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Gray Junglefowl

Gallus sonneratii

Bird that can be seen in Valparai

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The grey junglefowl , also known as Sonnerat's junglefowl, is one of the wild ancestors of domestic fowl together with the red junglefowl and other junglefowls.

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A gene from the grey junglefowl is responsible for the yellow pigment in the legs and different body parts of all the domesticated chicken.

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This species is endemic to India, and even today it is found mainly in peninsular India and towards the northern boundary. It will sometimes hybridize in the wild with the red junglefowl. It also hybridizes readily in captivity and sometimes with free-range domestic fowl kept in habitations close to forests.

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The species epithet commemorates the French explorer Pierre Sonnerat. Local names include Komri in Rajasthan, Geera kur or Parda komri in Gondi, Jangli Murghi in Hindi, Raan kombdi in Marathi, Kattu Kozhi in Tamil and Malayalam, Kaadu koli in Kannada and Tella adavi kodi in Telugu.

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The male has a black cape with ochre spots and the body plumage on a grey ground colour is finely patterned. The elongated neck feathers are dark and end in a small, hard, yellowish plate; this peculiar structure making them popular for making high-grade artificial flies. The male has red wattles and combs but not as strongly developed as in the red junglefowl. Legs of males are red and have spurs while the yellow legs of females usually lack spurs. The central tail feathers are long and sickle shaped. Males have an eclipse plumage in which they moult their colourful neck feathers in summer during or after the breeding season.

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The female is duller and has black and white streaking on the underparts and yellow legs.

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They are found in thickets, on the forest floor and open scrub. Their loud calls of Ku-kayak-kyuk-kyuk are loud and distinctive, and can be heard in the early mornings and at dusk. Unlike the red junglefowl, the male does not flap its wing before uttering the call. They forage in small mixed or single sex groups. They breed from February to May. They lay 4 to 7 eggs which are pale creamy in a scrape. Eggs hatch in about 21 days. Although mostly seen on the ground, grey junglefowl fly into trees to escape predators and to roost.

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They feed on grains including bamboo seeds, berries, insects and termites, and are hunted for meat and for the long neck hackle feathers that are sought after for making fishing lures.

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The populations from the Mt. Abu region of Rajasthan named as subspecies wangyeli is usually not recognized although it is said that the calls of the cock from this region differs from the call of birds from southern India and the plumage is much paler.

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The species is mainly in the Indian Peninsula but extends into Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and south Rajasthan. The red junglefowl is found more along the foothills of the Himalayas; a region of overlap occurs in the Aravalli range. although the ranges are largely non-overlapping. Grey junglefowl have been bred domestically in England since 1862 and their feathers have been commercially supplied from domestic UK stocks for fly tying since 1978.

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The species has been isolated by a variety of mechanisms including behavioural differences and genic incompatibility but hybridization is not unknown. Some phylogenetic studies of junglefowl show that this species is more closely related to the Sri Lankan junglefowl Gallus lafayetii than to the red junglefowl, Gallus gallus but another study shows a more ambiguous position due to hybridization. An endogenous retroviral DNA sequence, of the EAV-HP group noted in domestic fowl is also found in the genome of this species pointing to the early integration of the virus DNA into the genome of Gallus.

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Gray Junglefowl, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Gray Junglefowl, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Gray Junglefowl, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Gray Junglefowl, 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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