Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVII No. 2, May 1-15, 2017

Starlings in the Madras sky

Text: Chezheyan, Photos: Masilamani Selvam

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“For ten years I have been in police service here, but not even once have I seen anything like this. I have brought my family, friends and known persons and showed them this. Everybody was stunned. Even my superior officer who goes walking here, after seeing this, instructed us not to make any noise and disturb them.” This was what a police personnel working in this area had to say to me.

He was talking about Rosy Starlings, one among several birds species which migrate from Europe to India due to climate change and non-availability of food. They return home in March or April.

For two months, around 5 pm every day I have seen them flying in groups from Manapakkam, Ramapuram, but I could not find where they were roosting. After continuously following them for a few days, I finally found that they spent their nights in the big banyan and pipal trees in the playground near Police Office Road, next to Guindy-Butt Road. One evening, I went to see them. At dusk, one small group was coming towards me. Later, it became bigger and bigger; some thousands of Rosy Starlings danced in the sky.

DSC038_UOn their arrival, crows, the natives, vacated the banyan and pipal trees like kids who do not want their play area to be occupied by some new group.

I asked the police officer how long they had been here. He said for about two months. That means January and February. Before that…? I suppose till December they were roosting somewhere else around Chennai. Due to Cyclone Vardha in December, their roosting trees may have fallen. Searching for a new place, they may have found these banyan and pipal trees.

A local shopkeeper said that they flew up to Sriperumbudur, some 40 km away, in search of food. Around 6.15 pm, they returned ‘home’ and seemed to start discussing their day; their calls dominating the entire area till around 10 pm. (Courtesy: Madras Naturalists’ Society.)

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