SHIKRA BEHAVIOUR

On 17th June 2012 the following behaviour of the birds was recorded by Yatin Parikh (School teacher and wildlife photographer) of Gandhinagar and me, Haseeb Shaikh (Naturalist and Coordinator of the Serenity Library, Ahmedabad) at the Aranya Park of the GEER Foundation at Gandhinagar, Gujarat. This behaviour was observed and recorded at around 05.30 pm.


It was observed on hearing the chattering of a pair of Black Drongos (Dicrurus adsimilis) over their nesting site on the Bawal tree (Acacia nilotica) that the pair was disturbed by a Shikra (Accipiter badius) which perched itself on a branch just above the nest infested with a Drongo hatchling. The Drongo pair constantly flew over the Shikra to force it to fly away from their nest. Just as we sighted the proceedings and Yatin Parikh raised his camera lens to click the picture, the Shikra launched itself into the Drong nest and picked up the young one of the Drongo and flew away with the Drongo chicken in its sharp claws. It flew and perched itself on another Bawal tree about 20 meters further from the nest and floored the Drongo chicken between its claw and the branch of the tree. The parent Drongo pair chased the Shikra to the tree and kept on pestering it to leave the hatchling and give up on it. The Shikra stood its ground and perched itself in the new position by responding with its sharp calls and began to puncture the hatchling with its sharp beak.

Interestingly the parent pair of Drongos was joined by a Red Wattled Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) which gave out loud calls and flew by circling above the new position of the Shikra. This disturbed the Shikra who gave responding cries to the Drongo pair and the Lapwing. The Shikra stopped eating the hatchling which was still alive and by clutching it in its claws it carried the hatchling and flew to another Bawal tree about 15 meters from the second position and acquired a third position. This time the Shikra took up a lower position on the tree and again floored the hatchling between its claw and the branch and began puncturing the hatchling body. In a minute or two we noticed that the hatchling was now dead as it ceased to move. We also noticed the newly grown feathers of the hatching were being plucked from its body and being released in the air as the feathers fell down. The feathers were also at times accompanied with tiny masses of flesh and skin.

Here in the third position taken up by the Shikra we noticed that the parent Drongo pair and the Lapwing were joined by a pair of Red Vented Bulbuls (Pychonotus cafer) who added to the defence of the already dead Drongo hatchling. The Shikra continued its slow meal of the hatchling by changing its grip and claws on the dead hatchling to suit its own comfort while the pair of Drongos and the pair of Bulbul’s kept on pestering it buy flying from one branch to another over the head of the Shikra and the Lapwing calling out loud by circling over the tree. On being pestered badly by the defending birds, the Shikra took long intervals between every two bites from the hatchling flesh. This position was observed by us about 15 minutes. As we observed it we documented it on the camera lens.

As I was a part of a nature trail on birding at the Aranya Park, I had to leave Yatin Parikh alone to record the happenings on the camera and had to join the team of young enthusiast briders. It was later narrated to me by Yatin Parikh that five minutes after I left the Shikra picked up the remains of the hatchling and surprisingly flew back to the nest of the Drongo’s and dropped the remains into the nest. This was an interesting behaviour by the raptor.

There were two interesting observations this day, (1) that the pair of Drongo’s was joined by the Lapwing and the pair of Bulbul’s in the vain defence of the Drongo hatchling and (2) The Shikra dropped the remains of the dead and half eaten hatchling back into the same nest from where it picked up the hatchling.

HASEEB SHAIKH
haseebsiddique@hotmail.com