Garden Birds of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur

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Item Code: IDK952
Author: Samar Singh, Photographs Nikhil Devasar and Amano Samarpan
Publisher: Wisdom Tree Publications
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 9788183280761
Pages: 135 (Illustrated Throughout In Color)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 7.0" X 4.5"
Book Description

Birds are among the most colourful denizens of this planet. The gardens of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are home to a large number of birds. Shri Samar Singh has done a meticulous study of garden birds which turn out to be as many as 107 species belonging to 33 families, ranging from the glorious Blue Peafowl down to the tiny Minivets and Munias. Shri Samar Singh has with great devotion produced this beautifully illustrated book. This will be a most welcome addition to ornithological literature of the country, and will be particularly welcomed by the large number of bird-lovers. I would like to congratulate Samar Singhji upon the book and hope that it will be widely circulated.


Birds have always fascinated humankind and the reasons are quite obvious. Among all the higher forms of life called the vertebrates or back-boned animals, birds are certainly the most beautiful, most melodious, most admired, most studied and most defended. They far outnumber all other vertebrates, except fishes, and can be found virtually everywhere throughout the world. Perhaps the central part of Antarctic is the only place on the world’s surface where birds have not been found.

Descended from the reptilian stock similar to the dinosaurs, birds have radiated explosively over the earth in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colours and habits. Currently, they inhabit every continent and occupy almost every conceivable niche. Some even nest underground. Altogether, there are about 9, 000 living species of birds, which the scientists have placed in 27 major groups called Orders and around 155 Families.

Considering that life on earth extended into the spectrum of time for more than two billion years, birds are a latter-day creation, Palaeontologists believe that they began to branch off from the reptilian stock sometime in the late Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago, shortly after the first mammals appeared. Well-known scientist T.H. Huxley described birds as glorified reptiles” because birds share many characteristics with reptiles, such as certain skeletal and muscular features, somewhat similar eggs and an ‘egg tooth’ on the upper jaw at hatching time. However, the unique feature that sets them apart from all other life forms is that they have feathers, which are indeed a marvel of natural engineering. No other creatures possess this special feature.

The association between human beings and birds has been very long and intimate. In fact, birds have helped humankind in various ways for thousands of years-from the Geese whose warning cries saved Rome to the Canaries that were used to warn miners of methane gas leakage. They continue to provide such lifesaving service by acting as reliable indicators of the health of our environment, specially regarding the dangers arising from chemicals and other toxic substances in the atmosphere. Moreover, birds play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of Nature by controlling insect pests and rodents as well as in cross-pollination of plant species, seed dispersal and as scavengers. Further, there are birds that have made remarkable contributions to human welfare, economically and otherwise. The classic case is that of India’s wonder bird, the Red Junglefowl, which is the progenitor of all poultry forms worldwide and has been responsible for several outstanding contributions to medical research and human health.

India’s richness in avian diversity is well recognized. Of about 9,000 bird species in the world, around 1,200 are found in India. This means about 13 per cent of the world’s total, which is very remarkable for an area that is only about 4 per cent of the world’s total landmass. The more spectacular part is the fact that out of 27 orders and 155 families of birds for the world as a whole, India accounts for about 20 Orders and 77 Families. Of the total of 1.200 bird species found in India, about 900 are resident species and the rest, about 300, are migratory, mostly coming from Central Asia and Eastern Europe during the winter period.

Several bird species are quite at home in the urban areas. In this respect, Delhi ranks high as a city with a thriving bird population. In India, it is clearly the riches city in birds, with an amazing list of more than 400 species, which means at least one-third of the country’s total number of bird species. Very few cities in the world can boast of such avian richness. Delhi’s bird list includes several summer and winter visitors as well as passage migrants, mainly because the city is well positioned along the north-south flowing Yamuna on one of the major Asian Flyways. No doubt the most favoured areas are the riverbanks and the Ridge, but several large well-tended parks and gardens and even the trees along the city roads, particularly in south Delhi, attract a rich variety of birds. Agra and Jaipur also have several green spaces that attract birds of different types.

Birds and gardens have a symbiotic relationship for quite obvious reasons. The concept and practice of gardening is certainly homocentric: it is human initiative for human pleasure and benefit. But, in this scheme the natural elements necessarily play a vital role and a garden without trees and birds is inconceivable Gardens and groves in ancient times were built mostly temples and palaces. Several sacred groves are still in existence all over the country, but the gardens of the remote past have not survived the vicissitudes of time.

As far as Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are concerned, these were the seats of powerful kingdoms in medieval times and witnessed, under royal patronage, the flowering of human ingenuity in many spheres, including gardening and horticulture. The was specially so during the Mughal period in the 16th and 17th centuries and then again under the British rule in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the post-independence period over the past six decades also several new parks and gardens have been established along with the restoration of those set up earlier. These are like the ‘green lungs’ of these three important cities, which form the well-known ‘Golden Triangle’ favoured by the tourists visiting India. An added attraction is, no doubt, the diversity and richness of birdlife harboured in these places.

In this connection, the role of vegetation diversity has to be noted. The more diverse the vegetation, the greater the variety of birdlife therein. This is for the simple reason requirements in terms of food, camouflage, roosting, nesting, etc. vis-à-vis trees, shrubs, bushes and other vegetation. Hence, many manicured gardens and parks having only certain types of trees and shrubs generally attract lesser number of birds, whereas the relatively small garden area of the India International Centre in New Delhi, having quite diverse trees and vegetation, accounts for as many as 83 bird species. In shot, there is a direct relationship between vegetation diversity and bird diversity.

The list of garden birds in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur given in the book includes 107 species belonging to 33 different Families. The descriptive notes are on selected species, specially the prominent and interesting ones. As the book title indicates, only those birds have been listed which frequent gardens and parks, including large birds like the glamorous Blue Peafowl, which is our National Bird, as well as tiny birds such as the dainty looking Purple Sunbird, Tailorbird, White-eye and some Minivets and Munias. Care has been taken to include in the list bird species about which there is certainty and to exclude those about whom any doubt has arisen, especially some of the smaller birds whose identification is always difficult, However, suggestions for making additions to the list are welcome.

In a book on birds, it is worthwhile to incorporate some tips on bird watching. Hence, a brief note on the subject by the famous ornithologist, the late Dr Salim Ali, is being included in this publication, along with his views on the usefulness of birds. For giving permission to do so, the Bombay Natural History Society has to be thanked. I also wish to thank Shri P.C. Sen, Director, India International Centre, for entrusting to me this interesting task; Nikhil Devasar and Amano Samarpan, the photographers; and Shobit Arya of wisdom Tree.

Back of the Book

The ‘golden triangle’ of India – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur is an rich and diverse in its birdlife as it is in its culture and tradition. The gardens and adjacent water bodies in these cities provide a huge range of vegetation diversity for the birds to dwell and rest.

This superb book constitutes an engaging guide containing descriptive notes and colourful photographs of the birds commonly seen in northern India.

Samar Singh, retired as Secretary to the Government of India. He was Secretary-General, World Wide Fund for Nature-India. A recipient of the ‘Order of the Golden Ark’, he has worked extensively in the field of environment and conservation.

Nikhil Devasar is a passionate bird photographer. His bird pictures appear in several Indian and international publications.

Amano Samarpan studied photography at Duckspool in the UK. His work regularly features in books and magazines.


Dr Karan Singh
Nehru’s Letterviii
Little Green Bee-eater-Merops orientalis1
Oriental White-eye-Zosterops palpebrosus3
Purple Sunbird-Nectarinia asiatica5
Blue Rock Thrush-Monticola solitarius7
Oriental Magpie Robin-Copsychus saularis9
Asian Paradise Flycatcher-Terpsiphone paradisi11
House Swift-Apus affinis13
Red-vented Bulbul-Pycnonotus cafer15
White-throated Kingfisher-Halcyon smyrnensis17
Common Kingfisher-Alcedo atthis19
Yellow-crowned Woodpecker-Dendrocopos mahrattensis25
House Sparrow-Passer domesticus27
Indian Robin-Saxicoloides fulicata29
Golden Oriole-Oriolus oriolus kundoo31
Baya Weaver-Ploceus philippinus33
Yellow Wagtail-Motacilla flava35
Brown-headed Barbet-Megalaima zeylanica37
Common Stonechat-Saxicola torquata39
Mynas and Starlings41
Red-wattled Lapwing-Vanellus indicus43
Yellow-legged Green Pigeon-Treron phoenicoptera45
Rufous Treepie-Dendrocitta vagabunda47
Shikra-Accipiter badius49
Indian Grey Hornbill-Ocyceros birostris51
Rose-ringed Parakeet-Psittacula krameri53
Common Hoopoe-Upupa epops55
Indian Cuckoo-Cuculus micropterus57
Asian Koel-Eudynamys scolopacea59
Common Hawk Cuckoo-Hierococcyx varius61
Black Drongo-Dicrurus macrocercus63
Intermediate Egret-Mesophoyx intermedia67
Rock Pigeon-Columba livia69
Little Brown Dove-Streptopilia senegalensis71
Indian Roller-Coracias benghalensis73
House Crow-Corvus splendens75
Greater Coucal-Centropus sinensis79
Indian Peafowl-Pavo cristatus81
Tawny Eagle-Aquila rapaz87
Grey Francolin-Francolinus pondicerianus89
Common Indian Nightjar-Caprimulgu asiaticus91
Indian Chat-Cercemola fusca93
Common lora-Aegithina tiphia95
Grey Tit-Parus major97
Common Chiffchaff-Phylloscopus collybitta99
Common Rosefinch-Carpodacus erythrinus101
Excerpts from Salim Ali’s book
The Usefulness of Birds
Bird Watching

Sample Pages

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