Endemic birds are those that are found only within a confined geographical area and it is always a moment to cherish when you spot one of them!
Some years ago, George Mothi, my friend and a passionate bird lover took me on a day long birding sojourn in the Athirapalli region of Kerala. It was an unforgettable experience as we were lucky to see a wide range of avian beauties. As we were driving slowly in the forest, George stopped the car as he spotted some movement amongst the dense foliage.
Looking closer, I could clearly see a bird, about the size of a crow, blackish with shiny patches of blue on the forehead and shoulders. Its glossy blue plumage with iridescent sheen glinted beautifully in the light. As I watched, the bird was looking for something in the grass. It suddenly halted and….whistled! I couldn’t believe my ears as the sound was so human-like. It is no surprise then that it is often referred as a “Whistling Schoolboy!” Of all the songbirds I have heard, Malabar Whistling Thrush which is endemic to peninsular India, mostly the Western Ghats, is the most mellifluous of them all!
The great Salim Ali has commented: "Personally, I would choose as our most accomplished songster, the Greywinged Blackbird of the Himalayas. A number of its close relations, members of the thrush family including the Malabar Whistling Thrush and the Shama follow close on its heels”.
The Kadar tribes in the Anaimalai hills believe that when an elder in their community dies, he or she is reborn as a Malabar Whistling Thrush. When they enter the forest and listen to its call they know that they are not alone.
As always there is an interesting legend associated with this bird...
One day Lord Krishna was wandering along the banks of a mountain stream when he came to a lovely spot with a small waterfall. Enchanted with the beautiful ambiance, he started playing his flute. As he was playing the music, he fell asleep and the flute slipped from his fingers. It was not a restful sleep and when he awoke, he was shocked to see a ragged urchin standing ankle-deep in the pool with the sacred flute held onto his lips. Krishna was furious. “Come here, boy!” he shouted, “How dare you steal my flute and disturb my sleep! Don’t you know who I am?” The urchin replied “I did not steal your flute, lord. Had that been my intention, I would not have waited for you to wake up. It was only my love for your music that made me touch your flute. You will teach me to play, will you not? I will be your disciple.” Krishna’s anger melted away, and he was filled with compassion for the boy. He laid his hand on the boy’s mouth, saying, “Forever try to copy the song of the gods, but never succeed.” Then he touched the boy’s clothes and said, “Let the raggedness and dust disappear, and only the beautiful colours of Krishna remain.” And the boy was turned into a bird with dark blue brilliant body which we now know as the Malabar Whistling Thrush. Its melodious call continues to reverberate among beautiful, forested valleys...
Your lovely song
Bouncing off the trees
Straddling the wind
Echoes in my heart still…
Feel Free To Let The Whistling Schoolboy Know What You Think Of It... Here!