Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Communal feasting

My balcony overlooks the backyard of another home. Here grows a Sapota tree. Sapota or Chikoo [Manikara Sapota] is a fruit bearing tree which originated from Brazil and has spread all over the tropics and in India Chikoo is a major horticultural produce. The tree fruits twice a year and a well looked after tree bears fruit in thousands.

The owners of this tree are old and cannot reach the upper levels of the tree with ease and thus lots of fruits remain unplucked and I am ever grateful to them for their unintended generosity. Twice a year the tree fruits and it becomes veritable bird watcher’s paradise. I have on a previous occasion written about a family of squirrels who has laid claims to the fruits and how jealously they guard against predators, mainly the birds. It was a pleasure to watch the mostly futile attempts of these small animals trying to chase the birds away.

This year they seem to have found that it is waste of time to chase the birds away especially when there is plenty of food for all! Another new feature I noticed this year is that all the birds have begun feeding at the same time unlike previous years when they took turns. The green barbets came first and the others followed. This year I am able to watch all of them feeding at the same time. I had not noticed Mynas in the earlier years. This year there are at least ten of them. Most fastidious and elegant of all the feeders [according to me that is] is the Koel. This big bird perches next to the fruit and elegantly pecks without disturbing the fruit or letting it fall. The worst of the lot is the Parakeet. Not only is he very noisy [I tolerate his screech only because he is a bird, good looking one at that!] but also he is very wasteful. Parakeet’s beak is curved and designed to open pods and eat the seeds and not really to eat ripe fruits .In attempting eat, he ends up in dislodging the fruit which falls to the ground only to be eaten by the crow. More I see the crows, more I am impressed with their intelligence. Earlier I used to see them eating the fruit still attached to the branch. Now they wait below for the half eaten fruit to fall to the ground. They unlike the other birds are unafraid of us humans and can risk doing this, their easy way to get at the fruit.

Parakeet [Rose ringed] till recently was a visitor. Now he has become a resident. I was wondering at the unusually prolonged presence of this bird around my home when I discovered his nest! The preferred nesting site is a tree with a dead branch or one with some holes in the trunk. There is a dead coconut tree some 100 yards away and this dead tree stands some fifty feet tall. This is an ideal location for the parakeet’s nest. I have begun watching these birds sallying to and fro and by the way they are behaving there sure to be hungry chicks in there.

Chikoo is a not a fruit where one sings paeans of praise unlike Mango where people go crazy in their praise. But it is a great fruit not only in the abundance of yield but in taste and structure. There is very little wastage in this fruit. The skin is thin and the seeds are few and the rest is delicious flesh. No wonder I and my avian friends like it so much.


Dip said...

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and the joy of watching the birds.

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