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Whistler in the Woods


Lesser Whistling Duck, Kabini -


One doesn’t know if it’s a sign of innate good cheer, or just a touch of genetic flirtatiousness, but there’s one denizen of the Kabini wetlands who always announces his arrival by whistling a happy tune. Not just a normal, workmanlike toot-toot, but a properly melodious three note composition, with the final note pitched high and drawn out, almost like an operatic tenor. While not shy of whistling at everyone else, the Lesser Whistling Duck or Indian Whistling Duck is a rather shy artiste who flees at the slightest hint of familiarity. There’s no way you can creep up on him, autograph book in hand, without causing him to rapidly take wing. With birds of his own feather, however, he’s a gregarious chap, and likes doing most things with his large brood of friends and family. He prefers dinner outings at freshwater ponds and marshes, where he can nibble at aquatic plants and sneak in the odd insect tidbit. The build up to dinnertime is mostly spent chattering noisily with his fellow whistlers, and flying around in goose formation, looking for places to hang out. In fact, unlike other ducks, they have longer legs and also affect a goose-like demeanor when alert. Continuing in this vein of contrarian duck behavior is a rather drab sartorial sense which has all whistlers, male or female, wearing the same unisex uniform, without making an exception even during courtship. But then, this (non)fashion mantra perhaps stems from the philosophy that when you can make such great music, you don’t have to make a great fuss about what you wear.


Photograph: Jayanth Sharma Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

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