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The Alarm Clock of Coorg

Indian Pitta, Coorg -

First we invite visitors to throw away their alarm clocks before coming to Coorg, so they could have a totally laid-back holiday. And then we go and provide them with our very own au naturale wake-up call that trills out unfailingly, at the crack of dawn, every day. This mellifluous two-note whistle has a special ‘surround-sound’ effect, with others taking up the call in a chorus when the originator tires. However, the visitor’s grumpiness on being awakened fades away rapidly, for never has a wake-up call sounded so sweetly, nor has the alarm looked so pretty. The Indian Pitta, on the rare occasions that one is sighted, is one of the most flamboyant expressions of the Creator’s art. Called Naurangi or the ‘Nine-Coloured-One’ in Hindi, this stocky, multi-hued avian also wears another sobriquet: the ‘Six-O-Clock Bird’, for its propensity to announce the break of day and dusk with clockwork precision. This fidelity to the clock is also reflected in his migratory patterns, as the Pitta faithfully follows the South Westerly monsoons, and is often a more accurate barometer of the weather than the Met Office. Living on the forest floor, he prefers the smell of wet earth which he can dig into for those succulent earthworms and grubs that are a delicacy. While the garish plumage may be a disadvantage for a floor dweller, the Indian Pitta’s brighter colours are on the underside and can be easily concealed from overhead predation. When he does get disturbed, he moves into the foliage with whirring wings, and sits motionless with only the tail wagging slowly up and down like a clockwork toy. Once the danger has passed, he resumes his scrounging, keeping a watchful eye on the clock, so he doesn’t miss his dusk deadline. For, the Sun in Coorg is never allowed to pass without the Pitta’s melodious call serenading its departure.



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