Asian Koel: Of Melody & Noise
One may not be familiar with the Koel’s looks, but its kooo…koooo…koooo…… call is very well known.
A pair – perhaps not on talking terms…
The boys are entirely glossy black with fiery red eyes. Sometimes, a faint silvery eye-ring can also be seen. The beak is tea green.
The girls are very different. They are mainly brown/black above with variable white spotting on their backs. Their undersides are white with black spots & stripes and the long black tail has white bars. Their eye color is crimson and the forehead a bit rufous.
Koels are best known for being brood parasites (they don’t make their own nests, lay their egg in the nests of other birds). Once the chick hatches, it will usually push out the other eggs. It is then raised by the host birds, who have no idea that they are raising another bird. This may seem like a good start, but once the chick grows up, its shooed at sight despite being a harmless fruit-eater. To avoid this, our bird stays hidden in thick foliage. So they are more often heard than seen.
The usual victims are crows. Other victims have well hidden nests so its a bit difficult to see the proceedings.
When the summer arrives, their calls can be heard frequently. Sometimes, the girl calls too. On hearing this, the boys arrive. They work very hard to impress her. They fight verbally amongst themselves as it can be too hot for a real fight. But by the time the winner is declared, she flies off.
On one occasion, I saw one of our boys bring a berry, show off his plumage, flare his tail and at the appropriate time, jump on to her branch and present her the berry. She accepted the gift and flew off without hesitation. I could see he was panting in the heat. The poor bird was left high and dry.
These birds face a very different problem – noise pollution. It may not be a threat but is certainly an irritant. There are some loudspeakers near my house and a few seconds before an announcement / music is about to start, our koel starts calling out a loud, distinct kwa-kwaah-kwaaah-kwaah as if frustrated. Our bird always knows before hand when its going to happen & this happens every time. It is clear that birds can hear sounds which we can’t.
In my opinion:
I can relate to this feeling as I too have sensitive hearing and can’t bear loud noises like firecrackers etc.
Noise is not good for humans either. Harsh noises can disturb, distract, frighten, alarm and even deafen.
Animals and birds have hearing far more sensitive than ours. We humans have made the world very noisy with our machines, vehicles, honking, music, loudspeakers, boats, planes…. This makes living very challenging for them. I feel we should all take steps towards a less noisy world.