Bird watch - The Baya Weaver Bird
Among one of the most fascinating birds I have seen is the Baya Weaver Bird! A small bird, slightly bigger than the house sparrow, it is brightly coloured in yellow and black. I was walking along the semi-dry river bed of the Chitravati river, which flows through Puttaparthi when I heard wheezy chit-chit cheeeeeeee, chit-chit cheeeee... sounds. Immediately, I went on the alert and began to look around for the owner of that sweet sound.
There was no bird in sight but as I moved ahead, the sounds got louder and more in number too! It was evident to me that this is not a single bird but a community of them. I was only a few days old into this field of Ornithology but I was very excited at the prospects of meeting new feathered friends. The past few days had thrilled me about the variety of birds that abound my hamlet! And now, was my chance of making a new friend.
I came to a cluster of reeds that were growing in the shallow waters of the river. The Chitravati is not a perennial river and so it is dry for months and almost dry for a few months, being full only for about 3 months a year. Thus, I waded through ankle deep water to arrive at this reed cluster. The gentle breeze parted the reeds and my heart delighted at the sight of the beautiful baya weaver bird!
This bird is easily noticed from the shape of the nests it builds. It weaves with great patience and perseverance and builds for days to make a retort shaped home. These nests are always over some water body and this gives the bird a sense of safety and security. And these are social birds too! They always like in flocks and its very rare to find a solitary nest anywhere.
I discovered more intriguing information about the little weaver. It is always the male who builds the nest. He receives no help from his mate. But well, that is because he has no fixed mate. He is polygamous and he builds multiple nests for multiple females! It is not that the female is ‘duty-free’. The responsibility of incubating the eggs till they hatch is entirely left to the female. She does not depend on the male for this for he is busy making other nests and wooing other females.
It is fascinating to observe the weaver weave his nest. I was blessed with an opportunity to observe this too. He flies to a nearby haystack from where he collects the fibres he needs for the nest. He has a stout conical beak but he uses it with great dexterity to make interwoven strands that constitute the foundations of his hanging home. He is very patient and diligent and is never bogged down by the laboriously slow rate at which his home comes up. Days of toil brings the nest to the intermediate “helmet stage”.
The pace of building seems to quicken once this stage of the nest is crossed. I feel that this is because he can look at the nest that is coming up nicely and draw inspiration. He is now capable of visualizing his home and that in itself is an inspiration. I made a mental note - “Vision is a vital step to inspire great works and achievements!”
This is all the more true when you observe many nests abandoned at the halfway stage. I later came to know that these are experimental nests built by juvenile males. Lacking experience, they do not complete the nests till they improve on the learning curve. The experienced males are better at visualizing and they move towards completeness.
The nest is soon ready and he invites the female. He does this with a show of his nest and hopes that his efforts score over those of his fellow weavers. But there are enough females for all - in fact one male mates with more than one female. He literally builds multiple homes!
The chirping of this bird is so energetic. It increases in the nesting season which is from May to September according the the father of Indian Ornithology - Salim Ali. These weavers are very social and they sit happily singing a long-drawn joyous chee- eeee, accompanied by a flapping of wings as they weave their nests together. They collect wet blobs of mud to plaster within the nest, where the eggs will be laid. The female usually lays about 2-4 eggs.
This bird is shy to movements. If you wish to observe it, its important to locate its nesting area first. The bird abounds in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Shallow ponds and water bodies are good places to look for them.Arrive at the area and find a comfortable position and place to settle and observe. Make no sudden movements. The birds will return very soon and it's a most enjoyable period to see them go about their tasks in all meticulousness.
Once you have finished admiring this yellow beauty, look around and you almost see an infinite variety!