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The Sky Diver of Kabini!

Little Grebe, Kabini -

He’s a bird. But someone forgot to tell him that. For, the Little Grebe prefers to cruise well below where other birds of a feather flock together. A strong swimmer who’s much happier wetting his beak during his daily laps of the Kabini, one suspects that he often forgets he can fly. To prove this point, just startle him and he’ll disappear in a jiffy. You, the lay observer, will probably wonder where he’s vanished, and try to spot him high up in the forested canopy. We, however, would advise you to look lower, for this aviator prefers to dive underwater when danger threatens. If you’re patient, you’ll see his periscope emerge, scanning the horizon for any visible danger. If you don’t fall within that category (chances are, you won’t, for he’s far less wary than his suspicious duck neighbours), he’ll be back practising his breaststroke. You might also see him dive under, without warning, and might be tempted to think, considering his Genus name Tachybaptus (the same root as in baptism) that he’s found religion and gone for an impromptu holy dip. But, what he’s found answers a more prosaic concern: hunger! When he resurfaces, it’s often with a succulent fish in his bill, which would make for a tacky baptism ritual indeed. This bird also does a roaring side business as a ferryman. It isn’t uncommon to see a Little Grebe carrying some littler Grebes (mostly his own) on his back, ferrying them to school (a ‘school’ of fish…get it?) and back. You may also, occasionally, hear faint echoes of horses whinnying at the waterfront: you aren’t hallucinating… it’s just his unique breeding call. But then, sounding like the Cavalry is nothing out of the ordinary for the Airman who prefers the Navy!

Photograph: Kiran Poonacha Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy



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