Monday, April 1, 2013

The Weaver Bird Called Baya

The week gone by which i would love to call as The Easter week gave us an extended weekend and hastily we decided to run away from the madding crowd to explore and relish the peace and tranquility of the woods. Corbett it was this time. Two and a half days is not enough but then something is better than nothing. And this something was like total paisa vasool for me. Yeah bang for the buck or rather the hyper- about- everything- around i actually managed to milk it for all it was worth. Sure my charged with intense curiosity and it's findings will feature in my posts one at a time but today it is dedicated to the master craftsman in nature the architect bird also known as the weaver bird. Baya in Hindi.
Male Weaver Bird
                                              Baya Weaver - photo © Rajiv Lather

Entering the narrow road that led us to our resort in Baelparao i was astounded by the beauty of the farming fields on both sides of the road. At a distance you could see the forest reserve and the combination of both the nurtured and the wild made an interesting cocktail for a bored out of her wits end city bred like me. 
i tried to soak in all i could, of the soon to be harvested wheat, the promising looking bumper harvest of mango and lychee trees, the shrubs i had never seen before, the changing hues of the foliage at a distance and last but not the very least the never seen in the city birds along with their sweet sounds of glee.

While surveying the area my eyes fell upon something unusual. Remembering the structure from having seen them before on trees i was quite surprised to see them here in this fashion. That too when there was no dearth of all sizes of prickly shrubs and thorny trees.
Abandoned nests of Baya the weaver bird suspended from electric wires running across the fields. 
There were seven of them hanging on parallel wires at a close distance from each other. 
Seeing their shapes each looked a bit different from the other. Few having two passages to go inside and a couple or more having just one visible passage. They were no longer occupied which although my camera could not make out my Nikon Monarch eyes could capture very clearly.
Electric wires!! why not and then i remembered that story about them, the weaver birds. Somehow through the story and looking around for the raw materials that could have been used for making their homes the story made real sense today.

          The Birds and the Shivering Monkeys

This is another interesting tale/ story from the collection of Hitopadesha Tales. Once upon a time, there was a huge tree on the banks of a river. The tree made a comfortable home for the family of birds who had built their nests on its branch. The birds were living there happily as the tree with its widespread branches sheltered them from scorching sun and heavy rains.

One day, when the sky was overcast with dark clouds, it rained very heavily. Some monkeys who were playing nearby the tree got drenched and ran for shelter under the tree. All of them were shivering with cold. When the birds saw the monkeys in the pitiable condition, one of the birds said,” O Monkeys, you would not have to shiver like this, if you had built a home like us. You would not have to suffer like this. If we can build our nest with small beaks, then why cant you. By God’s grace, you have two hands and two legs. Why don’t you make a nice shelter for yourselves?”

On hearing this, the monkeys got annoyed and swore to teach a lesson to the birds. They said to themselves, “These birds are not afraid of the rain or of cold wind. They are living comfortably that is why they are criticizing us like this. Let the rain stop, we’ll show them how to build home”. As soon as the rain stopped, the monkeys climbed up the tree and destroyed the nests of the birds. They also broke the birds’ eggs and threw the young ones down.

The poor birds flew here and there in misery. They were full of regret for their words and realized that they should not have given advice that was not asked. Advice should only be given to learned, wise and to those who ask for it.

Moral: Never give advice to fools.

i guess from then on the Baya looked for places that were inaccessible to poachers of all kinds. Thorny bushes and trees, mostly above streams and ponds and now even electric wires above human territory. This being more suitable than those tried a fore . Perhaps resistant to all kinds of attacks and not just monkeys, serpents or even humans.  i looked down to see the raw materials that could have been used which i earlier presumed to be some kind of fibers from special twigs and this is what i found.
It was one of the flattened by the tillers feet abandoned nest that perhaps had fallen off or who knows some mischievous kids in the village had tried to dislodge in their ignorant- of- the -consequence playfulness.
There were quite a few flattened ones below and some had merged with the wet with moisture farm soil. This particular field were i was standing upon had just seen it's latest sugarcane harvest.
i was touching and feeling this dilapidated beyond recognition home for the first time. The texture belied my hitherto notion of it being made of bits of twigs. It felt soft and smooth.
 i soon got talking to some people who were hanging around the fields as they too looked eager for an introduction. Their explanation about the material used made me wonder more with added respect for this looking and sounding like sparrow bird. The female Baya resembles the sparrow the most. 
The Baya chooses the softest but strongest bits from whatever she can find. Some bits that look as fine as coconut husk fibers are torn using her small beaks from the sugarcane and paddy stalks. She might use specific parts of the common grass too. Then blobs of mud is also used to stick inside the dome where the egg chamber is. 

That these avians and the rest live in harmony with each other is a known fact. My conversation with the keepers of the fields enriched me further about the field rats too. There is another Panchatantara story about the rats helping the captured birds by cutting the nets loose. However in this story the medium sized grizzled yellow brown or black rats assist the Baya the most in home building. For it is their broken into bits and skeins of the paddy, sugarcane and grass that Baya finds most appropriate in making a storm, rain and poacher proof home.

The friendly people of the fields gave me another bit of interesting news. That every year coinciding with the South West monsoons and paddy cultivation the Baya has her nesting season during which none of the existing homes will be used. A fresh new one will be built from scratch during each nesting season.
 Even they who are used to seeing this story happen every year, feel entertained at times watching the male and female flapping their wings in unison while building their own nest in a new colony.
That explains it then why i found quite a few nests hanging on those electric wires or of what i have seen before among the trees. And perhaps the kids in their playfulness were harmless too.

 Now i have picked up two of the broken from their anchors nests just for keepsakes. Perhaps i would like to hang them somewhere. What if a Bulbul might find something useful. Something worth picking from that which is not only soft and smooth but quite sturdy too. Now i could be disillusioned about this as each bird has her own choice of materials but there seems to be no harm in trying.
That way i don't mind being that rat in the fields...nibbling away at the roots...sometimes disturbing the crops...but eventually being of use.
i would like to conclude for the day with another quote and it goes like this-
“Give a woman an old wife's tale and a weaver-bird a leaf and a thread', they will weave wonderful things, 'said the Sikh.” (Taken from ' Kim' by Rudyard Kipling )



  1. Oh wow! Those tiny sweet sunshiney yellow birds are born with so much creativity! The nests are very beautiful!

    The story in between is very sad :/ but presents great moral :)

    Interesting post :)

  2. @ Valli thank u. Yeah the story is sad but tries to impart wisdom. Glad to have u say all that u felt. :)

  3. i have seen these nests when i was a kid. don't know why these birds are not there in my town any more. but may be they had a different name here. got confused with Bulbul. checked on wiki but couldn't find much info there either.

    and yes, i heard this story of monkeys as well! loved this post, yeah! wanted to write more on this comment form but i forgot what i wanted to say.

  4. @ Debajyoti...hahaha:) laughing at what u saiid last. That's very cool about u too. In whatever ur words are spoken honestly they at once elicit laughter.
    Now for the rest of u won't find much of these nests in towns although I saw a tree in Tatanagar wi th lots of these hanging like golden lanterns.
    Thanks for ur time and the early morn smile. :)