Quite early one morning last week I was pensively sipping a cup of tea when I heard a muffled commotion on the lawn. Peering through a window, I found a flock of about 15 crested bulbuls strutting, with an air of self-importance, around a fledgling flopping about on the dewy grass. Apparently, they were lending its parents a helping hand to teach it to fly.
Egged on by the squeaking birds, again and again the fledgling clumsily tried to rise from the lawn but failed miserably. I felt it was perhaps too young to try out its wings. Then suddenly all the bulbuls perceptibly stiffened into a state of alertness and quickly formed a protective ring of sorts around the young one. They had sensed danger. Something, unseen by me, had alarmed them.
I scanned a couple of jungle trees nearby and noticed a few leaves in one trembling inexplicably though it was a windless morning. Soon a slight movement caught my eye and I espied a hawk hidden among the foliage, its dark grey plumage perfectly camouflaged by its surroundings. By now the bulbuls were in a state of agitation, twittering rapidly and incoherently. Then, quite amazingly, all of a sudden a ‘squadron’ of about 12 of them took off from the lawn as if on cue. They headed straight and unflinchingly for the hideout of the hawk that was still biding its time, waiting for the right moment to swoop down on the helpless fledgling and whisk it away.
However, before the raptor could do so, the gritty ‘platoon’ of bulbuls was milling around it, wings flapping furiously as they twittered their ire for all they were worth. Faced with such daunting opposition, the hawk took to its wings. It soared high into the sky in a bid to escape its tormentors who doggedly pursued it for quite some distance until it disappeared from sight.
As I watched awestruck the jubilant flock of bulbuls returned, squeaking their triumph. They milled noisily around the youngster and its parents, solicitous about its well-being. Then, their mission successfully accomplished and reassured that all was well, the birds soon dispersed, leaving the trio to fend for themselves.
I felt privileged to have witnessed this uncommon display of avian fellowship, teamwork and cooperation. It was as touching as it was intriguing.
George N Netto