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From the Himalayas

                                                                                                                                   The Hindu, 10th February, 2015



From the Himalayas.jpg

The bird favours canopied forests. Photo: Vasanth Joshi

The blue-capped rock thrush brings a splash of colour to the cityscape


With winter chills driving them southwards at this time of year, we are lucky to have an exquisite Himalayan bird visiting Bengaluru. The blue-capped rock thrush (Monticola cinclorhynchus), which is a species of chat, and breeds in the foothills of the Himalayas and winters in the forests of southern India has dropped by.


The male with its bright blue and black upperparts and a prominent white wing patch presents a striking picture. The underside is brown. The female is dark olive and rather plain in comparison.


“We spotted a lone blue-capped rock thrush in the park on RV Road towards Sangam Circle,” says birder Amith Kumar. “We saw them earlier in Valley School, in Bannerghatta and in Nandi Hills. This is the first time we have found them inside city limits.”


According to an online bird site, the blue-capped rock thrush is a summer visitor in parts of Afghanistan and along the Himalayas from Pakistan to Arunachal Pradesh. In summer it is found in pine forests and hill slopes. In winter it is found in dense canopied forests. Happily for us its conservation status is of Least Concern. The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as very common in northern Pakistan and generally common throughout the Himalayas. Like thrushes, they fly up into trees and sit as still as possible, to avoid attracting attention.


“They used to be found regularly at Basavanagudi earlier, as well as in other wooded patches like IISc, or the Westend Hotel. I would like to believe that they are found in IISc still,” says renowned ornithologist Dr. Krishna MB.


Vasanth Joshi, who is an avid bird photographer says, “The blue capped rock thrush is a resident of the Himalayas and visits Bengaluru during the winter season. January and February are good months to sight this bird here. I generally visit Nandi Hills to photograph them,” he says.


Bopanna Patada who conducts bird watching tours in South India says, “They are usually seen in Nandi Hills but can also be seen at Ramanagram and other forested areas around Bengaluru. The bird has a habit of flying up into an overhead branch when disturbed and sits there motionless.”


Swaroop Bharadwaj, a regular birder, who travels across India to photograph birds says, “The blue capped rock thrush is a regular winter visitor to Bengaluru, and I have seen them in the Nandi Hills in the winter of 2013-2014 and then again in the winter of 2014-2015. Insectivorous, and extremely beautiful, my wife and I eagerly wait for these winter visitors to arrive each year.”