In the final part of the birds in Vasai-Virar series, I will be focusing on the urban garden Vasai birds. Most of these birds are found in Vasai-Virar region throughout the year. However, that does not mean that these birds are easy to photograph. While some birds are always close to human civilization some birds still prefer to be left alone and they take some time to be discovered. If you have not read the previous part of the series you can read more about Vasai aquatic birds here and Vasai forest and grassland birds here.
Ashy Wren Warbler also known as Ashy Prinia is a tiny warbler that you can find across the paddy fields of Vasai. They are among the cutest urban garden Vasai birds. These birds are tiny and quick and therefore it requires some patience and great eyesight to spot them within those micro-moments when they take a flight to hop from one grass to the other.
They usually pick insects that fly around the grassland, shrubs and home gardens. They build the nest which is close to the ground and breed from June to September.
Indian Prinia also known as Plain Prinia or White Browed Wren-Warbler is another tiny warbler that one can find in Vasai. Unlike Ashy Prinia which you can find almost everywhere, Indian Prinia is not very common to see around. This skulking bird usually is found in wet grasslands and open fields and the wheatish color of the bird allows it to camouflage with the surroundings and grass. Like Ashy Prinia, this one too feeds on insects that are found readily in grasslands and farms and open fields. Indian Prinia is very identical to Ashy Prinia and you might not spot the difference right away, but Ashy Prinia definitely looks charming with its darker shade. It is certainly one of the hardest to find urban garden Vasai birds.
Oriental Magpie Robin
For Oriental Magpie Robin, I and Sarah luckily did not have to venture too far. We first discovered them in the backyard of the church compound which we can see directly from our bedroom balcony. Oriental Magpie Robin (male) has this majestic black and white color that looks even beautiful when they fly around.
The female has a grayish appearance and she looks equally charming. I later discovered that they are the national birds of Bangladesh. I love their upright tail and their sweet voice. They talk a lot, but since they have a sweet voice I won’t mind them whistling for hours.
Oriental Magpie Robin is insectivorous, but they also won’t mind roaches, geckos, leeches, and centipedes. They certainly make it to the list of the sweetest urban garden Vasai birds due to their sweet voice.
In Mumbai, you usually get to see house crows, rock pigeons, and house sparrows. So when I moved to Vasai Common Myna was the first bird that excited me because it’s hard to find Common Myna in the city. Also known as the Indian Myna these birds are related to the starling family and they have strong territorial instincts. Over here they have adapted themselves well to the human habitat and they are always around looking around for leftovers and other rotten food and insects.
While I was reading about them on Wikipedia, I found that they are the world’s most invasive bird species declared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Many bird organizations also claim them as a serious threat to the ecosystem, but I still love them like I love any other species.
They have this brown body, black hooded head and yellow patch on the eye. They also have yellow bill and legs. You will usually find them in pair or groups and I love the way they bob their heads and fluff feathers. It makes me feel as if they are enjoying heavy metal music deep inside their mind. Like I said above, they are very territorial and therefore they screech when they feel the presence of a predator or any other birds. They are insectivorous, but they also eat the food leftovers and seeds and grains.
Red-vented bulbul is another common resident urban garden Vasai birds that you will find in urban localities of Vasai-Virar. These birds are not too scared of humans and therefore you will find them close to residential buildings.
They are found on almost every continent from Hawaii and New Zealand and are voted in the world’s most invasive bird species. It has this tiny crest over its head with a dark brown body that gets darker near the head. It has a red vent and a black tail tipped in white.
These birds feed on fruits, petals and even insects and geckos. If you pay enough attention you can find bulbul’s nest in some of the bushes around. Red-vented bulbul is one of Sarah’s favorite birds because she had it once as a pet.
Rock pigeons don’t really excite me much because they are virtually everywhere. In India, we call them “pigeon” and they have this dull gray color with two black bars on each wing.
It is hard to distinguish male from female because of the colors are the same, even the size is identical. However, you can see that males have more iridescence on the neck while it is a bit duller on females.
While they seem like timid and shy birds, but they are territorial by nature and they are willing to fight for their place. In India, people usually offer them grains as “gesture of good deeds” and that makes things easier for them to some extent.
Pigeons usually flock together and they roost in residential buildings, walls, statues and almost every man-made structure you can imagine.
Like pigeons, house sparrows are found commonly across India. From urban areas to rural corners of the country you can see them chirping and flying around casually. These tiny pale brown and gray birds are very social and they can make a lot of noise when they are together. It is very easy to differentiate the males from females because of their color and size.
Males are slightly larger than females and they have these dark brown and black colors to their feathers while the females have dull brown and gray shades. Males also have this dark black mark near their bill which indicates their social ranking within their group. Male juveniles don’t have this dark marking. House sparrows have managed to live with humans and adapt to a wide range of conditions.
They love dust bathing and social singing together and they also hunt for food together. They prefer grains and weeds, but I would say they are opportunistic and therefore they are not shy to pick whatever they find from dumping area and even leftovers thrown around. I and Sarah once found a house sparrow egg laid carefully between the clothes line on our balcony.
Crows are almost everywhere. In Vasai, you can find Indian jungle crows and house crows. The only difference between the two is that the house crow has a lighter gray shade to its neck and breast area while the Indian jungle crow is entirely black.
House crows are highly opportunistic and unbelievably intelligent and they are among the first birds I interacted with. Crows can recognize your behavior and face from far away and they are watching us when we are busy in our own world.
My mother used to feed a morsel of food to a particular crow every afternoon. He realized that we were not going to harm him so he wouldn’t fly off when we go closer to put some food for him on the ledge. He would eat the same meals that we ate. The most unbelievable thing about him was that he was always on the apartment window a few minutes before my mother would reach home from work. He would spot my mother walking home and realizes that he will get food. So he would fly and come to our home window and would signal me with his caws that my mother is coming home and that he wants food.
Crows are scavengers and therefore they look out for any food items that they would find. They usually prefer eggs, nestlings, small reptiles and mammals, but they can eat almost anything from milk biscuits to chicken curry mixed with rice.
Crows are social birds. We usually see parents working hard to feed their babies, but crows work differently. They work in large groups and therefore all adult crows work together to feed all the babies in the group. Crows is that they can share their experiences and memories with their babies. Crows not just learn foraging skills from their parents, but also know who was kind to their parents and who wasn’t.
You would be surprise to know that crows can share their experiences and memories with their babies. Crows not just learn foraging skills from their parents, but also learn who was kind to their parents and who wasn’t.
Also, since crows are social animals they feel sad when someone in their group dies. You can see a group of crows sitting quietly on rooftops and trees close to the body of the crow for few minutes before they all fly off. This is very much like a funeral in the human world where we stand in silence for few minutes. Crows also build fake nests to confuse their predators and they have the potential to mob an eagle or hawk when they’re in a group.
Shy and tiny by nature, Tailorbirds can give you a tough time if you don’t have a good camera that can zoom in and take pictures quickly. Tailorbirds are almost the size of hummingbirds and belong to the warbler family. They have green upperparts and white underparts and they are always hoping and flying around from one bush to another making it difficult for you to capture them on your camera. They usually hold their tail upright like a wren and you can find them in open grassland and gardens. Probably the tiniest in the list of urban garden Vasai birds.
Tailorbird gets their name from the kind of nest they make.
They usually make a nest in plants that have large leaves. They bend the leaf like a cone and sew it together with a plant fibre or spider web. The leaf is stitched in such a way that large birds might not be able to see it from the top of the tree.
With their tiny size, they can quickly disappear within the bushes and shrubs, but they make loud calls to give away their presence. Tailorbirds prefer insects and they breed from June to August.
You won’t find Hoopoe all over Vasai very easily, but if you look carefully they are found in gardens and bushes. We had been looking for hoopoe for quite some time, but we couldn’t. Luckily, one fine evening we had our camera and the hoopoe was right in front of us picking on insects in the garden. The best way to spot them is to look for that distinctive crown that can help you to differentiate from other brown birds.
Hoopoe is here all round the year and therefore you don’t have to worry about clicking them in certain months. I love their partial brown and black and white colour combination. They make the oop-oop-oop sound which can be confused with a cuckoo sound. They usually prefer to eat insects in the urban gardens, but they also pick up tiny frogs, berries, and other small plant matter.
The funny thing about photography is that sometimes you don’t have any clue what your camera captured accidentally. While I and Sarah were busy looking for Pheasant-tailed Jacana, we saw this tiny sparrow-like bird hopping around in the grassland. We immediately took few shots and assumed that it would be Ashy Prinia, but when we saw it on our desktop we knew it was not Ashy Prinia. We looked for its name and we finally found it – European Stonechat.
This one belongs to the thrush family and has this dark black-brown shade with an orange throat/breast area. They are quick in the air with their light small body and they can be mistaken as house sparrow if you don’t pay attention.
Vasai has plenty of parrots and you can hear them as they fly by the trees and buildings screaming around. However, they are not everywhere. There are certain neighbourhoods where parrots have a stronghold and you can find them there. If you are in Vasai and if you head to Vasant Nagri neighbourhood you’ll find plenty of parrots in groups.
Parrots in Vasai are usually the regular green colour ones who keep flying around for seeds, fruit, nectar, and buds. You will find them settling in slots and pipe holes of residential buildings.
Like European Stonechat, Tickell’s Flowerpecker got shot accidentally as we were clicking other birds around. We were so excited that we found it hiding within the plants. This one feeds on nectars and berries and probably they are among the smallest birds found on the Indian subcontinent.
With its small bill, long tail and cinnamon-brown colour body yellow-eyed babbler is quite a treat to watch. You can find them close to grassland and urban gardens where they move around in groups.
They prefer berries and small insects that crawl on the garden grass. Juveniles don’t have the long tail and therefore they might seem a bit different from adults.
If you are looking for night herons you need to venture out almost around sunset. These birds are nocturnal and they are usually very quiet and don’t move much around, so spotting them can be a challenge. They have short neck and legs and they usually stand quietly near water bodies like small ponds and lakes for fish, frogs, aquatic insects and small mammals.
So, these were some of the commonly found urban garden Vasai birds. The entire region has more than 250 bird species while I have managed to cover only 30 of them in my Birds in Vasai-Virar series. I will continue to keep photographing more birds and continue adding to the series as and when possible.