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Asian Fairy-bluebird

Irena puella

Bird that can be seen in Valparai

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The Asian fairy-bluebird is a medium-sized, arboreal passerine bird.

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This fairy-bluebird is found in forests across tropical southern Asia, Indochina, the Greater Sundas and Palawan. Two or three eggs are laid in a small cup nest in a tree. It was described by British ornithologist John Latham in 1790. The only other member of the genus and family is the Philippine fairy-bluebird, I. cyanogastra, which replaces the Asian fairy-bluebird in most of the Philippines.

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The adult Asian fairy bluebird is about 24 to 27 centimetres. The male has glossy, iridescent blue upperparts, and black underparts and flight feathers. The female and first year male are entirely dull blue-green.

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The Asian fairy bluebird measures 24 to 27 centimetres in length. The iris is crimson and eyelids pinkish; the bill, legs and claws are black, and mouth a flesh- colour. Marked sexual dimorphism is evident. The male is a shining ultramarine-blue with lilac reflections on its upper plumage, lesser wing coverts, and under tail coverts, while the sides of its head and the whole lower plumage are deep black; greater wing-coverts, quills, and tail black, and some of the coverts tipped with blue, and the middle tail-feathers glossed with blue.

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The upper plumage, the lesser wing coverts, and the lower tail coverts of the female are brownish blue, with the edges of the feathers brighter. The middle tail feathers and the outer webs of all the others, except the outer pair, like the upper plumage, and remainder of tail dark brown. primaries and secondaries dark brown. The greater wing coverts, primary coverts, and tertiaries dark brown, with a blue tinge on the outer webs. Sides of the head and whole lower plumage blue, very similar to the upper parts. The young resemble the female. The male changes into adult plumage in March, the change taking place without a moult. The feathers of the upper parts first become fringed with bright blue, then the tail coverts change, and finally the lower plumage changes. Young birds with the lower plumage mixed black and dull blue, and the upper plumage like that of the adult are frequently seen.

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There are several subspecies, including I. cyanea malayensis from the Malay Peninsula, where the male differs in having the undertail coverts longer, nearly reaching to the tip of the tail.

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The Asian fairy bluebird is found in Sri Lanka and the western coast of India from Travancore up to the latitude of Belgaum and Sawantwadi; Sikkim and the lower ranges of the Himalayas to Dibrugarh in Assam; the Khasi Hills; Cachar; Manipur; Bangladesh; Arrakan; Bago and Taninthayi Division in Burma; the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In southeast Asia it occurs throughout most of Indochina (including Peninsular Malaysia), Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Palawan, and on smaller nearby islands. In the Indian part of its range this species is confined to the evergreen forests of the hills and plains, but elsewhere it is regular in various types of humid and deciduous forests from lowlands up to about 1,600 metres. The species has been reported to be more frequent in mature rainforests and in rustic cardamom plantations under native shade trees than in coffee plantations

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This bird is common in most of the tracts it frequents, going about in small parties or in pairs.

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It breeds from February to April, constructing a shallow cup-shaped nest, sometimes of moss and sometimes of small twigs, in a sapling or small tree. The eggs, which are generally two in number, are greenish white marked with brown, and measure about 1.14 cm by .77 cm.

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Asian Fairy-bluebird, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Asian Fairy-bluebird, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Asian Fairy-bluebird, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Asian Fairy-bluebird, Bird that can be seen in Valparai

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Wings over Valparai

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The Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Valparai area in Western-Ghats of Tamilnadu are both perfect bird watching destinations. Birders will marvel at the array of colorful birds like Hornbills, Thrush Family, Flycatchers, woodpeckers and of course the sighting of our national bird, The Indian Peafowl.

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There are more than 350 species of birds found in Anamalais. The list includes resident birds, winter visitors and endemic birds of Anamalais. Nearly 5 % of birds found in Anamalai Tiger Reserve are endemic to Western Ghats

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What is birdwatching?

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Birdwatching or birding is the observation and study of birds with the naked eye or through a visual enhancement device like binoculars. Birding often involves a significant auditory component, as many bird species are more readily detected and identified by ear than by eye. Most birdwatchers pursue this activity mainly for recreational or social reasons, unlike ornithologists, who engage in the study of birds using more formal scientific methods.

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What do you need for birdwatching?

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• The most basic equipment required for bird watching is your eyes. That´s true but you will soon need to have more items with you if you intend to make this a pastime or serious hobby. How far you go is a matter of taste and budget.

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• The most useful thing that you can carry is a notepad and pencil. Use this to make a note of location, time, date, weather and habitat. Do a list of the birds that you see and know. Do a drawing or write down a description of those that you don’t. You can look them up later in you field guide. Your notebook should become a diary of where you have been and what you have seen. It will become a useful record as time passes.

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• A Field guide is a book, normally illustrated with drawings or photographs, which provides descriptions of birds that assists you in their identification. The descriptions use several factors to help you determine the exact bird that you are looking at. As soon as you see a bird that you do not recognize you will need to have access a good field guide. There are many to choose from. They come in various shapes, sizes, weight and cost.

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• Sites guides. These give locations where you can watch birds, the species you are likely to see and the best time to watch.

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• Binoculars. These are pretty essential and buy the best that you can afford. A good pair well looked after will last you a lifetime. Take time to choose ones that suit you.

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• Clothing. Bird watching being primarily an outdoor pursuit, it is sensible to have lightweight but warm and waterproof clothing. You will be more comfortable if you wear the right type of clothing for the conditions you are in.

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• Telescope. If you want to get a really close look at birds then you will need to get a bird watching scope and tripod. These are more expensive than binoculars but if you get to be serious about bird watching you will soon want to have them.

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• Camera. A simple point and shoot digital camera is good if you are close to birds, especially if you have a zoom lens. If not close enough to shoot birds it is still good to take general views or mementos of your day out. More expensive cameras, with telephoto lenses, can bring you close in to the birds.

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• Digiscoping. You can take pictures via your Scope–using it as a telephoto lens. You will need attachments for your scope.

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Code of birding ethics

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1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.
1. (a) Support the protection of important bird habitat.
1. (b) To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming.
   Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area;
   Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. In such sensitive areas, if there is a need for extended observation, photography, filming, or recording, try to use a blind or hide, and take advantage of natural cover.
   Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.
1. (c) Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private land-owners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.
1. (d) Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist; otherwise keep habitat disturbance to a minimum.

2. Respect the law, and the rights of others.
2. (a) Do not enter private property without the owner’s explicit permission.
2. (b) Follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing use of roads and public areas, both at home and abroad.
2. (c) Practice common courtesy in contacts with other people. Your exemplary behavior will generate goodwill with birders and non-birders alike.

3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.
3. (a) Keep dispensers, water, and food clean, and free of decay or disease. It is important to feed birds continually during harsh weather.
3. (b) Maintain and clean nest structures regularly.
3. (c) If you are attracting birds to an area, ensure the birds are not exposed to predation from cats and other domestic animals, or dangers posed by artificial hazards.

4. Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care.
  Each individual in the group, in addition to the obligations spelled out in Items #1 and #2, has responsibilities as a Group Member.
4. (a) Respect the interests, rights, and skills of fellow birders, as well as people participating in other legitimate outdoor activities. Freely share your knowledge and experience, except where code 1(c) applies. Be especially helpful to beginning birders.
4. (b) If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action, and attempt, within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it, and notify appropriate individuals or organizations.

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Other highlights for the avid birder will be the sighting of The Great HornBill or Thrush. Learn more about the endamic, migrants and other birds in and around valparai by checking out the list

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The below list is created in the guidance of Mr. K Selva Ganesh, Cinchona Government High School, Valparai who teaches English. Along with his students, won ebird’s Great Backyard Bird Count challenge, 2017. They contributed 360 checklists of birds, the highest number in the bird count challenge, and recorded 111 species.

Images and Data courtesy Mr. K Selva Ganesh, Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia and ebird.org

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List of Endamic Birds of Western-Ghats you can see in Valparai

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List of Migrant Birds that can be seen in Valparai

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List of Other Birds you can see in Valparai

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