N. Ramakrishnan
N. Ramakrishnan

N. Ramakrishnan writes on infrastructure, renewable energy, cement and automobiles, and, of late, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Ramki is passionate about journalism; loves nature, reading, bird-watching, photography, politics and urban development.

N Ramakrishnan

Kuyil, a lot to crow about

| Updated on July 11, 2013 Published on July 10, 2013

Kuyil (9)

Chennai has not lost just its sparrows. By all accounts, its crow population is also coming down. No, I do not have any authoritative proof of this, but going by the sound of bird calls early in the morning, I daresay the koel or cuckoo (bird books refer it to as the Asian koel going by the zoological name Eudynamys scolopacea) is increasing its numbers at the expense of… of course, the crow.

As a child, I distinctly remember that you only heard the occasional and distant sound of the cuckoo – a plaintive cooo…cooo call. Rarely did you see them. The crows, on the other hand, were all over the place. They were raucous, they were rowdy and, especially if it were a Hindu house, they would demand that they be fed rice first, at the time they were used to being fed, before the household sat down to have its brunch.

Tamil folklore has it that if crows fly over your house raising hell, you were sure to get visitors or guests. Not sure if this is true, but we still believed what the textbooks said. But, there were so many of them crows always making a noise, that it must often have been pure coincidence that guests landed up at home.

Thinking back about those happy childhood days and comparing it with the early morning bird sounds now, I am convinced that the cuckoos have taken over. Their loud shrieks from before the crack of dawn drown out any other bird sound, especially those of the crows. The only other birds that manage to be heard are the babblers – or seven sisters, as they are more commonly known – that thanks to their shrill calls still manage to be heard.

The cuckoos can now be heard throughout the day, not just a distant sound. You can see them easily too. The kuyil, as it is known in Tamil, lays its egg in the nest of other birds, most often crows. The modus operandi is simple: the male distracts the crow from the vicinity of its nest and the female uses this opportunity to lay its egg and scoot. The poor crow will sit brooding, waiting for the eggs to hatch, not knowing whether what is going to come out is a baby crow or a cuckoo!

From the balcony of my apartment, it is quite a sight to see the crows go after the kuyils. The males are glistening black with a yellowish green bill and the females are brown, profusely spotted and barred. Many of my friends have complained of the racket the kuyils make early in the morning. I, for one, don’t mind. I get alarmed when I don’t hear the kuyil sound first thing, before the crack of dawn.

Does the increase in kuyil population have anything to do with our changing social behaviour – more of live-in relationships being openly talked about, more of surrogate parenthood…

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Published on July 10, 2013
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