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The Pirate with the White Eye-patch!

Oriental White-eye, Coorg

If you were a convoy of industrious insects going about your lawful business in the leafy channels of Coorg, you’d do well to keep a lookout. For, flying the Jolly Roger in these parts, are roving bands of the Oriental White-eye, avian pirates that descend on the unwary and decamp with their lives. In the true tradition of Barbarossa and Henry Morgan, these canny corsairs prefer to flaunt their colours, rather than hide them. They dress in flashy yellow finery, with a Golden-olive topcoat, a bright golden throat band, and a silver grey belly-garment. What distinguishes them, however, is that they wear two eye-patches, and both are a distinctive white, not the traditional black. This doesn’t mean, though, that they are any more benevolent. They will attack in numbers, darting in and out before you know it, and are cunning enough to know where you’ve stashed your treasure trove of eggs and larvae. So while the pirate army is attacking you, a smaller detachment can often be found foraging on the underside of leaves, looking for your eggs and young ones. The only way you can keep them at bay, is by hiring the right kind of mercenary guards. Natural predators like large bats or a small band of white-throated kingfishers are recommended as an efficient discouragement. While not hunting in packs, they retire, like self-respecting pirates, to their lairs, and, while some have been spotted bathing in the collected dew on the leaves, most can be spotted getting drunk on the heady nectar of the native flowers. Blackbeard and Captain Morgan may have danced to a rambunctious rendering of ‘Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of Rum…’ but the song of their avian siblings is a thin, wispy, tinkling jingle made up of slurred call notes, and is a melody that’s soothing to the ears. Unless you are an insect going about your lawful business…

Photograph: Sudhir Shivaram Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy



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