Mr. Phelps

The first words that come to mind when you utter the word ‘Bangalore’: Bad traffic. Chaos and confusion, clamor and commotion – everyday of commuting has been a pain. But didn’t someone say, “Every cloud has a silver lining” ?

We would sit in traffic jams and spend our time appreciating the colorful chestnut-and-white Brahminy Kite. The colors never cease to amaze us, and also the fact that the birds have probably adapted to feeding off the bad waters in Bangalore.

All we wanted was a decent photograph of this stately raptor. While we were waiting for that opportune moment, my parents returned from a short trip to Singapore and were proudly showing off their day with the birds. Here we were,  waiting for just-one -image, and my father had actually posed with one! If that wasn’t enough, to add salt to our ‘wounds’,  my aunt wrote about the Garuda family outside her house.

Patience – we told ourselves.

It was the Indian Independence Day, and we headed out for some independence for ourselves, to free ourselves from the pollution. It was Sugandhi’s turn to drive and I sat navigating, and looking out for birds of the feathered kind, and of the other kind ;). I saw something and shouted, “Stop!”. She mouthed many a bad phrase, stopped and reversed the car. Her anger turned to surprise and then to delight when she saw what made me shout. In the fields, in a puddle of water, was a cozy little family of Brahminy Kites (2 Adults and 2 Juveniles). It was the first time that we saw these birds in water, having what seemed like a nice swim !

Birds are warm-blooded, warmer than most other creatures, including us. Although their body temperature doesn’t change so much with the changes outside, they also have their ‘bad days’, when their body heat can get quite high.  Extreme body heat, extremely active and the birds can still afford to say ‘no sweat’. Literally, because they cannot sweat, as they have no sweat glands. These feathered friends of ours have found out many ways to get rid of that body heat. One such is to do what we would also love to – get into water and splash around. This gets their feathers wet and brings down the extra heat in the body.

Now, it is said that the young ones of a Brahminy Kite, when they go a-fishing, may sometimes land in the water but manage to swim and take off without much trouble. There is a reference to such a behavior way back in 1926 by Prater SH; Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus swimming, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. We are trying to get our hands on it to compare notes.

Well, this family seemed to have settled in water, rather than just having landed in!  One of the younger ones seemed to be playfully busy looking for a snack.

This was an inundated  field, a typical place for a Brahminy Kite, and that ‘pool’ had all the characteristics of a ‘bird bath’. It was shallow enough for their size, had more than stones and pebbles below for them to stand on, with enough open space around for them to escape if they sensed any danger.

Of course, they used it more than like a bath. Here is one series from what we now call “The Phelps Family”. One breath to the right, one to the left, look ahead and take stock of the situation. And start all over again. It was fantastic to watch the swimmers.

The days have gone by and we have our collection of images of this kleptoparasite. Our patience has paid. If not anything else, we will continue to enjoy the company of our Garuda in the midst of traffic woes.



Homemaker | Natural History Filmmaker | Entrepreneur

Ambika Kamath

Dismantle by Building Differently


South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People




books and things.

Blah Ka Nas

Small bats, big adventures

...if reason could emote

Jungles of India

by Vidya Venkatesh

life is beautiful

...coz I am in Love with myself...


a blog by Oliver Peters

Ecology Students' Society

Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science

Karthik's Journal

Our book of the forest

Sandesh Kadur

Our book of the forest

Catching Flies

Our book of the forest

Gowrishankar's Blog

King cobra - Research & Education

Kalyan Varma

Our book of the forest

Wildlife Memoirs

Our book of the forest