This is one bird that has the potential to get a beginner hooked for life. It is one of the beauties of the Indian birding scene. Though there are other birds that are more stunning in plumage, majestic in appearance or score high on the cuteness factor, there is none that is such a pleasure to watch. I am talking of the Asian paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi).
As is common in the avian world, the male of the species is more extravagantly dressed than the female. And what extravagance it is! The fully grown male has a black head and a white body, with a narrow tail ending in long streamers that goes trailing behind it when it flies. To watch this guy in action is sheer delight and always reminds me of those graceful gymnasts who perform with ribbons. The ribbons seem to have a life of their own, and take their time to follow their master!
The female, though not as spectacular, is no ugly duckling (pun intended) herself. With her rust coloured body and wings and black crest, she matches her man in grace and beauty. Valley school is a great place to watch these beauties in action. The tree-covered area near the erstwhile arts village is where these birds can usually be found. During the last Bangalore bird race, we found a pair in that spot, and watched the male doing his display dance around the female. It was a beautiful sight, and it was with great reluctance that we tore ourselves from it to get on with the birdrace!
Apparently these birds are migrants from the north, and arrive in the south in winter, although there is also supposed to be a small resident population around Bangalore. During the winter months, the migrant and resident populations co-exist. Nandi Hills is another good spot to see these birds, and they probably do breed there. However, during the winter months I don’t need to go anywhere for a glimpse of these beauties, as they come right to me! I can spot them right from my balcony, in the adjacent vacant plot which has become wonderfully overgrown. This season I first saw the female on Oct 18th, and I usually wake up nowadays to its rasping call, which is music to my ears!