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Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 16

Vol. 50 No. 1 January - February 2010

Acrocephalus orinus, the ‘cryptic’ warbler in question is known
Vol. 50 No. 1 January - February 2010 by only type specimen from an individual captured in late March
2006 at an artificial sedge bed on a sewage farm in SC Thailand,
Editorial Board until then this bird was known from type specimen collected on
Dr. A.M.K. Bharos Prof. S. Rangaswami 13th November 1867, at Rampur, Sutlej Valley, Himachal Pradesh.
Harish R. Bhat K. Mrutumjaya Rao Nothing is known about its breeding, stopover or wintering sites.
Dr. S.P. Bhatnagar A.N. Yellappa Reddy It has been suggested that this specimen represented an
Dr. A.K. Chakravarthy isolated population of A. stentoreus or an aberrant A. dumetorum;
Dr. Rajiv Saxena
Dr. Ranjan Kumar Das recent reexamination of morphology and mitochondrial DNA,
Dr. S. Devasahayam Dr. A.B. Shanbhag
Arunayan Sharma while showing specimen to be similar to A. dumetorum,
B.S. Kulkarni
S. Sridhar nevertheless support treatment as a separate species.
Arvind Mishra
Dr. Geeta S. Padate Dr. Abraham Verghese, FRES (London) However, A. orinus differs from A. dumetorum primarily in longer
broader bill (with swollen lower mandible), slightly darker and
Publisher : S. Sridhar more rufous tinged upper parts (fresh plumage), pointed
CONTENTS retricies, very small first primary, larger foot and claw. Moreover,
it is often confused with Booted-tree W arbler (Hippolais
 Note from the Publisher
caligata), yet another winter visitor.
 Enigma of Family Silviidae - the Old World Warblers
The classical debate of taxonomists has assumed further
 Articles
significance with the findings of D.T. Parkin et al in 2004, which
 Black-crested Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus) - An has placed A. orinus in the fourth clade identified as the “great
addition to the avifauna of Kalesar National Park, District reed-warbler group”. Until recently A. orinus has been thought
Yamunanagar, Haryana, India, by P. C. Tak and J. P. Sati to be possibly related to Paddyfield warbler (A. agricola) or
 Calling Pattern in Coppersmith Barbet Blunt winged Warbler (A. concinens). A recent reappraisal of A.
(Megalaima haemacephala), by Hiren Soni orinus, incorporating molecular and biometric data, placed this
 The “cryptic” warblers in Kanha Reserve, central intriguing taxon within the group of small “plain” Acrocephalus
India, with a detailed commentary on identifications warblers; it was closest to Blyth’s Reed-warbler (A.
and modern guides, by Kumar Ghorpadé dumetorum), but differed from it by 7.8% in DNA sequence.
 Correspondence Thus Ä. orinus appears to be a valid species and clearly
 Sighting records of Ruddy-breasted Crake (Porzana fusca) separate from the fourth clade identified by Parkin and
and Slaty-breasted Rail (Gallirallus striatus) in Vidarbha, by colleagues. Therefore, the key to identification is analysis of
Raju Kasambe, Neeraj Gade and Rohit Chakravarty DNA Sequence. The dissenting groups ought to engage in
substantive talks, so that a peaceful and dignified resolution of
Note from the Publisher the issue of identification of the ‘cryptic’ warbler is
accomplished. In doing so, the ambiguities and cynicisms can
Dear fellow Birdwatchers, be expunged once and for all and the reputation of Indian
Enigma of Family Silviidae -the Old World Warblers. Ornithology could be sustained.
In this issue we have published a critical comment by Kumar On the other hand, amateur birdwatchers, who follow birds
Ghorpadé, a senior ornithologist of our times. Ghorpadé has in their wild habitats should not shirk from arriving at names
expressed his serious reservations on the suggestion of the - for therein is the fun and pleasure of birdwatching. But
possible occurrence of Large-billed W arbler (Acrocephalus when not sure, they can suffix the name with “?”, and continue
orinus) in Kanha. He has also lamented the trend of some enjoy birdwatching. The task of delving into stuffed feathers
amateurs proclaiming ‘new findings’ without thorough research in a museum or matching nucleotides in a laboratory should
or articulating theories devoid of industriously gathered facts be left to the more serious minded. Even then, taxonomy is
or prudently analysed data. bound to be dynamic; the change factors being taxonomists
The taxonomy of family Sylvidae (Old World Warblers) is patently themselves. What else can explain the several revisions and
misunderstood with protracted and confused history of systematic reappraisals of a single species ‘nomenclature’ with time?
classifications. Successive changes in its classification are But to a hobbyist, what’s any way in a Latin name? All the
continuing even to this day, especially in the light of recent same, none can deny the fact that amateurs have contributed
molecular genetic data. Acrocephalus is more or less a immensely to ornithology and conservation - right or wrong
morphologically uniform, species rich genus of this family, with names. For that reason, we ought to leave the nitty-gritty
37 species which are mainly brownish or grey brown. In contrast, of naming and renaming of birds to the s y s t e m a t i s t s -
they are highly varied in size but less so in vocalizations. Recent if on ly they ar e still ar ound!
sequence data of cytochrome b genome however has revealed
three main phylogenic clades belonging to genus Acrocephalus; Thanking you,
plain species, striped species and large species. These Yours in Bird Conservation
categories are said to match well with conventional wisdom. S. Sridhar, Publisher, NLBW
Molecular information derived from marker genes has relatively Printed and Published bi-monthly by
reduced problems of character identification and convergence S. Sridhar at Navbharath Enterprises, Bangalore
in taxonomic studies. Molecular data has also lent a hand in for Private Circulation only.
resolving problems of phylogeny and taxonomy, but they cannot Address for Correspondence :
do so exclusively. Much research is still to be conducted over the Newsletter for Birdwatchers
coming years, making particular use of developing field No 10, Sirur Park B Street, Seshadripuram,
molecular genetics. Ornithologists of our country will need all Bangalore 560 020. Tel. 080 2356 1142, 2346 4682
their persuasive skills plus lots of genetic data to solve the E-mail : <>
problems associated with the identification of ‘cryptic’ warblers.
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 1

Black-crested Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus)

- An addition to the avifauna of Kalesar National Park,
District Yamunanagar, Haryana, India
P. C. Tak and J. P. Sati, Northern Regional Centre, Zoological Survey of India,
218 Kaulagarh Road, DehraDun, Uttarakhand., 248195. Email;

Presently, the Zoological Survey of India Dehra Dun, under and erect and forwardly pointed crest; olive-yellow upper parts;
its ‘Approved Plan of Research Work’, is conducting a series yellow under parts, becoming darker on breast; and largely
of ‘General Faunistic Surveys’ in Kalesar National Park brown tail. Doubtlessly, this bird was identified as Black-
(Kalesar NP) in district Yamunanagar of Haryana state. The crested Bulbul, Pycnonotus melanicterus (Gmelin, 1789) [after
authors are also participating regularly in these field surveys Manakadan & Pittie (2001)] (Photo). It is also known as Black-
at monthly interval. The park has been assigned IBA site headed Yellow Bulbul (Fleming et al. 1984; Ripley 1961) or
code IN-HR-03 under the criteria A1 (Globally Threatened Black-capped Bulbul (Wijesinghe 1991). There are three
species) & A3 (Biome-Restricted Assemblages) by Islam recognized races from the Indian subcontinent: P. m.
and Rahmani (2004). It is situated in northern Shiwalik tract flaviventris with black erect, pointed and forwardly directed
to the west of Yamuna River in NE Haryana, India and is c. crest, and black throat is widely distributed; P. m. gularis
200 km from Delhi; c. 150 km from Chandigarh; and c. 100 lacks crest but has ruby-red throat and occurs in Western
km from Dehra Dun. The altitude of the park ranges from Ghats; and P. m. melanicterus (the nominate race) with yellow
200 to 1,200 m and receives average rainfall of 970 mm. throat which is concoloured with remaining under parts is
The temperature in the park area varies from 30 C in winter found in Sri Lanka (Grimmett, 1998). Black-crested Bulbul
to 440 C in summer. It is the largest protected area in Haryana (Pycnonotus melanicterus) belong to the Least Concern (LC)
and is spread over an area of 46.8 km2 (11,570 acres). category as evaluated by BirdLife International (2009)- the
official Red list Authority for birds for IUCN.
The Kalesar forest is primarily a Sal (Shorea robusta) forest
with other predominant tree species such as: Khair (Acacia Black-crested Bulbul is found in southern Asia from India
catechu), Shesham (Dalbergia sissoo), Semal (Bombax and Sri Lanka east to Indonesia. This is a bird of forest and
ceiba), Amaltas (Cassia fistula), Bahera (Terminalia dense scrub. It is about 19 cm in length with the foregoing
belerica), Rohani (Mallotus sp.), etc. Commonly occurring diagnostics. The flight is bouncing and woodpecker-like.
shrub species of the area are: Adhatoda sp., Murraya sp. Juveniles are duller. It builds its nest in a bush; two to four
Zizyphus sp., Dendrocalamus strictus etc. The important eggs is a typical clutch-size. It feeds on fruits and insects.
grasses being: Saccharum sp., Chrysopogon sp., In the Indian subcontinent, it is a fairly common resident of
Heteropogon sp., Erianthus sp., etc. Himalayas from Simla in Himachal Pradesh to Arunachal
Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, S. Assam hills, disjunctly E
On 26th August 2009, while carrying out the general faunistic
Ghats (Orrisa to Andhra) and hills of Madhya Pradesh
survey work in Bara Sot- Kohni Mor area of Kalesar with
(Pachmarhi, Chhindwara and Bastar districts), from the terai
GPS reading [on an etrex GPS of Garmin make]: Elevation
up to 1500 m (2400 m), uncommon in the southwest from
343 m; N 30 20.085; E 077 04.410, at around 1000 hrs we
plains up to 1000 m, locally to 1200 m; E. Bangladesh
spotted a single bulbul puffing its wings after bath, in water
(Sylhet, Tippera and Chittagong); South China and SE Asia.
accumulated in a depression along the seasonal stream
It occurs in forest with plenty of undergrowth, dense
(Sot) and shifting from one twig to another in fairly thick
secondary jungle, and scrub country (Ali and Ripley 1971;
undergrowth of mixed shrubs. At first, we thought that it
Grimmett et al. 1998; Kazmierczak 2000; Grewal et al.
was nothing but Red-vented Bulbul (P. cafer), which was
2002; Rasmussen and Anderton 2005).
common this morning in the area. But, to confirm that
whether it is P. cafer or P. leucogenys (both of which are It is a member of bulbul family (Pycnonotidae) of passerine
otherwise common in the area), we observed the bird with birds. The family Pycnonotidae is represented by a total of
the aid of field binoculars [8 x 40 power of ‘Nikon’ make], 168 species throughout the world, of which 40 species belong
the forwardly directed black crest on head of this bird was to the genus Pycnonotus (Silby and Monroe 1993). The
clearly visible. For a while, this led us towards the P. genus Pycnonotus is represented by 12 species in the Indian
leucogenys. But, when we examined head region of this sub-continent Grimmett et al. (1998). Of these, only four
bird in a side view for its white cheek-patch, unexpectedly species, viz., Pycnonotus cafer (Red-vented Bulbul), P.
we found that the white cheek-patch of P. leucogenys was jocosus (Red-whiskered Bulbul), P. leucogenys (Himalayan
not present. This increased our inquisitiveness. In the Bulbul), and P. leucotis (White-eared Bulbul) are known from
meantime, we approached the bird a little closer. Now, the Haryana state (< 2006>). As far as the avifauna
bird was in a full view with its pale yellow eyes (conspicuous of Kalesar National Park and W ildlife Sanctuary is
at close range) contrasting with glossy black head, throat concerned, there are only two bird lists: one by Kalsi (1998)
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 2

dealing with 161 species and the other by Sharma (2006) Grewal, B., Harvey, B. and Pfister, O. 2002. A Photographic Guide
incorporating 304 species. to the Birds of India and the Indian Subcontinent, including
Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka & The
However, in all these foregoing checklists the Black-crested Maldives. Berkeley Books Pte Ltd, 130 Joo Seng Road, #06-
Bulbul (P. melanicterus) does not feature. Hence, the present 01/03, Singapore 368357. Pp.1-512.
sight record of this species from Kalesar National Park is Grimmett, R., Inskipp, C. and Inskipp, T. 1998. Birds of the
not only an addition to the avifauna of the park but also is Indian Subcontinent. Oxford University Press.
an extension of its distributional range to the state of Islam, M. Z. and Rahmani, A. R. 2004. Important Bird Areas in
Haryana. India: Priority sites for conservation.Indian Bird Conservation
Network: Bombay Natural History Society and BirdLife
International (UK). Pp. xviii+1133.
We are grateful to Dr. Ramakrishna, Director, Zoological Kalsi, R. S. 1998. Birds of Kalesar Wildlife Sanctuary, Haryana,
Survey of India for encouragement throughout and to Shri P. India. Forktail, 13(1998): 29-32.
T. Bhutia, Officer-in-Charge, Zoological Survey of India, Kazmierczak, Krys. 2000. Storks In: A field guide to the Birds of
Dehra Dun for various facilities. Thanks are also due to all India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and
the members of the various survey parties for their unstinting Maldives. Om Book Service.
help in field. Last but not the least, we are thankful to the Manakadan, R. and Pittie, A. 2001. Standardised common and
Chief Wildlife Warden, Haryana for giving permission to scientific names of the birds of the Indian subcontinent.
undertake various surveys and to the Wildlife Department Buceros, 6(1): i-ix + 1-37.
of Haryana state for various courtesies. Rasmussen, P.C. and Anderton, J.C. 2005. Birds of South Asia.
The Ripley Guide. Vol 1 and 2. Smithsonian Institute and
References Lynx Edicions, Washington D.C. and Barcelona.
Ali, S. and Ripley, S. D. 1971. Handbook of the birds of India and Ripley, S. D. 1961. A Synopsis of the Birds of
Pakistan (vol. 6). Bombay: Oxford University Press. India and Pakistan. Second edition,
BirdLife International. 2009. Species factsheet: Pycnonotus Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay.
melanicterus, Downloaded from http://www/ on Silby, C. G. and Monroe, B. L. Jr. 1993. A
2/9/2009. Checklist of Birds of the World. http://
Fleming, R. L., Sr., Fleming, R. L., Jr., and Bangdel, L. S. (1984).
Birds of Nepal. Third edition. Avalok, Kathmandu.© 2006 Wijesinghe, D. P. 1991. Checklist of Birds of Sri
copyright @ Lanka, Ceylon Bird Club, Colombo.

Calling Pattern in Coppersmith Barbet

(Megalaima haemacephala)
HIREN SONI, Lecturer (Animal Science), Ashok & Rita Patel Institute of Integrated Study & Research in
Biotechnology & Allied Sciences (ARIBAS), New Vidyanagar – 388 121 (Gujarat), E-mail:

Communication sounds, and studies have shown that they have the ability
to use vocalizations to convey contextual information about
Communication is an integral part of animal behaviour. Birds
motivation levels (Gottfried et al., 1985).
communicate with each other primarily by means of visual
and/or vocal signals accompanied by sound, which is an Sound signals in birds may be divided into songs and calls.
ideal method for communication over long distances too. Functionally songs that are generally produced by the male
Vocal signals play an important role in the life of birds in a during the breeding period, play a role in territory
variety of aspects like pair maintenance, parent-offspring establishment and maintenance and in mate attraction, while
interactions, cohesiveness among flock or family members, calls are used in all seasons by both sexes and play an
and threat situations. Birds use songs for territory important role in their social life, namely social contact,
advertisement and mate acquisition, whereas calls are given threats and danger. These are more deeply involved than
in specific contexts such as contact, mating, threat, songs with immediate issues of life and death (Geoff, 1996;
begging, flight and alarming conditions (Kumar, 2003; Setthi Marler, 2004). Although vocal communication has been well-
and Bhatt, 2008). A number of avian species communicate studied in songbirds, nowadays the primary focus has been
with a set of acoustic signals. Each of these signals is on temperate breeding season vocalizations, particularly on
thought to be unique, having both its own physical structure complex songs (Hinde, 1969). Recently, with increasing
and its own inherent ‘messages’ and associated ‘meanings’ research on tropical wintering migrants, more is known about
(Smith, 1965, 1968). Birds possess a unique repertoire of communication outside the breeding season. The complexity
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 3

of avian social organization in the non-breeding season is of this family are placed in the genus Megalaima, except
becoming apparent, with vocalizations playing an important Fire-tufted Barbet (Psilopogon pyrolophus) and the Brown
role (Catchpole and Slater, 1995; Kroodsma and Miller, Barbet (Calorhamphus fuliginosus) (Wikipedia, 2009a).
The Coppersmith Barbet, Crimson-breasted Barbet or
Sometimes individuals of certain bird species defend Coppersmith (Megalaima haemacephala Muller) is a sparrow-
territories, employing simple call-notes to advertise sized bird (~17 cm), more dumpy, heavy-billed grass-green
territories, and more complex songs during prolonged with crimson breast and forehead, and yellow throat with
negotiations of territory boundaries. Songs may serve as green streaked yellowish underparts; best known for its
an indicator of a bird’s body conditions too. Vocalizations metronomic call like a coppersmith striking a metal with a
are also important in establishment of territories, which is a hammer. The bird is a widespread resident of South Asia
prerequisite for overwinter survival in some migrant species and some parts of South-East Asia including Indian
of birds. Thus vocal behaviour influences local population Subcontinent; mostly inhabit dry and moist deciduous
dynamics too (Katti, 2001). biotopes, gardens, parks, groves and sparse open
woodlands; chisel-out a hole inside a tree to build their nests.
Need for Study
The species is primarily an arboreal in habit and a frugivorous
Songs and calls are one of the fascinating aspects of bird in diet, but may feed on insects too (Ali and Ripley, 1995,
biology. Many neurobiologists, ethologists and ecologists 1996). The red fore-head, blue head-sides, yellow eye-ring
use bird songs as a model to understand various aspects of and throat-patch with streaked underside and green
phonation, sexual selection and behavioural ecology of birds. upperparts are one of the fairly distinctive characteristics of
In the Indian Subcontinent, these types of studies are an adult bird; while juveniles are somewhat duller and lack
uncommon except some imperative studies in past (Katti, the red patches on their heads (Ali, 2002; Ripley, 2005).
2001; Kumar, 2003; Ramanujam, 2003; Setthi and Bhatt, The sexes are alike; found solitary, in pairs, or in small
2008). Studies on the acoustic communication of bird groups (loose parties); occasionally on fruiting Ficus (Banyan
species in India, however, have been rather few as yet. Only and Peepul) trees, be it in a wild outlying forest or noisy
few Indian bird species, such as Oriental magpie robin city; fond of sunning themselves in the morning on bare top
(Copsychus saularis), Red vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer), branches of tall trees; often flitting about to sit next to each
Black headed starling (Sturnus pagodarum), Hill myna other. The flight is straight, with rapid flaps with short
(Gracula religiosa) and Greenish leaf warbler (Phylloscopus truncated tail (distinctly triangular in flight silhouette)
trochiloides) have been studied in detail (Kumar, 2003). (Wikipedia, 2009b).
Besides, India has a large number of songbirds, which are Pattern of Vocalization
known for their elaborate, complex and varied songs and
The call of a Coppersmith barbet is a familiar, loud,
calls. In India, systematic studies on the structure and
monotonous, metallic ringing tuk…tuk…tuk (or tunk) or
sociobiological significance of bird signals are scanty and
resonant mechanical tok…tok…tok with a slower rate,
have been carried out in only a few species (Kumar and
reminiscent of a copper-sheet being beaten by a
Bhatt, 2000, 2001; Katti, 2001; Ishtiaque and Rahmani,
coppersmith, giving the bird its name; being repetitive
2005). Thus, many Indian bird species are yet to be studied
monotonously for longer periods, starting with a subdued
with respect to their detailed acoustic behaviour and the
tuk and building upto an even volume and tempo; the latter
need therefore arises to fill this gap.
varying from 1.5 to 2.0 per second (Ali, 2002; Kazmierczak,
Till date, many Indian bird species are still waiting for a 2000). The beak remains shut during each call - a patch of
proper study of their acoustical characterization including bare skin on both sides of the throat inflates and collapses
Barbets. In the light of the above background, the author with each tuk like a rubber bulb, with much body and tail
planned to study the call repertoire of Coppersmith barbet. shaking. The bird is not very vocal in cold weather - a spell
The information retrieved (number of calls, call duration, call of rain or cold immediately silences them, but it is “one of
frequency and time-interval / call-pause) during the present India’s most familiar sounds in the hot season” (Grewal
study would be a contributory tool to previous studies on, 2002).
acoustic communication and vocal signaling among selected
Study Area
Indian bird species. Perhaps, the present effort will help us
to understand the calling pattern in Coppersmith barbet The present observation was made at Anand Sewage-fed
(Megalaima haemacephala Muller) in detail. Pond (ASFP), Anand, Gujarat (220 35’ 01.29’’N Latitude;
720 57’ 00.10’’ E Longitude), which is a permanent sewage
Description of Species
disposal site, administered by Anand Municipality for the
A family of birds comprising the Asian barbets, the last 30 years; situated about 2 km away from Anand town
Megalaimidae (Subfamily Megalaimatinae), was once united on its north. The entire area is adjoined by National Highway
with all other barbets in family Capitonidae (Short and Horne, No. 8 northwards, by outskirt fringes of Anand town on east
2002). There are 26 species of Asian barbets living in wooded and south, and by lush green natural landscape westwards.
areas from Tibet to Indonesia including India. All the members The terrestrio-aquatic landscape is endowed with four sewage
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 4

figs and insects) among branches of a tree. After feeding on

figs (and possibly insects too), it settled on a single branch
in shadowed canopy under the safe cover. Initially, it was a
bit difficult for me to trace-out the bird, but later I could manage
as the bird had reconciled itself in a perceptible spot.
After a while, the bird started calling. The entire call-period
of a bird lasted for about fifty eight minutes (07.58 to 08.56
hrs) with intermittent calls. During the calling period, the
total number of calls in each call-phase, calling period (call
duration in seconds), call-frequency (number of calls per
second) and the time-interval between two successive call-
periods (in seconds as well as in minutes) were documented.
The data was entered in MS-Excel (MS-Office 2003(R)) and
analyzed later to obtain the minimum, maximum, mean ( X )
and standard deviation (S.D.) with the help of a registered
version of MathType-52(R) (2001) (Design Science, Inc., CA,
U.S.A.). In the present article, the data on calling pattern of
Coppersmith barbet has been presented in the form of a
dependant observation, as only one individual of the bird
Fig. 1. Location map of Anand Sewage-fed Pond (ASFP), species was followed for the present study. During my efforts,
Anand, Gujarat I could succeed in assortment of very meager data on calling
bodies (segregated but canalized by interconnected pattern of Coppersmith barbet, as the individual of a
channels). It attracts many migratory waterfowls like Ducks, mentioned bird species flew away distantly from the
Geese, Plovers, Sandpipers, Spoonbills, etc. including observation spot after an hour.
Greater flamingos, which inhabits the area for about 6 to 8 Outcome
months in a single annual cycle. Besides the migratory
Table 1 shows that the bird (Coppersmith barbet) had
waterbirds, many of the resident species like Cormorants,
generated intermittent calls (n = 16) within a time period of
Egrets, Herons, Ibises, Jacanas, Lapwings, Moorhens,
58 minutes (3480 seconds) (07.58 to 08.56 hrs), The
Stilts, Storks, Waterhens, etc. stay throughout the year.
minimum number of calls produced by the bird was only 2
An average depth of the entire wetland measures around 2
(at 8.30 hrs); while the maximum number (279) were recorded
to 3 feet, surrounded by mixed scrub forest, wasteland,
at 8.33 hrs, with an augment of 277 calls per observation
and some intermittent patches of an agricultural land,
period, which could be an indication of call-expansion
interspersed with permanent human settlement. The
strategy (increase in the number of calls by unit time) by the
profuse growth of scrubs and trees harbours a good number
bird. Correspondingly, the minimum duration of a call was
of some resident terrestrial birds too. The entire area spans
found to be only 0.8 second, which gained peak with 118.5
about 4 to 5 sq km, traversed by a permanent railway line
seconds later, which may signify an extensive calling period
tracks (Mumbai-Ahmedabad). The water quality of the
of 117.7 seconds in the form of a call-lasting phase. Similarly,
wetland is found to be rich in organic matter, which might
the lowest call-frequency of a birdcall was found to be only
play a vital role in providing a perpetual food source to the
2.05 calls per second (at 7.58 hrs), whereas the utmost peak
prevailed aquatic biota including waterbirds (Fig. 1).
was exhibited by 3.08 calls per second (at 8.45 hrs), which
Data Collection could be an intimation of call-lagging approach by the bird.
This observation may reveal that as the time-length increase,
During the early morning hours of 26th April 2009, I was
so as the call-frequency (number of calls per unit time), which
conducting an avifaunal survey around ASFP. After surveying
may prove the interdependent relation between time and call
diverse landscapes of an area for an hour, suddenly I heard
(Fig. 2).
a call of Coppersmith barbet. I focussed my binoculars (10
x 1000m, Tasco(R), Kansas, U.S.A.) through tree canopies During the present study, it was also interesting to note that
and covers around me to spot an individual. After a little in-between two consecutive call-periods, the bird exhibited
effort, I succeeded in locating an adult (a mature) individual a call-pause. Initially, during the peak morning hours, the
of Coppersmith barbet. The bird was perching on the most pause between two calls was consistent (120 to 180
top outer canopy of a tree viz. Ficus racemosa (Syn. Ficus seconds), but with the progress of time, the period of call-
glomerata Roxb., Family - Moraceae), popularly known as pause peaked by almost 7.1 fold (1260 seconds). The least
‘Cluster Fig Tree’ or ‘Goolar Fig’; native to Australasia, call-pause period recorded was from 60 seconds to 120
South-East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. I observed seconds with an erratic silence by the bird with 240 to 360
the bird persistently for five minutes. During my observation seconds. The present observation may reflect the sporadic
period, the bird was found searching for the food (probably call-pause stratagem by Coppersmith barbet irrespective of
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 5

contiguous factors like ecology, environment and biology of was found to produce 65.25 (±70.53) calls within 58 minutes;
the species. During the observation period (N), in total the each call lasted for 28.4 (±30.41) seconds; 2.37 (±0.22)
bird produced 1044 calls within 453.6 seconds at an average calls per second, and utilization of 210 (±293.12) seconds
of 2.37 calls per second (D). The total time-interval among as a call-pause period between two succeeding call-periods
all the calls was found to be 56 minutes (3360 seconds) on (Table 1).
a cumulative stand at an average of about 2 minutes (120
seconds) used by the bird as a spare-time for calling (Fig.
3). On an average, the studied bird (Coppersmith barbet)

Table 1. Detailed analyses on calling pattern in Coppersmith Barbet

Time No. of Calling Period Call Frequency Time Interval Time Interval
(hr.min)Calls (Secs) (Calls / Sec) (Secs) (Mins)
7.58 23 11.2 2.05 180 3
8.01 146 66.1 2.21 180 3
8.04 16 6.6 2.42 1260 21
8.25 113 49.5 2.28 120 2
8.27 77 34.0 2.26 180 3
8.30 2 0.8 2.50 60 1
8.31 114 50.0 2.28 60 1
8.32 47 20.1 2.34 60 1
8.33 279 118.5 2.35 180 3
8.36 41 18.8 2.18 120 2
8.38 24 9.9 2.42 120 2
8.44 46 19.6 2.35 360 6
8.45 4 1.3 3.08 60 1
8.49 52 22.0 2.36 240 4
8.53 31 12.9 2.40 180 3
8.56 29 12.3 2.36 0 0
N= C= c= D= T= t=
58 minutes 1044 453.6 2.37 3360 56

Min (<) 2 0.8 2.05 60 1

Max (>) 279 118.5 3.08 1260 21
Mean ( X ) 65.25 28.4 2.37 210 3.5
S.D. 70.53 30.41 0.22 293.12 4.89

N: Total duration of calling period (Minutes); C: Total number of calls; c: Total duration of calls (Seconds); D: Number of
calls per second; T: Total time-interval of all calls (Seconds); t: Total time-interval of all calls (Minutes); Min: Minimum;
Max: Maximum; S.D.: Standard Deviation

enhanced further and promoted by ornithologists of the State
The present findings reveal some of the factual information as well as the Country to facilitate research on differentiation
about the calling pattern in Coppersmith barbet. The of sexes (based on the pattern of calls and signals by either
observations made during the present study may enrich our mate) in morphologically identical bird species like Barbets,
knowledge regarding the communication value of calls and Cuckoos and Warblers. From the present study, it may be
signals in hole-nesting birds like Coppersmith, and be used inferred that the calling pattern in Coppersmith barbet is
as supplementary information to study the interface between merely an independent vocal behaviour (calls and signals),
behavioural, ecological and environmental factors. Such irrespective of an adjacent environmental, ecological as well
types of studies on the bird calls (vocalizations) may be as biological factors. In conclusion, I would like to state that
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 6

such types of studies are still at a premature stage in some Kazmierczak, K. 2000. A Field Guide to the Birds of India. Pica Press,
provinces of Indian Subcontinent, as the birdcalls create a East Sussex, U.K. 352 p.
number of problems by themselves. Therefore, such types Kroodsma, D.E. and E.H. Miller. 1996. Ecology and Evolution of Acoustic
of observations should be treated just as a preparatory Communication in Birds. Cornell University Press, London.
groundwork as a suggestive segment in the field of Kumar, A. 2003. Acoustic communication in birds - Differences in songs
and calls, their production and biological significance. Resonance.
ornithology in the Indian Subcontinent and its adjacent
(June): 44-55.
Kumar, A. and D. Bhatt. 2000. Vocal signals in a tropical avian species,
References the Red vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer): Their characteristics
and importance. Journal of Bioscience. 25: 387–396.
Ali, S. 2002. The Book of Indian Birds. 13th Revised Edition. Oxford Kumar, A. and D. Bhatt. 2001. Characteristics and significance of calls
University Press, Mumbai. 326 p. in Oriental magpie robin. Current Science. 80: 77–82.
Ali, S. and S.D. Ripley. 1995. A Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Marler, P. 2004. Bird calls: A cornucopia for communication. In: Nature’s
Subcontinent. Bombay Natural History Society. Oxford University Music: The Science of Birdsong (Eds. Marler, P. and H. Slabbekorn.),
Press, Mumbai. Elsevier, California. pp. 132–176.
Ali, S. and S.D. Ripley. 1996. A Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Ramanujam, M.E. 2003. On the “Long call” of the Indian Great Horned or
Subcontinent. 2nd Edition. (Reprint with Corrections). Bombay Natural Eagle-Owl Bubo bengalensis (Franklin). Zoos’ Print Journal. 18
History Society. Oxford University Press, Mumbai. (7): 1131-1134.
Catchpole, C.K. and P.J.B. Slater. 1995. Bird Song – Biological Themes Ripley, S.D. 2005. Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Vol. 2.
and Variations. Cambridge University Press, U.K. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Editions. pp. 279-280.
Geoff, S. 1996. Bird songs and calls of Britain and northern Europe. In: Setthi, V.K. and D. Bhatt. 2008. Call repertoire of an endemic avian
Bird Songs and Calls of Britain and Northern Europe. Harper Collins, species, the Indian chat Cercomela fusca. Current Science. 94
London, (9): 1173-1179.
Gottfried, B.M., K. Andrews and M. Haug. 1985. Breeding robins and nest Short, L.L. and J.F.M. Horne. 2002. Family Capitonidae (Barbets). In:
predators: Effect of predator type and defense strategy on initial Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 7. Jamacars to
vocalization patterns. Wilson Bulletin. 97: 183–190. Woodpeckers. (Eds. Del Hoyo J., A. Elliott and D.A. Christie, 2004)
Grewal, B., B. Harvey and O. Pfister. 2002. Photographic Guide to the (ISBN 84-87334-37-7) Lynx Editions, Barcelona.
Birds of India. Periplus Editions. p. 85. Smith, W.J. 1965. Message, meaning and context in ethology. American
Hinde, R.A. 1969. Bird Vocalizations: Their Relations to Current Problems Naturalist. 99: 405–409.
in Biology and Psychology. Cambridge University Press, New York. Smith, W.J. 1968. Message-meaning analysis. In: Animal Communication
Ishtiaq, F. and A.R. Rahmani. 2005. The forest owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti): (Ed. Sebeok, T.A.). Indiana University Press, Bloomington pp. 44–
Vocalization, breeding biology and conservation. Ibis. 147: 197–205. 60.
Katti, M. 2001. Vocal communication and territoriality during the non- Wikipeida. 2009a. Web source:
breeding season in a migrant warbler. Current Science. (Special Accessed on July 5, 2009.
Section: Kalakad–Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve). 80 (3): 419-423. Wikipeida. 2009b. Web source:
Coppersmith_Barbet. Accessed on July 5, 2009.

Manuscript for publication should be sent (in duplicate) by post or courier to :

Newsletter for Birdwatchers
No 10, Sirur Park B Street, Seshadripuram, Bangalore 560 020, India.
along with a soft copy (in MS Word format only) via E-mail to <>
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 7

The “cryptic” warblers in Kanha Reserve, central India, with

a detailed commentary on identifications and modern guides
Kumar Ghorpadé, Post-Graduate Teacher & Research Associate, Department of Agricultural Entomology, University of
Agricultural Sciences, Krishi Nagar, Dharwar 580 005, Karnataka, India.E-mail:

The suggestion made of the possibility of occurrence of library, museum, field, and scientific meetings) to confirm or
Acrocephalus orinus Oberholser, 1905 (= A. macrorhynchus question these sight records (see also Rasmussen & Anderton
Hume, 1869; Large-billed Reed-Warbler, Hume’s Reed-Warbler) 2005b, 2: 27-30). These authors also cautioned (cf ibid., 2: 19-
in the Kanha Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh) by Raju et al. 20) that “Study skins are essential references for bird illustrators,
(2009) deserved critical comment by a Systematic Ornithologist because photographs do not provide necessary information on
with adequate working experience on Indian Ornithology. I make scale and proportions, they may distort features, and they cannot
an attempt here to do likewise, using this claim to also highlight be relied on for color comparisons. Most published photographs
the seriousness of making absolutely correct identifications lack information on provenance, many are of ill-kept captives,
based on specialist expertise and sufficient data back-up, as I and photos of birds from elsewhere (and thus often different
had pointed out earlier (Ghorpadé 2002a,b). See also subspecies) are often misleadingly presented in books of a
Himmatsinhji’s (1998) earlier comments on Ghorpadé (1998). particular area. Many bird taxa for the region have never yet been
Hume (1869) and Oberholser (1905) have not been consulted photographed” [especially all ‘races’ of each polytypic species—
by me yet. As Dickinson (2003: 586) footnoted, A. orinus K.G.]. “. . . few photographs exist for many lesser-known birds,
Oberholser (1905: 899) was proposed as a replacement name especially the skulking species of forest undergrowth. While
(nom. nov.) for A. macrorhynchus Hume (1869: 357, as the best bird illustrators can create accurate and life-like
Phyllopneuste). He then (1871: 31) transferred it to Acrocephalus depictions from bird skins and photographs alone, field
which was precoccupied by an earlier identical binomen (of experience and the sketches, notes, and photographs that
Müller 1853). Dickinson also suggested orinus (Hume’s Reed result from it are priceless” [emphasis mine—K.G.].
Warbler) as probably being extinct, in his World Checklist. My
doubt about A. orinus in Kanha has been vindicated by Raju et Bates & Lowther were our early expert bird photographers. They
al. (2009b) in the follow-up article with more photos but wrote (1952b: xxi) something in their fine book on Kashmir’s
inadequate “morphometrics”! Nothing about the 1st primary and breeding birds which must impact current photographers of
other more diagnostic characters to confirm A. dumetorum, this ours. They quoted Stuart Baker as commenting that “our
“guess” supposedly backed up by Balakrishnan’s 28-year knowledge of the nesting habits of nearly 12 per cent [ = ca
expertise with live birds he has ringed thousands of “in various 150± species—K.G. ] of the birds of India is still a complete
parts of India.” No proof given also that the warblers illustrated blank—an astounding proportion; while there are many more
in both their articles were the same species! birds about which our knowledge is incomplete, even as to the
simplest facts.” Much, he says, still remains to be learnt by our
With the unfortunate trend of recent times, in India particularly, field naturalists regarding incubation and other details. Bates
of an “ahimsa” attitude in biological sciences (no killing), & Lowther go on to write—”Bird photographers are essentially
scientific enquiry and refined methodology have taken a ‘life- field naturalists and many of these required details are to be
threatening blow’ that hurts our expertise and ultimately our gleaned from observation through their hiding-tents.
careers and our utility to public needs and good science (see Unfortunately there are numbers of naturalists who never
also Prathapan et al. 2009). Replacement of in the hand venture into print. Would they only impart their knowledge
specimens by sight records (some supplemented by through some such medium . . . the percentage quoted above
photographs of variable quality) has turned serious Ornithology would be greatly reduced if not altogether eliminated.” Bates &
(taxonomy) into a guessing game for enthusiastic amateurs Lowther (1952a) wrote also on the history of bird photography
armed with binoculars, cameras and a fertile imagination to in India, and, that other accomplished photographer, Sâlim Ali’s
proclaim several “new” findings for which they demand credit close friend and benefactor, Loke Wan Tho, reviewed Bates &
and “fame.” The presumption of current amateurs and laymen, Lowther’s book (Loke 1952a) on Kashmir birds and wrote on
still novices (even with their modern ‘DIY’ equipment), of their flash photography (Loke 1952b). The obituaries of Lowther
being equal to long experienced professional scientists and (Bates 1952) and of Bates (Ali, 1962) are also recommended
technicians, is a dangerous trend of recent decades. As also is to current birders. A note by the editors of the JBNHS (Sâlim Ali,
their nonchalant dismissal of the need for thorough research via Setna & Santapau) then, as a tailpiece to Bates & Lowther’s
observation and experiment to prove theories, based on facts (1952a: 784) article, mentions E. Comber (1900, JBNHS 13:
industriously gathered and analysed. The Rasmussen & 279) advising long long ago that “Written descriptions of the
Anderton (2005) guide is a distinct improvement over earlier materials, form and structure of nests can be enormously
such ‘DIY manuals’ that were created minus scientific rigour (by increased in value if supplemented by pictures of them taken
‘citation inbreeding’) or original research. When these presumed while in situ; and now that the means of taking snap-shots is
“new, true and important” (?) amateur findings are formally so simplified and brought to such perfection, every field
published, as was this record which is the focus of this naturalist should provide himself with one.” Data on the nesting
commentary, this in turn demands critical enquiry by real experts and food of our bird species is a major requirement even today.
trained in the techniques for decades (in classroom, laboratory, The “Diary on the nesting behaviour of Indian Birds” by Sathan
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 8

& Pandi (see review in Indian Birds 5: 56-57) could be a healthy measurements that do not present infallible data, is still open
and welcome trend towards filling this lacuna, if the data to question. My “Letters” dismissing the Sibley & Monroe
presented by them is credible and scientifically factual. “revolution” in bird phylogeny (Ghorpadé 1998a,b,c) have been
vindicated ultimately (the Grimmett et al. 1999 sequence now
The data presented by Raju et al. (2009a,b) was based on being negated). Pure molecular biology “characters” will not
some sightings made in April-May 2008 and April 2009, by David give final conclusions on phylogeny and relationships. Richard
Raju who managed to take some photographs. These Dawkins (2006: 270-283) explained this DNA input in taxonomy
observations were made in the Kanha reserve situated in the lucidly and how molecular resemblances mainly help clear the
SE. corner of the now curtailed Madhya Pradesh State and “bugbear of convergence” for the taxonomist. But ‘trees’
located between Mandla and Balaghat to its N. and S. (cladograms) possible through DNA sequencing, for that most
respectively. As a precise indication of the biogeography of this parsimonious (“economic meanness”), are a huge number of
area, it lies in the Central Highlands area, in its eastern half possibilities (permutations and combinations) in relation to
(sub-area) and more precisely in the Maikala Range—Chhota the number of taxa used for DNA research. Cyber ‘short-cuts’
Nagpur sub-sub-area (see Ghorpadé 2001: map) dominated are possible to “explode large numbers” but if the other
by sal forest (Shorea robusta). The river Wainganga that flows diagnostic characters (morphological, bio-ecological,
from south to north is the biogeographical barrier that separates behavioural, etc.) are not synthesized (as ‘total evidence’) along
the W. and E. Central Highlands sub-areas, i.e., the teak with molecular ‘computer games,’ true relationships elude the
(Tectona grandis) from sal ecosystems, respectively. Raju et critical, honest biosystematist. Torsten Dikow (2009), working
al. (2009a,b) give a few notes on measurements, coloration, on the phylogeny of robber-flies (Insecta: Diptera: Asilidae) of
microhabitats (bamboo clumps, mango and sal trees, grass) the world also concluded that “a DNA sequence study based
and calls, besides behaviour. They invited comments from on limited exemplars of a hyperdiverse insect taxon is a
Messrs Harvey, Kennerley and Round, none of whom actually misguided exercise.” Dawkins (2006: 275) wrote that “taxonomy
confirmed it as A. orinus? They mentioned that “initial feedback” was one of the most rancorously ill-tempered of biological fields”
suggested it as a “Clamorous Reed-Warbler.” No scientific and that his late bete noire, Stephen Gould, had characterized
name was given but this now is A. stentoreus (Hemprich & taxonomy with the phrase “names and nastiness.” But, as a
Ehrenberg), 1833, s. str.; it actually being extralimital! Then, by long serving member of this “beleaguered band of brothers,
a process of “elimination” they arrived at an A. orinus like the early Christians” (Dawkins op cit.) I do not trust or depend
“possibility.” I do not see any data which unequivocally supports only upon DNA sequencing (which protein is best?); the
orinus; the photos of Raju et al. (2009a) show what looks like biogeography and evohistory, besides others mentioned
A. brunnescens. Bates & Lowther (1952b: 118-120, pl. 29) above, must also be analysed in conjunction. The best proof of
detailed the nesting of this species and their photo of the bird common ancestry (evolutionary relationship) is derived from
on the nest is no different from Raju’s (note bill, tail tip, face the maximum number of characters shared by two taxa (species
markings). The April 2009 sighting and trapping then led the or higher). DNA sequences are not necessarily “the gospel
authors to presume the warblers to be A. dumetorum based documents of all life” (Dawkins op cit., p. 272) and we need to
on Balachandran’s opinion (vide supra et infra). learn to decipher them better, using all other diagnostic
Acrocephalus orinus was recently purportedly “confirmed” as characters also possible (an ‘omnispective classification’) to
being a good species through evidence from molecular biology, unravel the mystery and timetable of evolution and speciation,
of the only type specimen, by Bensch & Pearson, 2002 (not using only still living species and devoid of a host of ‘missing
seen by me), a trapping in Thailand by Round et al. (2007) and links’ that are now extinct. Hence, I am still unconvinced that
discovery of another museum specimen by Pearson et al. orinus is a valid species and not based on a possibly aberrant,
(2008). The “pattern and process” of Indian Ornithology I have sole, type specimen (data on the Mussoorie specimen being
imbibed (and biogeographical ‘tracks’ recognized), during my not available yet to me, presented by Pearson et al. 2008).
4+ decades of bird study, makes the Thai record questionable Further searches in the type-locality area (Western Himalaya
to me of a species which may actually be a resident West biogeographical sub-area) for living populations (?) of “orinus”
Himalayan lower elevation one nearing extinction (or already need to be carried out.
extinct?) through loss of habitat and competition with other Let us now put down the actual facts with respect to A. orinus
similar food searching warblers and loss of nesting and investigate the truth of the matter. Our “Father” of Indian
microniches? An earlier sighting, of what has been “officially Ornithology, the celebrated A.O. Hume, first stumbled upon this
confirmed” by some ornithologists and the B.N.H.S. as A. orinus, enigmatic, rare, species of reed warbler when he collected a
by Sumit K. Sen near Calcutta (Narendrapur, Chintamoni Kar single specimen at Rampur (ca 31º 26’ N., 77º 37’ E.; NE. of
Sanctuary) on April Fool’s Day 2007 was also cited as Simla) located in the valley of the Sutlej river, then in the Punjab
“supporting evidence” of probable populations of orinus being States of British India, and now in Himachal Pradesh, on 13th
“widespread” in India. Raju et al. (2009a) then end giving November 1867 (not “2007” as misprinted in Raju et al., 2009a:
unsupported speculations on possible migratory patterns of 130). The DNA analysis by Bensch & Pearson (2002), the finding
orinus as well as of possible breeding, just from a single of another specimen of orinus in the Tring Museum (England)
contestable sighting, and insufficient literature review! I have from Mussoorie (misplaced with A. dumetorum, Blyth’s Reed
seen the Round et al. (2007) paper analyzing the molecular Warbler specimens) taken in October 1869 (vide Pearson et al.
biology of orinus and seemingly related species of 2008) and the trapping of a single live specimen in Thailand
Acrocephalus, but their data analysis, using only DNA and (Round et al. 2007) are the only subsequent, tenuous, “hard” (?)
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 9
data. The sighting by Sen near Calcutta is yet another “soft” centenary falls this coming Christmas day).
record that must be corroborated with examination of specimens
My own most reliable literature sources today are the 2-volume
from that area (at least trapped and released) if it occurs again
abridged account of Rasmussen & Anderton (2005), which has
and may be has populations there also (of brunnescens ? see
accurate paintings (most plates, though 2-dimensional) and
Saha et al. 1971). Accidental, ‘vagrant’ records of species outside
expert synoptic summaries taken mostly from the 10-volume
of their normal ranges (freaks, accidents) are scientifically
Indian Handbook (Ali & Ripley 1968-1974) which latter is still
insignificant, and unimportant data, please note. No taxonomic
the most comprehensive tome to date and dependable,
diagnostic characters have been specified anywhere for A. orinus,
trustworthy. The ‘Ripley Guide’ now admirably supplements
even though Sen listed nine which could apply to other
and updates that masterpiece, though the maps are sadly
Acrocephalus species also. Rasmussen & Anderton (2005: 493)
restrictive, too careful and excluding (but see Rasmussen &
however highlight that orinus is “very large billed . . . russet-
Anderton 2005, 2: 26-27, and Rasmussen 2005a for an
brown above with weak whitish lores . . . bill longer and broader
explanation). Then, as a quick taxon check, Ripley’s (1982)
[than Blyth’s—K.G.] with entirely swollen [emphasis mine—K.G.]
New Synopsis gives me an instant checklist of our avifauna,
lower mandible. And that the holotype has “wing rounded,
my copy extensively penciled with changes in nomenclature,
suggesting it is not a long distance migrant . . . perhaps endemic.”
and other “addenda, errata, corrigenda.” But, being a trained
The best indication of specific diagnostics for orinus is the scientist myself, the most reliable and essential “printed tools”
painting by Lewington in Rasmussen & Anderton (2005, 1: 305, are original papers and notes published during the last 250
pl. 147, fig. 1). This shows a distinctly different looking years which Aasheesh Pittie has so admirably and painstakingly
Acrocephalus, like A. aedon, the Thick-billed Warbler, also is compiled as a CD database. I also thank him for drawing my
(ibid., pl. 146, fig. 7) and keeps open the possibility of orinus attention to Helbig & Seibold (1999), and helping with some
being a valid living (or extinct ?) species. Unless we have more other literature relevant to this commentary.
specimens, a working series, one can never be sure basing
Then, apart from summary data in books, the original papers
(or assuming) facts on a single specimen. The other specimen
(in series of several parts) I consult for, especially, taxonomic
from Mussoorie (see Pearson et al. 2008) may help but not
background and analyses of species, are the works of Hugh
much information is available on that. Phylogenetic,
Whistler & Norman Kinnear (Eastern ‘Ghats’ survey, 17 parts,
biogeographical, and evohistorical analyses of Indian bird
JBNHS Vols 34-39; 1930, 1932-1937) which are a
genera (and higher taxa) remain undone and limited, and
comprehensive base for peninsular Indian birds; and then of
therefore our comprehension of the “pattern and process” of
Biswamoy Biswas (Birds of Nepal, 12 parts, JBNHS 57-60, 63;
Indian Ornithology lies dormant and poorly understood even
1960-1964, 1967) for Himalayan and continental Indian
today, though Hugh Whistler did have some clue (see Whistler,
species; and of Humayun Abdulali (BNHS bird catalogue, 41
quoted in Ghorpadé 2002b: 14-15).
parts, JBNHS 65-102; 1968-2005, the last few parts completed
What data do we have in published literature? Raju et al. by S. Unnithan) for an all-India taxonomic perspective. Of the A.
(2009a) do not attempt any review save cite two recent stentoreus species-group, Abdulali (1986) had little material
supplementary records published this century based on (31 ex. of brunnescens, 3 ex. of amyae) and he was very hazy
specimens observed, live or dead. Disinterest in a about real identities. But of brunnescens the BNHS bird
comprehensive literature review is another unfortunate lacuna collection has material from Baluchistan, Pakistan, Kashmir to
I notice in most modern bird watchers here—who remain only Gujarat and Bombay (perhaps a breeding population exists in
that . . . “watchers.” Their ammunition now are the many colourful mangroves there?). Abdulali also measured some 90
Guides ‘manufactured’ for rank novice amateurs (e.g., Grimmett specimens of A. dumetorum and his tail length data was more
et al. 1999 and regional ‘spinoffs’; Kazmierczak 2000, etc.) that wide (47-56mm) and covers the data given for the three trapped
offer only eclectic, summarized, bird data in our subcontinent examples in April 2009 (viz., 54-57mm) and answers the
with colour paintings that differ from book to book and cannot question at the end of that article.
be relied upon for specific, accurate IDs. These especially of
Incidentally, the BNHS collection needs to be added to and made
what still continue to be called “subspecies,” even if they inhabit
‘complete’ as Abdulali had dreamt of and had urged a try, through
distinct allopatric ranges separated by geographical ‘barriers’
exchanges with the Tring Museum in England and others, or by
and so remain reproductively isolated (e.g., the case of Darwin’s
gifts and further sampling. But the current legal hassles in India
Galapagos finches, etc., revelation), besides exhibiting clear
are an unfair and irritating obstacle to taxonomy and science.
diagnostic characters even if these are ‘minute’ and difficult to
The other major bird collection with the Zoological Survey of
confirm without “hard” specimens in the hand (cf Ghorpadé
India, Calcutta is still uncatalogued, though a couple of parts
2002b,c, 2004a). “A bird in the hand is worth . . . . .” As Arthur
were published decades ago (see Roonwal 1941, 1947 in
Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, had the latter
Rasmussen & Anderton 2005: 638). Abdulali (1986: 142) did
quip about the significance of the “observation of trifles . . .”
not list any specimens of the Ceylonese meridionalis (type-
Older ornithologists had, however, treated these current “races”
locality is Jaffna) but mentioned specimens of brunnescens from
as good species and Pamela Rasmussen (2005b) has finally,
Hyderabad, Orissa, Kolaba, Ratnagiri and Kerala, these having
but hesitatingly (?), begun un-lumping many bird ‘species’ here
“a slight rufous wash above and also on the underparts.” He
burdened with many so-called subspecies, this surmised
could not find any “differences” in the amyae specimens from
infraspecific category created by Ernst Hartert and others of
NE. India and Burma, but the populations in the Indochinese
the Rothschild ‘gang,’ a century ago (see Stresemann 1975:
peninsula across the Irrawaddy river barrier should be a different
250-268, also read about the great R.B. Sharpe, whose death
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 10

species. Biswas (1962: 411) found no more specimens of Jerdon, 1845 (vide Helbig & Seibold 1999). But, the definitive
brunnescens (or amyae, a synonym?) from Nepal other than “taxonomic revision” of this species-complex of “Great Reed-
Hodgson’s collection made long ago. Whistler & Kinnear (1933: Warblers” is the perhaps little known (at least rarely cited) but
561) also received no specimens of this reed warbler from the taxonomically supreme analysis of Stresemann (Sâlim Ali’s
Eastern “Ghats” (I have proposed “Droogs” for these old hills “guru”) & Arnold (1949). The first four paragraphs of this review
which are not true ghats) survey but mentioned seeing material paper summarize the taxonomic problems and ‘concepts’ (e.g.,
from Malabar, Coorg, Kollegal, Travancore, Wynaad and Rassenkreis), and the text, with revealing maps, recognizes 1)
Vijayawada (Kolleru Lake). They also observed that the number Acrocephalus arundinaceus (Linnaeus), 1758 (W. Palaearctic,
of tail feathers in the “warbler group” had “unsatisfactory winters in subsaharan Africa; “race” zarudnyi Hartert, 1907 once
importance” and “obscures their relationships.” This reed warbler taken in N. Baluchistan), 2) A. orientalis (Temminck & Schlegel),
has been seen all over our peninsula. 1847 (E. Palaearctic, winters in Indo-China, Malaysia, Indonesia,
N. Australia), 3) A. stentoreus (Hemprich & Ehrenberg), 1833,
My present location, Dharwar, has brought my focus on the s. str. (Egypt, Sinai, the Levant, Eritrea), 4) A. brunnescens
relevant papers dealing with the birds of this little-studied area, (Jerdon), 1839 (Middle East to the Indian subcontinent, “large,
and these old writings carry sumptuous, detailed, introductory pale”; with races amyae Stuart Baker, 1922 in NE. India, “rich;”
pages enthralling one with the character of the country surveyed! and meridionalis (Legge), 1875 in Sri Lanka, “small, dark;”
Capt. E.A. Butler (1881: 405) summarized data on Acrocephalus some winter in India and Sri Lanka?)—the quotes are from
“stentorius,” Large Reed Warbler, in the Deccan and South Rasmussen & Anderton (2005, 1: 302). Incidentally, A. orinus
Mahratta Country thus: “Cold weather visitant. Rare. Affects is not in this species-group at all! Though Ali & Ripley (1973),
reed-beds, sugarcane fields, and standing crops” where it Ripley (1982) and Abdulali (1986) surprisingly and erroneously
catches its insect prey, obviously. Earlier, the Rev. S.B. Fairbank listed it as A. (stentoreus) orinus, which Baker (1924) did not,
(1876: 259) found “A. stentorius [sic!] (= brunnescens)” in nor did Rasmussen & Anderton (2005, see also above). The
Ahmednagar among rushes. Vidal (1880: 67) recorded it in the checklist of Inskipp et al. (1996) I found very disappointing
south Konkan at Malvan, Vengurla and Khed. Anand Prasad taxonomically, for example note their considering orinus as a
(2003: 125), a pseudonym or pen-name of this Englishman, in synonym of dumetorum (?), on the authority of Clive Byers!
an excellent compendium of the “W. Maharashtra” bird literature, Even though Vaurie (1955, Amer. Mus. Novit., # 1753, pp. 1-19)
writes about Acrocephalus stentoreus as “a fairly common winter had stated that orinus was closer to agricola and concinens,
visitor throughout, with at least some breeding occurring” [nests not dumetorum. Round et al. (2007) again being inconclusive.
found on Tapti river in Dhulia district and these probable in the But see Rasmussen & Anderton (2005: 493) and Bensch &
Bombay area, breeding season from May to August. Migratory Pearson (2002). Stresemann & Arnold’s paper will educate
dates range from 9th November to 24th March in Poona district readers adequately about problems in correct IDs of these
(see also Davidson 1881)—K.G.]. Perhaps the most industrious reed warblers. They also stated that these reed warblers “are
and focused recent research on the birds of a selected area, for in all probability descendants of some group of bush-haunting
a long time, in peninsular India, is the labour of my friend Heinz warblers (closely related to the present genus Hippolais)”—
Lainer (2004) in Goa. About “A. stentoreus” he writes (p. 183) Iduna Keyserling & Blasius, 1840 is now proposed to include
that it is a fairly common winter visitor to coastal regions mainly our rama (Sykes), 1832, caligata (Lichtenstein), 1823 and
and “strongly bound to the vicinity of water.” He says it “kept pallida elaeica (Lindenmayer), 1843. Only languida (Hemprich
always solitary” and dates recorded span 10th October and 5th & Ehrenberg), 1833 remains in Hippolais here.
April in the 20± years of his observations in that State. Ticehurst
(1926a: 496) commenting on Stuart Baker’s New Fauna volumes Acrocephalus brunnescens was named for populations in our
(2nd edn) doubted the occurrence of amyae in Sind (now in north-west and the Himalayas which birds (“considerably larger
Pakistan), these being breeding birds recorded there, but and paler”—Rasmussen & Anderton 2005: 492; see also notes
supported Baker’s opinion that “more breeding birds are required on “Taxonomy: further study needed.”) are migrants. The type-
to elucidate the two forms (brunnescens and amyae). So, we locality however is “Carnatic, near Trichinopoly” so the holotype
now need to find these great reed warblers nesting in India and was a migrant bird? But some others as well were ‘lumped’
gather original data. Any orinus breeding still in the Sutlej valley sedentary (so being short winged?) ones resident (?) in central
? Need to investigate. and peninsular India and Sri Lanka. Whistler (1931) presented
a comprehensive account of the brunnescens group in our
A careful review of the pertinent literature at hand on this A. subcontinent. And the editors had added Sâlim Ali’s notes on a
orinus question has turned up the following results of my great reed warbler nesting in mangroves off Bombay. Whistler
taxonomic analysis. What is the position of the genus concluded that it was difficult to define the status of the “Indian
Acrocephalus J.A. & J.F. Newmann, 1811, in our subregion ? Great Reed-Warbler” accurately, in the absence of more local
Rasmussen & Anderton (2005: 489) write “Some species lack records and that movements are dependant on rainfall received
obvious diagnostic field marks making identification and presence of reed beds in every locality. He ended “Whilst
treacherous.” Both the Indian Handbook and the Ripley Guide, in parts of India the bird is a resident or a local migrant there is
excellent works, recognize 11-15 species and “subspecies” in a great influx of winter visitors from Kashmir and the extralimital
this subcontinent. Dickinson (2003: 583-586) lists 32 species breeding range away to Transcaspia.” The taxonomy of this
and 86 taxa (i.e., including “subspecies”) in all from the world. group is still unresolved; the wide range and their breeding in
The most closely related genera, phylogenetically (?) are reeds as well as in mangroves (see Stresemann & Arnold 1949)
Hippolais Conrad von Baldestein, 1827, and Phragmaticola suggests a species-complex probably now ‘lumped’ as
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 11
brunnescens (earlier believed to be stentoreus). The Kerala undertail coverts they fit the diagnostics given in Rasmussen &
population could well be the Ceylonese meridionalis as Anderton (2005: 494-495).
Dickinson (2003: 584) and Rasmussen & Anderton (2005:
Here above I have given most of the interesting data known
492) indicated? Ali & Whistler (1936) confirmed meridionalis
about brunnescens for readers to imbibe and then understand
but that brunnescens being resident in Kerala (specimens
my analysis. Our greatest south Indian ornithologist, T.C. Jerdon
from Kottayam, Kumili, Vembanad Lake and Karupadanna) or
(1863: 155) wrote : “It frequents high reeds and grasses, high
not they felt was doubtful. They had specimens from near
grain fields and gardens, where it hunts . . . makes its way
Periyar ‘lake’ (actually a dam) taken on 7th March as the latest
adroitly through thick grass or bushes, concealing itself when
wintering (?) date. They also wrote that after moult in September
observed and being with difficulty driven out.” The excellent pair
the birds looked grey on top, later becoming duller and browner.
of volumes by T.J. Roberts on The Birds of Pakistan are very
P.V. George (1961) recorded regular nesting (5 nests) in
knowledgeably compiled and he writes of brunnescens that
Vembanad Lake near Trivandrum in August 1971 and Sâlim
single males on passage are found calling and singing well
Ali (?) in an editorial note wrote that the single specimen
inside cover, are usually silent while foraging but make harsh
collected by George did not permit racial identification though
loud calls “chak, chak” when disturbed. Found in unusual
A. s. meridionalis (Legge) [sic!] was known to be resident in
localities like suburban gardens in late April and early May. When
Ceylon (Legge 1873, 1875). J. George (1994) had a note on
present in hundreds in reed beds in waterbodies they make an
A. stentoreus stating that “A nest has been observed in July”
immense cacophony of noise.
and that it is an uncommon breeding resident around
Bangalore. Whistler (1944: 170-171) noted that meridionalis With my volunteer “student” Riyazuddin I recently observed a
was a low country bird in both dry and wet zones in Ceylon. fairly large colony of brunnescens in the large D.C. Road tank
Specimens available to him made him write “there may be a just outside Cuddapah town (in Andhra Pradesh). Riyazuddin
small and very dark Ceylonese race” and that brunnescens is had first seen a single brunnescens hunting insects on a
“common in Travancore.” Saha et al. (1971) also found nests Pongamia tree on D.C. Road tank bund on 16th October 2007.
of brunnescens in the Salt Lakes near Calcutta from May to Then from 14th to 18th December 2007 both of us noticed 100+
September (see also photographs). Chowdhury & Chowdhury birds in bulrushes there, making loud calls at dusk. Later
(2005) listed a “stentoreus” winter visiting Narendrapur Wildlife Riyazuddin kept observing this reed-warbler (from 2-50 birds)
Sanctuary near Calcutta which is also brunnescens. Baker all through January and February to 12th March 2008 in two tanks
(1924: 390) wrote of brunnescens—”this form of stentoreus is on the outskirts of Cuddapah town. I also found that Riyazudin’s
a true migrant, leaving the plains of India in the end of April and earlier bird notes (given to me for our forthcoming Cuddapah
breeding in the Himalayas in the lakes and swamps between district avifauna paper) indicated that he saw this reed-warbler
6,000 and 10,000 feet,” and being “not gregarious.” Sâlim Ali at the D.C. Road and Ontimitta tanks, and Poltal jungle, as way
(1969: 363-364) later implied that brunnescens in Kerala was back as 9th October 1992 and then in October and November
resident and it was common in winter as migrant populations 1993 and 1995. These were single birds seen in damp areas,
arrived there. He also wrote “Presumably also nesting in reed beds, Acacia trees, and bushes, but rarely. Ali & Ripley
Khandesh, Central India and the neighbourhood of Bombay (1973: 103) had incidentally noted that “On passage may be
city” which should be important news to discoverers of “orinus.” seen in dry situations (acacia jungle, cultivation, etc.).” Bharat
A. brunnescens has been recorded as occurring and breeding Bhushan (1994) listed it in his thesis on Eastern Ghats
in many parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plains (Whymper 1908, Ornithology but gave no specific localities or any other data,
Osmaston 1913, Currie 1916, Field 1922) and, of course, in apart from names and numbers (see Ghorpadé 2004b). Ours
the far north-west (Whitehead 1909, Ticehurst 1922a, 1926b). hence appears to be the first record (12 sightings: 9.x.1992 to
Sonagrams of populations in different parts of India may offer 12.iii.2008) of A. brunnescens in Andhra Pradesh south of
clues to proper IDs and species names, as Pamela Hyderabad and the Godavari and Krishna river deltas (see
Rasmussen has responsibly initiated and demonstrated here maps). A file sent online to me by Santharam is a checklist of
(see Rasmussen & Anderton 2005, 1: 22-25). The Clamorous birds (by V. Santharam & S. Rangaswami) seen in Rishi Valley
Reed Warbler is A. stentoreus (s. str.) and this has very loud School in Chittoor district, near Madanapalle, up until August
calls and lives in colonies before local dispersal in winter. 2004, and includes “Acrocephalus stentoreus” but with no further
The single Acrocephalus bird seen in a broad leaved tree very data. Riyazuddin and I have surveyed Cuddapah district
high up by Raju could in fact be brunnescens which is “The extensively during the past 17 years for bird species (Ghorpadé,
only large reed-warbler likely in most of region” (Rasmussen 2004a,b) and now have a large manuscript in preparation for
& Anderton 2005: 492). Good work Raju but note that there is publication (Ghorpadé & Riyazuddin, in prep.) which will
plenty more to do to understand this species-complex of announce several new species records from Rayalseema,
Acrocephalus here, as I am attempting to demonstrate. Need including many of the Yellow-throated Bulbul (Pycnonotus
disciplined database acquisition by all you birders (see also xantholaemus) as well, from yet undocumented locations.
the advice by Ticehurst 1922b)! Raju et al. (2009b) imply that
Kazmierczak (2000: 252, map 5, pl. 146), who has given the
the warblers they trapped, photographed and measured could
best maps, complete but uncritical, says these reed warblers
be A. dumetorum. But no mention of the first primary feather,
are difficult to identify and the main diagnostic characters are
which is diagnostic for this species. I also see no proof that
the head pattern, tone of upperparts, primary projection and
the warblers seen and photographed in 2008 and 2009 are
voice. Raju’s photos show all white underparts and the lower
one and the same species! The 2009b paper birds look like
bill variously pale or dark at tip. The single bird seen high up in
Sykes’ Tree Warbler (Iduna rama) and except for the long
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 12
broad leaved trees and in bamboo brakes may be significant Biswas), or in Bombay (Kinnear, later only Abdulali—‘the last of
microhabitat ‘evidence.’ Raju must attempt to search for other the Mohicans’), with adequate resources (collection, literature)
warblers’ nesting sites now near waterbodies in Kanha and at and equipment. Currently the situation in the Indian sub-
least a small colony must be around using suitable selected continent is pathetic, and no comparison. ‘DIY’ being the magic
microhabitats for feeding and perhaps breeding also? A. ‘mantra’ now for anybody and everybody—‘the . . . blind men
brunnescens has also been recorded near the Salt Lakes, and the elephant.’
Calcutta and Sen can do more footwork there to search for
colonies and possible breeding. Even if orinus is not confirmed,
more data on brunnescens (complex?) would be very welcome, Abdulali, H. 1986. A Catalogue of the Birds in the Collection of the
especially nesting records and calls. Bombay Natural History Society—30. Muscicapidae (Sylviinae). J.
Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 83: 130-163.
My own educated analysis—one cannot be certain without Ali, S. 1962. OBITUARY: Lieut.-Col. R.S.P. Bates, I.A., (Retd.). J. Bombay
examination of specimens—is that what David Raju (2009a nat. Hist. Soc., 59: 271-274, pl.
and Sumit Sen?) saw were in all probability A. brunnescens Ali, S. 1969. Birds of Kerala. xix+444pp. Oxford University Press,
(Indian Reed Warbler, Jerdon’s Reed Warbler; not Clamorous Madras and London.
Reed Warbler!) which is again still a theoretically ‘lumped’ Ali, S. & Ripley, S.D. 1973. Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan,
species-complex here needing more intensive taxonomic together with those of Bangladesh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Sri
research based on series of specimens. Raju et al. (2009b) Lanka. Volume 8, xvi+277 pp., 8 pls, 57 figs, 67 maps. Oxford
pictures are also not conclusive for A. dumetorum and the form University Press, London, Bombay, New York.
of the first primary feather would have settled the matter if the Ali, S. & Whistler, H. 1936. The Ornithology of Travancore and Cochin.
authors had known (?) of its importance and let readers know. Part IV. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 38: 484-514.
Baker, E.C.S. 1924. The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and
Precise identifications generally require voluminous research
Burma. Volume II, xxiii+561 pp., 8 pls, 86 figs.
bases, deep study, a series of specimens, and this is not
Bates, R.S.P. 1952. OBITUARY: E.H.N. Lowther. J. Bombay nat. Hist.
realized by non-taxonomists and amateur bird spotters and
Soc., 50: 913-914, pl.
clickers, or even economic entomologists, who demand instant
Bates, R.S.P. & Lowther, E.H.N. 1952a. The history of bird-photography
IDs and presume all of these easy to do (‘DIY’) just with guides in India. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 50: 779-784, 7 pls.
and photographs today. Similarly, ‘instant’ online solutions or
Bates, R.S.P. & Lowther, E.H.N. 1952b. Breeding Birds of Kashmir.
answers to impatient ‘chatters’ and net-savvy (‘-trapped’ ?) xxiii+367 pp., 5 col. pls, 80 halftone pls (151 photos). Oxord
birders is not possible for us specialists because every question University Press, London.
or problem requires much re-‘search,’ which takes a lot of time Bensch, S. & Pearson, D.J. 2002. The Large-billed Reed Warbler
that we cannot provide or find outside of our ongoing projects Acrocephalus orinus revisited. Ibis, 144: 259-267.
and personal study goals. And this Q & A is expected to be Bhushan, B. 1994. Ornithology of the Eastern Ghats. 284 pp. Ph.D.
done ‘free.’ Science is not a quickfix job, my good birders, do try thesis submitted to the University of Bombay, India.
and understand. Ornithology is a serious Science; ‘birding’ Biswas, B. 1962. The Birds of Nepal. Part 7. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc.,
just a game (or weekend pastime), as are now plentifully being 59: 405-429.
‘sold’ on the idiot-box and cyber software. Whistler and Abdulali Butler, E.A. 1881. A Tentative Catalogue of the Birds of the Deccan and
had recognized the anthesis long ago, with caution. South Mahratta Country. Stray Feathers, 9: 367-442.
There are several other references on this species-group (see Currie, A.J. 1916. Some Birds found in the Gurdaspur District, Punjab. J.
Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 24: 601-605.
e.g., Williamson 1968, Svensson 1992) that could offer more
insight, but one thing is clear: the identifications in this taxon Davidson, J. 1881. Rough list of the Birds of western Khandesh. Stray
Feathers, 10: 279-527.
are so very difficult, needing specimens for study and
Dawkins, R. 2006. The Blind Watchmaker. xxi+340 pp. Penguin Books,
documentation, that presuming confirmation of A. orinus or
London. [Chapter 10—The One True Tree of Life, pp. 255-284].
dumetorum through a few inadequate photographs and
Dickinson, E.C. 2003. The Howard and Moore complete Checklist of the
insufficient data backed up by non-specialist taxonomists without
Birds of the World. 1039 pp. Princeton University Press, Princeton
work experience (see above) in this particular genus or species- & Oxford.
group (this is essential in taxonomy) appears unfortunate to
Fairbank, S.B. 1876. List of Birds collected in the vicinity of Khandala,
me. Why is there such a hurry? More observations and collecting Mahabaleshwar, and Belgaw, along the Sahyadri Mountains, and
of at least two specimens for study (this should be permitted by near Ahmednagar in the Dakhan. Stray Feathers, 4: 250-268.
the MoEF), and observation of behaviour, recording of calls, Field, F. 1922. Rough list and notes on the Birds found breeding in the
microhabitat selection, nidification requirements, and Gonda District, Oudh. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 28: 753-772.
photographs showing clear diagnostics, would give us all a George, J. 1994. Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Bangalore. (v)+92
better chance of confidently arriving at, not hesitatingly stumbling pp. Birdwatchers’ Field club of Bangalore.
upon (by democratic voting!), the correct determination. George, P.V. 1962. On the Indian Great Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus
Great to see such field work being done, and published, though stentoreus (Hemprich & Ehrenberg) breeding in Kerala. J. Bombay
nat. Hist. Soc., 58: 797-798.
(a promising trend) but scientific back-up is sadly missing.
Toiling field ornithologists in British India (Hodgson, Jerdon, Ghorpadé, K. 1998a. Letter from an Insect-hunting Ornithologist—12.
Pitta 81: 3-4.
Hume, Baker, Sâlim Ali, etc.) then had the back-up (by surface
Ghorpadé, K. 1998b. Letter from an Insect-hunting Ornithologist—13.
post only!) of scholarly specialists in London (Blanford, Oates,
Pitta 82: 3-4.
Sharpe, Ticehurst, Whistler, etc.), in Calcutta (e.g., Blyth,
Newsletter for Birdwatchers 50 (1), 2010 13
Ghorpadé, K. 1998c. Letter from an Insect-hunting Ornithologist—14. Raju, D., Praveen, J. & Prince, M. 2009. A possible record of Large-billed
Pitta 83: 3-4. Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus orinus from Kanha Tiger Reserve,
Ghorpadé, K. 1998d. Commentary by a Bird-watching Naturalist—2. central India. Indian Birds, 4: 130-132, 6 figs.
Lists, Records and Horsley Hills Ornithology. Newsletter for Rasmussen, P.C. 2005a. On producing Birds of South Asia. Indian
Birdwatchers, 38(3): 53-54. Birds, 1: 50-56.
Ghorpadé, K. 2001. Letter from an Insect-hunting Ornithologist—44. Rasmussen, P.C. 2005b. Biogeographic and conservation implications
Pitta 122-123: 3-4, map. of revised species limits and distributions of south Asian birds. Zool.
Ghorpadé, K. 2002a. A question of identity—of Bulbuls and Bush Larks. Med., Leiden, 79: 137-146, 3 figs.
Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 42: 117-118. Rasmussen, P.C. & Anderton, J.C. 2005. Birds of South Asia. The
Ghorpadé, K. 2002b. An Open Letter to the Editors of Buceros on Ripley Guide. Volumes 1 & 2, 378 + 683 pp., illus., 180 col. pls.
species limits in Indian sub-continent birds. Humea (field ornithology), Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Editions, Washington, DC and
3: 1-29, map. Barcelona.
Ghorpadé, K. 2002c. Letter from an Insect-hunting Ornithologist—57. Ripley, S.D. 1982. A Synopsis of the Birds of India and Pakistan, together
Pitta 140: 3-6, map. with those of Bangladesh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
Ghorpadé, K. 2004a. Letter from an Insect-hunting Ornithologist—64. xxvi+653 pp. Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay.
Proemial account of bird surveys made on and around the Eastern Roberts, T.J. 1992. The Birds of Pakistan. Volume 2. Passeriformes:
Ghats near Cuddapah: Part I. Pitta (n.s) 1(4): 3-6. Pittas to Buntings. xxxv+617 pp. maps 286-568, figs 1-16, pls 24-
Ghorpadé, K. 2004b. Letter from an Insect-hunting Ornithologist—65. 47. Oxford University Press, Karachi & Oxford.
Proemial account of bird surveys made on and around the Eastern Round, P.D., Hansson, B., Pearson, D.J., Kennerley, P.R. & Bensch, S.
Ghats near Cuddapah: Part II. Pitta (n.s) 1(7): 3-5.
2007. Lost and found: the enigmatic large-billed reed warbler
Ghorpadé, K. & Riyazuddin, S. in prep. The Ornithology of Cuddapah Acrocephalus orinus rediscovered after 139 years. J. Avian Biol.,
district, peninsular India. Parts I-X. 38: 133-138, 2 figs.
Grimmett, R., Inskipp, C. & Inskipp, T. 1999. A Guide to the Birds of India, Saha, S.S., George, P.V., Ghosal, D.K., Mookerjee, H.P., Poddar, A.K.,
Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Ghose, R.K., Das, P.K., Gogate, V.G. & Biswas, B. 1971. Notes on
888 pp., 153 col. pls, maps, figs. Princeton University Press,
some interesting birds from the Salt Lakes, near Calcutta. J. Bombay
Princeton, New Jersey.
nat. Hist. Soc., 68: 455-457, 2 pls.
Helbig, A.J. & Seibold, I. 1999. Molecular Phylogeny of Palearctic-African
Sen, S.K. 2007. Rediscovery. Large-billed Reed Warbler. http://
Acrocephalus and Hippolais Warblers (Aves: Sylviidae). Molecular
Phylogenetics and Evolution, 11: 246-260, 3 figs.
Stevens, H. 1924. Notes on the Birds of the Sikkim Himalayas. Part III. J.
Himmatsinhji, M.K. 1998. Some observations of a bird enthusiast.
Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 29: 1007-1030.
Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 38: 78-79. [with an Editor’s footnote
that is completely wrong!—K.G.] Stresemann, E. 1975. Ornithology from Aristotle to the present. xii+432
p. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA (U.S.A.). [ Original
Hume, A.O. 1869. [Untitled]. Ibis, 2(5): 355-357.
German edition publ. 1951]
Hume, A.O. 1871. [Untitled]. Ibis, 4: 31.
Stresemann, E. & Arnold, J. 1949. Speciation in the group of Great
Inskipp, T., Lindsey, N. & Duckworth, W. 1996. An Annotated Checklist Reed-Warblers. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 48: 428-443, 6 figs, pl.
of the Birds of the Oriental Region. (x)+294 pp. Oriental Bird Club,
Ticehurst, C.B. 1922a. The Birds of Sind. Ibis, Ser. 11, 4(3): 526-572.
Sandy (U.K.).
Ticehurst, C.B. 1922b. Bird collectors in India. J. Bombay nat. Hist.
Jerdon, T.C. 1863. The Birds of India, being a natural history of all the
Soc., 28: 790-791.
birds known to inhabit continental India. Volume 2, Part 1, iv+439 pp.
Ticehurst, C.B. 1926a. Some notes on the second edition of the Fauna
Kazmierczak, K. 2000. A Field Guide to the Birds of India, Sri Lanka,
of British India—Birds, Vols. I and II. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 31:
Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives. 352 pp.,
96 pls, illus. Om Book Service, New Delhi.
Ticehurst, C.B. 1926b. The Birds of British Baluchistan. Part I. J.
Lainer, H. 2004. Birds of Goa. A reference book. ii+244 pp., map, figs.
Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 31: 687-711.
The Goa Foundation, Mapusa.
Vidal, G.W. 1880. First List of the Birds of the South Konkan. Stray
Legge, W.V. 1873. Additions to the Avifauna of Ceylon. Stray Feathers,
Feathers, 9: 1-96.
1: 487-492.
Whistler, H. 1931. The Indian Great Reed-Warbler [Acrocephalus
Legge, W.V. 1875. Notes on Ceylonese Ornithology and Oology, with
stentoreus brunnescens (Jerdon)]. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 35:
additions to the Avifauna of the island. Stray Feathers, 3: 361-378.
Loke, W.T. 1952a. BOOK REVIEW: Breeding Birds of Kashmir. J.
Whistler, H. 1944. The Avifaunal Survey of Ceylon. Spolia Zeylanica,
Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 50: 644-646.
23(3+4): 119-321.
Loke, W.T. 1952b. Photographing birds with the highspeed flash. J.
Whistler, H. & Kinnear, N.B. 1933. The Vernay scientific survey of the
Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 50: 785-786, 5 pls.
Eastern Ghats (Ornithological Section). Part V. J. Bombay nat.
Oberholser, H.C. 1905. Birds collected by Dr. W. L. Abbott in the Hist. Soc., 36: 561-590.
Kilimanjaro Region, East Africa. Proc. U.S. natn Mus., 28: 823-936.
Whitehead, C.H.T. 1909. On the Birds of Kohat and Kurram, northern
Osmaston, A.E. 1913. The Birds of Gorakhpur. J. Bombay nat. Hist. India. Ibis, Ser. 9, 3(9): 90-134.
Soc., 22: 532-549.
Whymper, S.L. 1908. Nesting of the Indian Great Reed Warbler
Prasad, A. 2003. Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Western Maharashtra. (Acrocephalus stentoreus) in India. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc., 18: 495.
Buceros, 8(2+3): 1-174.
Williamson, K. 1968. Identification for Ringers. 1. The Genera Cettia,
Prathapan, K.D., Rajan, P.D. & Poorani, J. 2009. Protectionism and Natural Locustella, Acrocephalus and Hippolais. 3rd edn, British Trust or
History research in India. Current Science, 97: 1411-1413. Ornithology, Tring (U.K.).
Rest of upperparts was dark brown. It had its chin and throat
CORRESPONDENCE white, breast ashy blue. It had partly red bill and olive grey legs (Ali
and Ripley, 1987). It foraged like a White-breasted Waterhen.
(Porzana fusca) AND SLATY-BREASTED RAIL (Gallirallus According to Ali and Ripley (1987) it moves about locally under
striatus) IN VIDARBHA, by RAJU KASAMBE*, NEERAJ stress of drought and flood. It is distributed in “Kutch, Madhya
Pradesh, eastern Nepal, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri duars, North-
East. Southward through Bangladesh and peninsular India to
Apartment, 64, Vidya Vihar, Pratap Nagar, Nagpur-440022, Kerala. It affects reedy swamps and mangroves, margins of
**G/2, Satysai Apartments, Near Somalwar High School, village tanks, inundated paddy cultivation, etc”.
Khamla, Nagpur-440025. #46, Om Sai Building, Anant Nagar,
Grimmett et. al. (2000) has shown only few sighting records in
Surana Layout, Nagpur-440013, Maharashtra
the peninsular India and one sighting which is probably in
Ruddy-breasted Crake (Porzana fusca): Nagpur in their Pocket Guide. D’Abreu (1923) had included the
Blue-breasted Banded Rail (then called Hypotaenida striata
Parag Deshmukh and Rohit Chakravarty were birding on 11th
striata) in his handlist of the birds of Central Provinces (now
April 2009 at Ambazari tank near Nagpur city. When they saw two
Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha), but mentioned that “it is
Crakes foraging together in the marshy area of the back waters.
probably to be found but which I have not yet observed or
There was one Baillon’s Crake (Porzana pusilla) and one
identified with certainty”. This is therefore an important sighting
Ruddy-breasted Crake (Porzana fusca)(see photograph above).
record for Nagpur as well as in Central India.
It was photographed by both Parag and Rohit. Next day it was
sighted and photographed by Tarique Sani at the same location. Acknowledgements:
Though, Grimmett et. al. (2000) mentions it as widespread Thanks to Mr. Mikolaj Koss (Poland) for the help in the identification
resident, the map shows otherwise. It is probably because of of the Parasitic Skua. Thanks to all the birder colleagues for
the shyness of the bird that it is missed by bird watchers. Hence accompanying the authors during the respective birding trips.
the Pocket Guide has shown only few sighting records in the
mainland India and one sighting in Central India.
Ali, S. & Ripley, S. D. (1987): Compact Handbook of the Birds of Indian and
D’Abreu (1923) had not included the Ruddy-breasted Crake in Pakistan. Second Edition. Oxford University Press. Vol.4. pp.94-95.
his handlist of the birds of Central Provinces (now Madhya
D’Abreu E. A. (1923): A hand-list of the birds of the Central Provinces
Pradesh and Vidarbha). Probably this is the first report of Ruddy-
distinguishing those contained in the Central Museum at Nagpur
breasted Crake in Vidarbha.
together with notes on the nidification of the resident species. Govt.
Slaty-breasted Rail (Gallirallus striatus): Press. Nagpur. pp. 1-65.
Raju visited Bor Wildlife Sanctuary; district Wardha on 31st May Grimmett R., Inskipp C., Inskipp T., (2000): Birds of the Indian Subcontinent,
2008 along with birder friends, namely, Aditya Joshi and Koustubh Oxford Univ. Press.1-384.
Thomare. When he was searching for a Royal Bengal Tiger family Front Cover : A Portfolio of Waterbirds: 1) Cattle Egret
hidden in a patch of tall elephant grass he saw a bird foraging (Bulbulcus ibis), 2) Black Ibis (Pseudibis papillosa), 3) Eurasian
which looked like a White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis Spoon Bill (Platalea leucorodia), 4) Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus
phoenicurus). He took photographs of the bird. W hen the philippensis). A l l p ho t o gh r a ps b y S hi v a da r sh a n B a l s e
photographs were analysed on his personal computer it came Back Cover: 5) Baill on’s Cr ake (Porzana pus illa) and
out to be a Slaty-breasted Rail (Gallirallus striatus), previously Ruddy-breasted Crake (Porzana fusca). Photo by Rohit
called Indian Blue-breasted Banded Rail (Rallus striatus). It was Chakravar thy, 6) Bl ack -cr est ed Bul bul (Pycnonot us
Rufous-chestnut to the upperside of its head and sides of neck. mel anic terus). Photo by Rajiv Lather