawn, peaking in the breeding season between March and June. Some naturalists, though, have stirred up a storm in the teacup by suggesting that territory, and not romance, is his muse. They’ve pointed out how paired males continue singing even if their mates have been captured, suggesting that the dawn chorus is used more to mediate territorial relationships with other males. We, however, think it’s the naturalists who need an infusion of romance; who knows, the poor lad may actually be lamenting his lost love and pining away in avian verse! While music may be the food of love, the food for the body is more prosaic: ground dwelling insects are their staple meal! If you’re looking for expert advice on hunting insects, though, you’re certainly going to be given some tips….to sit on! These birds, like those quintessential images of Indian yogis sitting on a bed of nails, prefer sitting on the sharp, pointed tips of bushes that serve as a vantage point. So if you’re dropping in to tea, we’d suggest you first practise balancing on a ‘pin-cushion’ stool and see if you can whistle at the same time. Bon Appetit!

Photograph: Kiran Poonacha Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy



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