Friday, March 13, 2009

The Coppersmith in the garden

The reverberating "tuk-tuk-tuk..." echoing from every corner of my garden sounds like a hundred smiths busy at work.
Smiths? More like a Coppersmith Barbet to be precise (please see the Post Script ).
I've been looking everywhere for him but his call seems to come from every direction at the same time, making it difficult to locate him. To make it worse, his green feathers camouflage him so well among the trees where he loves to hang out.


I finally managed to locate him on this gul mohur tree. I was almost startled that this small, dumpy bird, hardly bigger than a sparrow, could produce a call that rings throughout the entire neighbourhood. The almost monotonous call, repeated every second or so (for what can seem like forever), sounds like a coppersmith hammering on a sheet of metal ... and that's how he got his name, Coppersmith.

Incidentally, he doesn't open his beak when he's calling out. Instead, the skin of the throat puffs out with each note. That, coupled with the difficulty I had in pinpointing his location, convinces me that we have an accomplished ventriloquist here!

The Coppersmith is one colourful bird ; he has a crimson forehead and a crimson patch like a necklace too. And a yellow face and throat with a black stripe near his eye. It's almost as if he's trying to make up for his dumpiness and stubby tail !

The Coppersmith Barbet is considered one of our more common birds in urban gardens but I'm sure not many people in Mumbai have spotted him. His ringing "tuk-tuk-tuk..." calls, on the other hand, must be familiar to everyone who's lucky enough to have a tree or garden in the vicinity!

I wish I could have shared clearer photos with you but if you go over to Wiki, there are some excellent ones there.
Or even better, head over to Walk The Wilderness and see these absolutely stupendous photos of the Coppersmiths.

Post Script : This post has been edited . I had an e-mail from a reader who informed me that the Coppersmith Barbet and the Crimson throated (fronted ) Barbet are different birds. Now, since I had got the information for this post and the ID for the bird from the book 'The Book of Indian Birds' by Dr. Salim Ali, I was quite reluctant to believe this correction. (for those who are not familiar with his name, Dr. Salim Ali was considered the leading light of ornithology in India).

So I double-checked with Thomas at 'Walk The Wilderness' who has posted about Coppersmiths (see the link above) and he confirmed that what I've posted here is obviously the Coppersmith Barbet as the Crimsonfronted Barbet does not have yellow around the eyes or on the throat.

So there you have it ... this is the Coppersmith Barbet but he doesn't answer to the 'Crimsonbreasted / throated / fronted' tag. I'm so sorry for the confusion.
Thank you so much, Nits, for pointing out my mistake. And thanks to you too, Thomas, for taking the trouble to clarify my doubts.

49 comments:

  1. The coppersmith barbet is a very small and colorful bird. Since you don't have the kind of equipment, its difficult to photograph this bird. I would say you have done very well in spotting and getting record shots of the fella.

    In case you want to see him up close and personal, check out my post (old one) http://walkthewilderness.blogspot.com/2008/08/antics-of-coppersmith-brigade.html

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  2. Sunita,
    Each post of yours is so full of knowledge ... I am beigining to ref. to you as an urban encyclopedia ... I love your pictures just the way they are ... I did spy the coppersmith , in the almond trees here at our NRI Complex .... I am wondering if after saying hellow to you they do a quick drop over at ours :)

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  3. Sunita .. you have such colourful birds in your garden .. and such amazing bird calls !

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  4. What a fascinating bird, unusual too.
    I like that tree that he is sitting
    on, may I ask what kind of tree is
    that?

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  5. Very nice photos Sunita! When I first saw the title of your post I thought you had a coppersmith making a garden ornament for you. Your coppersmith IS the ornament!

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  6. You got excellent pictures. I am going to try to find his call on the web though, sounds so interesting!

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  7. Thomas / Suresh, your photos are amazing ! Should I add, "as usual"? Your photos are exactly what mine want to become when they grow up! :D
    I've added a link to your post on mine. Hope that's okay with you?

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  8. Rajee, your comments are always a great morale booster for me. Thanks! :)
    I'm not surprised you spotted them in the almond trees. They love fruits and berries.
    er...Rajee, NRI complex? As in Non Resident Indian? I told you I would need a passport to visit you! ;D

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  9. Joy, has Spring got around to your city yet?
    About the birdcall... after the first half hour of hearing him going "tuk-tuk-tuk" endlessly, I'm sure the rest of the bird population is ready to drown him!

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  10. Hi Cathy! That is a Delonix regia tree. It is called gul mohur in India. I love its feathery foliage and hot-red blooms. Incidentally, the flowers you see in the last photo are of a Garlic Vine which has climbed over the tree. If you want to see the gul mohur's flowers, go to http://the-urban-gardener.blogspot.com/2008/05/red-hot-indian-summer.html and check out the third photo. Now imagine the whole tree covered with them (no, the leaves are nowhere in sight for quite some time)

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  11. Hello Sunita

    I loved your photos of the coppersmith. As far as I know we don't have this bird in Germany. It's a beautiful, little, colourful bird. I'd love to hear his "tuk tuk".
    Thanks for telling us about him here :)

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  12. Very informative post ... yet again. Am getting more and more convinced that u r also a fauna expert in addition to the 'gardener' tag

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  13. Oh sunita, I'm so in love with birds. This one is cute. Chubby and cuddly. Can one cuddle a bird? I wish I can, softly, ok?

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  14. Hey there Sunita,
    you have such beautiful birds and butterflies in your garden that I am almost jealous. I only have a few birds, dowdy bossy sparrows, beady eyed blackbirds, yellow breast banana quit, wood doves, wild pigeons, rame, gray herons, egrets and oh 2 types of humming birds. We are bird and butterfly poor....this is because we are located in the Atlantic Ocean.Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Oh, Sunita, you're so lucky to have all these brilliant colored birds hanging around your gardens! I'd say you did a fine job on your captures! Beautiful!

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  16. Whoa! You did a great job, Sunita. I hear they're difficult to spot and you were sooooo lucky.

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  17. Garden Girl, I WISH! I think I would love some copper rain chimes or even a couple of sculptures for my garden. But till I get those, I'll make do with my coppersmith bird ;)

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  18. Tina, I didnt even know you could do things like that! So were you able to find the coppersmith and listen to him hammering away?

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  19. Margaret, you should note it down as something to look out for on your next trip here. As far as I know, the coppersmiths are all over the place, even in Punjab and Delhi.

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  20. Thanks Sandeep, but I'm no expert, I'm afraid. I definitely have a deep interest in anything connected with Nature and enjoy watching Discovery and NGC more than the saas-bahu serials. Maybe thats got something to do with it? :D

    Blossom, have you taken a good look at his beak? Thats a nice strong beak that he has. I would hate to find it digging into my skin. But I know exactly what you mean about how protective one can feel about birds. Especially the small ones.

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  21. Helen, you have hummingbirds! No way are you bird-poor if you have those jewels.
    Er, and what's the connection between the Atlantic Ocean and being bird-poor?
    Whats a banana quit? I'll have to go take a quick look through Google Images for these birds.

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  22. Hi Kim! Its good to see you here again. Yeah, I think I'm quite lucky too :) But you're not exactly deprived of the brilliant creatures in your garden. You always have gorgeous butterflies to make up for everything you may not have, right?

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  23. Absolutely, Chandramouli ! I think I was lucky that the gul mohur had scanty foliage at that time. If it had been filled with feathery leaves as usual, I doubt whether I could've spotted the Coppersmith.

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  24. Hi Sunita! I found your blog via Lisa Q's. What a great little bird! I'm hoping to get out and photograph some birds today but I know I won't find anything this pretty.

    Incidentally, I was able to find some recordings of this species at the Macaulay audio library

    http://macaulaylibrary.org/index.do

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  25. Sunita, we are not near to any large land mass, Barbados is located alone in the Atlantic and not really part of the island chain. The islands that are nearer to South American land mass have a wider variety of birds and butterflies. I guess that migration is a lot easier. We do get some travelers after a storm more than likely brought here by strong wind currents. For example Trinidad is in close proximity to SA has over 150 species of butterflies and birds. They are also known as the land of the humming birds. We in Barbados just have beautiful beaches and high prices. We have stability in our government and crime is quite low so it is attractive to investors. The cost of living is one of the highest in the world but that doesn't seem to bother Tourist in the past. Don't know what it will be like in the next few months or years. Property prices are very high and the demand is still great for this little 2x4. Enough said ! You have beautiful birds and keep sharing them with us.

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  26. Sunita - You made this bird come to life for me. Thank you.

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  27. Great shots of the bird! I don't think I have seen one before.

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  28. Hi Shady character! It looks like you didnt do so badly yourself. That bluebird is pretty enough for a bunch of tropical birds . And thank you so much for that link. I think there is potential for atleast a good two days of browsing around in the that site :)

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  29. Helen, at least you have your beautiful beaches and they arent going to fly away every time you go close! I'll post about my birds and you post about your beaches... deal?

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  30. You're welcome, vbdb! I'm glad you liked this post and the Coppersmith :)

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  31. Hi Sunita, how very nice to meet your cute little fellow in your garden. Interesting and beautiful.
    The birds in my garden are starting to get spring feelings and they are sooo busy. They are singing their lovely spring melodies.

    Tyra

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  32. So charming! How did you spot him? Once upon a time there were many different kind of birds in our garden - cuckoos, and parrots and others whose names we did not know. We even had woodpeckers. but with urbanisation and knocking down of old buildings, and chopping down trees, there aren't many left now.

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  33. Thanks, Indrani. He blends in so well with the foliage that you're more likely to have heard the Coppersmith rather than see him!

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  34. Hi Tyra !
    aaah, Spring! It always makes me think of Bambi, the movie, everytime someone talks of animals in Spring!
    Enjoy your wonderful Springtime, Tyra... you've put up with enough all these months of Winter ;)

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  35. Great pictures of this elusive bird and a good read. 'Tuk tuk tuk' is something I hear a lot of, but cant ever see where it's coming from.

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  36. Thanks, Gowri. At least you can get a good look at the Coppersmith here.

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  37. Hi Sunita,
    I am 100% with you about the difficulty in spotting them when they are merged so well to the foliage. Our one looks quite similar to the ones in your pics.

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  38. Amila, I didnt realise you had a Coppersmith too. I should have known though... we seem to be visited by the same birds. Or at least, their country cousins!

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  39. Hi Sunita ,
    Don't have your e-mail... so 'am asking you this through this section ... had someone over at my blog looking for info about owl species in India ... sice I am no help in that department... thought I'd ask the garden lady ... are you an owl encyclopedia ,by any chance :)
    I which case I can refer her to your blog.Do let me know .

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  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  41. Ummm, not really, Rajee. I dont know much about owls except for wishing I had more of them in my garden ! Do tell her to take a look in here but to find anything useful about owls, you could check with Thomas at 'Walk the Wilderness' or Amila at 'Galicissa' (you'll find links to both on the side-bar here). Or, she can always check with BNHS ( www.bnhs.org )
    BTW, my e-mail ID is on my Blogger profile page (under Contact)

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  42. I am so hopeless at recognizing birds, your confusion feels so minor to me. Have you ever been to Bharatpur in season?

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  43. Thank you Sunita for the information - reading your posts is just as good as school lessons. =) You're photos are wonderful too - it's amazing that you have been able to catch this little bird so good!
    You asked about the plants in our stand on the fair. They are Salix caprea 'Kilmarnock'. I brought one home and I hope it will enjoy growing in my garden...
    Take care
    /Helen

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  44. LOL! Mridula, I can just imagine how this may seem like quibbling over small details, but I do like to get my facts right when its going to read by others :)
    Bharatpur is right up on top of my wish-list . I haven't been there yet, and I keep drowning in envy every time someone starts talking about how wonderful it is.
    Some day ...

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  45. Thanks, Helen. I'm glad you liked this post :)
    That plant (or is it a tree?) is very interesting ! I like its architectural look. I hope it grows well for you.

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  46. Sunita, you've captured this cute and colorful little fellow well with your point and shoot. That's not easy to do!
    You really are a good teacher, and I love learning about your flora and fauna :)

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  47. Hi Kerri. Yes, he is so colourful isnt he? I think its time I progressed to a DSLR soon, though. What do you recommend?

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  48. What an adorable bird and story!!! I have been trying to spot one around where I live, but all I get is a Tuk tuk sound and a rare, fleeting glimpse, no opportunity to take a shot, which is why I was delighted to spot one in Ralegaon Siddhi :) I think the difficulty in spotting one adds to the interest :D

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  49. I hope you got my comment?? it just disappeared!!

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