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Yet Another Fishermans Tale

Common Kingfisher, Coorg -

Most of us landlubbers, would love the idea of slipping into our trunks and plunging into a pristine pool as an appetite-building precursor to a sumptuous meal. Some of our neighbours, however, like the Common Kingfisher of Coorg, have the habit of dressing for dinner before taking the plunge. The smallest of his species found in Coorg, the Common Kingfisher is an avid fisherman who hunts for his meal in a way uniquely his own. If you see him sitting on a perch or hovering mid-air above the water, and bobbing his head up and down, it means he’s caught sight of a particularly tasty morsel swimming towards its ultimate destiny. The next instant, karma catches up with the poor fish, as the hunter dives beak-first into the water, opening his wings as he goes under. His eyes are protected by a transparent third eyelid membrane and his unique underwater ‘binocular vision’ helps him in accurately gauging the distance to his prey. Having seized his meal, he shoots out of the water to his perch, where he holds the fish by its tail and beats it into submission before swallowing it head-first. One would think that after a satisfying meal, the Kingfisher would happily break into song. But unfortunately he’s never taken music classes and makes do with a decidedly unmelodious chee-chee-chee, which we hope isn’t indicative of the taste of his lunch. Considering that this territorial bird must eat at least sixty percent of his body weight every day, an active Kingfisher population is an indicator of the health of the freshwater community and the standard of the water. His solitary existence is, however, not conducive to increasing the population, and on occasion, he goes courting by calling out to a comely lass and then chasing her till he catches up, whereupon he proceeds to feed her, thus proving that the way to a woman’s heart is also through her stomach.

Photograph: Sudhir Shivaram Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

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