The bird call was different — rather monotonous and louder than the chorus of chirping of from the regular visitors that I knew so well. So, I leave the computer, peep through the window and I see the rustling of a pair, but the green of the feathers and brown of the head is such a good camouflage.
I take my new love in my hand and together we tip toe quietly, ever so quietly into the garden.
Oh! dear the pair are quarrelling. One shrieks and chases the other way — a lover’s tiff? Or a pregnant bird wanting the food for herself? The aggressive one sits on the branch a little pensive. I click, and that’s a good thing with this new love, the click is so quiet the bird doesn’t move.
My knowledge of birds is not something to crow about, if you excuse the pun — I need help here — so out comes the faithful “Guide to the Birds of Ceylon” by K.M. Henry. On page 127, Henry says the bird is also called Green Barbet by other authors. In Sinhalese, he is a Pollos Kottoruwa or Gabbal Kotturuwa and so must be fond of the tender Jak fruit — Polos. In Tamil he is known as Kutur, or Kukkuruvan.
In size, he is like a plump Mynah bird and for living prefer village gardens, open woods and is not so fond of heavy forests. He is not averse to be seen in towns and I suppose that’s how he came to my neighbour’s overgrown messy one with fruit trees! Henry says they live in pairs but do not associate very closely –doesn’t that somehow sound familiar — like a modern independent married couple. However, like the humans with mobile phones, this pair keeps in touch by means of their loud and frequently-uttered calls, a monotonous kuk’ra, kukra, kukra (which he says has several various renderings).
This is probably the sound I first heard.
Henry describes the call in detail: “The bird commences its call with a rolling Krrrr-r-r on an ascending scale until it reaches its pitch, when the kuk’ra begins and continues for many seconds, to be answered by its mate, from a distance, in similar tones. While producing these sounds the beak is closed, and the head quivers strongly at each enunciation.
The Barbet even has a scold-note, says Henry. This is usually uttered in concert with other small birds when mobbing an owl, a cat or a tree-snake — I love this bird, especially if he mobs cats — an enemy of an enemy is always my friend. Then his call is a loud coarse sounding guffaw quo-ho-ho (o’s short as in ox).
This bird keeps his feet off the ground and is strictly arboreal, never descending to the ground and feeds on a large variety of berries and other fruits. When flying for any distance, it is supposed to proceed in a series of big bounds, alternately fluttering and sailing with wide spread wings.
For his nests, the bird works solitarily and hammers and pecks out a hole in a soft -wooded dead tree stump or branch, seeming to prefer those that are vertical. The entrance hole is about 2.5 inches in diameter, and is nearly circular. The cavity inside widens to an oval shape and the female lays about 3 or 4 dull white eggs. The young are fed on insects like green mantises as well as on fruit
Maybe I should go looking for a dead tree stump and a polos fruit . … and hope they make up and return.
Reference: Henry, G.M. A guide to the Birds of Ceylon 2nd ed. OUP,1971