Hema Ravi
Life in this metropolis on the Coromandel Coast is exhilarating in its own way. Chennai (formerly Madras) is well-known for its education, culture, cuisine, art, temples and more.  Live in Rome as the Romans do! In contrast, live in Chennai, as you would like to, without stepping into squabbles or political controversies. And the “right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins!” There are innumerable hobbies one can pursue in this wonderful city that range from temple visits to photography.

Green Bee Eater with its catch,
Adyar Estuary Photo Courtesy: N. Ravi
Post retirement, my better half got hooked to an exciting hobby – Photography; nature and bird photography in particular. As an energetic writer, his candid shots offer me greater incentive to write. 
The city with its tropical wet and dry climate is home for a variety of birds. The green environs of  the Theosophical Society, the IIT, Madras, Adyar Poonga (Park), Adyar Estuary (all, in close proximity to the salubrious neighborhood where we live!) boast of at least 200 species, which include resident and migratory birds.

Symbiotic relationship Crow and Buffalo at
Adyar Estuary Photo Courtesy: N. Ravi
Alarm bells do ring about loss of habitat due to urbanization, and one is not certain if these avian creatures will remain or go into oblivion. My thoughts race to the spotted owl family in the hollow of a large tree that disappeared about six months ago. The tree with its wide-spread branches had been their abode for several years; children and passersby used to watch them without disturbing them. Sometime last year, cleanup operations and planting of saplings began, which probably was the death’s knell for these nocturnal creatures. No one really knows, but it is quite likely that they could not find their prey in the altered locale. (Sigh!)

Spotted Owl in Gandhi Nagar, Chennai
Photo Courtesy: N. Ravi
There are several insightful and inspiring takeaways from the lives of these winged creatures. The jungle crow, for instance, nursing the cuckoo fledgling along with its own brood. I recall reading a viewpoint expressed by the German ornithologist Johann Bechstein who proposed that the crows were ‘beside themselves for joy’ and it was ‘an honor’ to care for it.  By ‘natural selection’ it goes against the idea of ‘self-interest,’ nevertheless, watching the crow feeding the young parasite intrigues the rational thinker.

Crow Feeding young cuckoo in Gandhi Nagar, Chennai
Photo Courtesy: N. Ravi

Many an interesting story unfolds in these environs, and it is a moment of pride and satisfaction to capture on lens the shikra, the striated heron, the elusive grey-bellied cuckoo or the garden-lizard sunbathing on the river bank. They too are quite interesting. Again, I am told that these creatures bring along a ‘hidden-perk’ – they ‘carry an enzyme that purges deer ticks,’ which cause ‘Lyme Disease.’ Just as the owls keep the rodent-population in control. 

Garden Lizard at Gandhi Nagar, Adyar
Photo Courtesy: N. Ravi

Pair of Shikaras near Adyar River, Chennai
Photo Courtesy: N. Ravi

Each day, a new tale unfolds, more so, in the breeding season. A great learning awaits the avid watcher to observe them build nests, raise their young, and fly off without ‘holding-on’ to anything. Watching male-birds as ‘bread-winners,’ even among the shikras is a humbling experience. 

Grey Bellied Cuckoo at Adyar Estuary
Photo Courtesy: N. Ravi

Who ever thought that humans alone cared for their young ones.  Day after day, watching these winged creatures is a humbling experience for the materialistic adult.  
Striated Heron at Adyar Estuary Photo Courtesy: N. Ravi

Introducing ‘birding’ would prove to be beneficial to inculcate in children the qualities of empathy, tolerance and acceptance.


  1. Padmaja Iyengar-PaddyFebruary 7, 2023 at 5:29 AM

    An excellent and informative write-up that takes us on a trip to the great city of Chennai which, with its composite and cosmopolotan culture, embraces all with love and care, including the flora and the fauna. I recall that my father as a part of his Puja ritual, would place a smallball of rice in a bowl on a window in our home in Nagpur and later Hyderabad. This custom is prevalent in other South Indian families too. Just goes to show that evwn religious practixes tell us to be kind to our flora and fauna.Kudos and respect to my dear friend Hema Ravi for this superbly penned article with superior visuals of the various birds that inhabit the Chennai city.

  2. Loved the message at the end which should be inculcated in childrem


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