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The Scent of a Bird


Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Coorg -


If you can’t hear the telltale rat-a-tat of someone drumming on a tree bark, or even if you can’t spot those fashionable heart patterns fluttering amidst the leaves, don’t lose heart. For, if you’re seeking Coorg’s most romantic citizen, you don’t have to look too hard. In fact, very often you don’t have to look at all. Just close your eyes and take a deep breath. And follow your nose as it leads you to the black and buff Heart-spotted Woodpecker. This unique specimen of Woodpecker doesn’t just believe in wearing his heart on his shoulders, but also releases a very pleasant perfume every so often, just to get the mood right. This sweet smell emanates from a resin secreted by the skin gland, which is unique in the avian world, and confers on him a status reserved in the human world for the likes of Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Yves St. Laurent. This perfumer-par-excellence struts around in a black dress with trademark black hearts painted on a white shoulder plumage, and also sports a majestic crest that gives him a top-heavy look. Unlike other woodpeckers that bang away at tree trunks, he prefers to forage on thin, terminal branches of tall trees for his repast of insects and larvae. One doesn’t know if this is merely happenstance, or if the Heart-spotted Woodpecker is deliberately staying away from prying eyes that may seek the secret ingredients for that wondrous perfume. Ornithologists and naturalists have long been at a loss to explain the functional significance of this smell, but we know better don’t we? Sometimes when one creates a thing of beauty, one doesn’t need a reason for it. For, things of the heart don’t need to be understood…just enjoyed!


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