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Oriental White-eye

Zosterops palpebrosus

Bird that can be seen in Valparai

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The Oriental white-eye is a small passerine bird in the white-eye family. It is a resident breeder in open woodland in tropical Asia, east from the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia, extending to Indonesia and Malaysia. They forage in small groups, feeding on nectar and small insects. They are easily identified by the distinctive white eye-ring and overall yellowish upperparts. Several populations of this widespread species are named subspecies and some have distinctive variations in the extent and shades of yellows in their plumage.

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This bird is small with yellowish olive upper parts, a white eye ring, yellow throat and vent. The belly is whitish grey but may have yellow in some subspecies. The sexes look similar. The species is widespread and is part of a superspecies complex that includes Zosterops japonicus, Zosterops meyeni and possibly others. The taxonomy of the group is still unclear with some island populations being distinctive while some subspecies are not well supported. The population from Flores, Indonesia for instance is found closer to the pale white-eye. The family itself is now questioned since they are nested along with the Stachyris babblers.

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About eleven subspecies are well recognised. These include the nominate form (type locality Bengal, India) which is found from Oman and Arabia, Afghanistan, northern India and extends into China and northern Myanmar. The population in the Western Ghats and hills of southern India is placed in nilgiriensis while salimalii of the Eastern Ghats hills (Shevaroy, Chitteri, Seshachalam, Nallamalai) is sometimes subsumed into the nominate race. The population of the plains of India, Laccadives and Sri Lanka are sometimes placed in egregius (= egregia) but is restricted by other works to the population in Sri Lanka. The populations in southern Myanmar, Thailand and Laos are placed in siamensis. The Nicobar Islands form is nicobaricus and is sometimes also used for the population on the Andaman Islands which are however distinctive and a distinct unnamed population. The populations from southern Thailand to western Cambodia are placed in williamsoni. Other Southeast Asian island forms include auriventer (=aureiventer), buxtoni, melanurus and unicus.

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Race occidentis (now often subsumed into the nominate race) of the Western Himalayas has the upper side dark green and the flanks are tinged in brown. The form salimalii has a shorter bill and is brighter yellow-green above. Some authors consider the nominate race to be restricted to Sikkim, Bhutan, Assam and Yunnan and consider the peninsular race as occidentis (or amabilis if the form from Kathiawar described by Koelz is considered valid).

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In Sri Lanka, race egregia is smaller and has a brighter back and throat than the endemic Sri Lanka white-eye, Zosterops ceylonensis found in the central hills.

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The English and scientific names refer to the conspicuous ring of white feathers round the eyes, zosterops being Greek for 'girdle-eye'.

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The species is found in a wide range of habitats from scrub to moist forest. They sometimes occur on mangrove areas such as in the Karachi area and on islands they may lead a more insectivorous life. They are somewhat rare only in the drier desert regions of western India.

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A feral population was detected in San Diego, California in the 1980s and subsequently eradicated.

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These white-eyes are sociable, forming flocks which only separate on the approach of the breeding season. They are highly arboreal and only rarely descend to the ground. The breeding season is February to September but April is the peak breeding season and the compact cup nest is a placed like a hammock on the fork of a branch. The nest is made of cobwebs, lichens and plant fibre. The nest is built in about 4 days and the two pale blue eggs are laid within a couple of days of each other. The eggs hatch in about 10 days. Both sexes take care of brooding the chicks which fledge in about 10 days. Though mainly insectivorous, the Oriental white-eye will also eat nectar and fruits of various kinds.

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They call frequently as they forage and the usual contact call is a soft nasal cheer. They pollinate flowers when they visit them for flower insects (such as thrips) and possibly nectar that form their diet. The forehead is sometimes coloured by pollen leading to mistaken identifications. They have been observed bathing in dew accumulated on leaves.

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When nesting, they may mob palm squirrels but being small birds they are usually on the defensive. Their predators include bats and birds such as the white-throated kingfisher. Endoparasitic Haemosporidia of the genus Haemoproteus and Dorisa have been isolated from the species although these rarely cause death.

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Like some other white-eyes, they sometimes steal nest material from the nests of other birds. Cases of interspecific feeding have been noted with white-eyes feeding the chicks of a paradise flycatcher.

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Although not strong fliers, they are capable of dispersing in winds and storms to new areas including offshore islands. A feral population of this species established itself in California during the 1980s requiring their capture and destruction. They were captured by luring them using call playback and live decoys into mistnets.

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Oriental White-eye<, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Oriental White-eye<, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Oriental White-eye<, Bird that can be seen in Valparai
Oriental White-eye<, 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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