A Sad Ending

We are wakened at dawn every day by the melodious duet of the Coucals. The Coucal couple share our little garden, and we watch over each other. The Coucal or Crow Pheasant is a handsome bird; its glossy black body, chestnut wings and long black tail lends it a special dignity and grandeur. After the morning duet of soft whoops and klak-kloks, they join us as we have our morning tea. Sitting amongst orange flowers of the Cordia tree, or flitting across to the Champa tree, they offer a reassuring start to our day. As the day progresses, they descend lower to drink from the water container, as the smaller birds respectfully make way for them. Then as the sun reaches its peak, the omnivorous birds stride confidently across our small patch of lawn, looking for sustenance. Through the rest of the day, they call to each other using an amazing repertoire of calls. We could never have imagined that a single bird could produce such a variety of sounds.

About a month ago we noticed that the Coucal couple were more than usually busy. We saw them flying back and forth all day long, carrying in their beak a strand of the creeper with the white flowers, twigs from the nearby neem tree, long blades of grass and other trailing vegetation. Some days later, having tracked their destination, we discovered that they had made a nest high up in the tangle of our bougainvillea. The nest was very large, and from ground level looked quite messy! Even though we only had a worm’s eye view of their new home; there it was, testimony to the well-coordinated effort of our faithful couple. We were honoured that they liked our garden enough to move on from cooing and courting to setting up home! We were not quite sure when Mrs Coucal decided to start her family in her new home. But we watched and waited eagerly, like anxious grandparents-to-be. We hoped that at least one or two eggs had successfully hatched. While we could not follow all that went on in the nest, we were reassured that the parents were assiduously flying back and forth, this time with morsels in their beaks. It was amazing to see how the couple worked relentlessly and in perfect tandem—getting food, keeping an eye on the nest and around, being alert and protective—all the while calling to each other, with gurgling chuckles and raucous croaks.

Then yesterday we heard a rustling in the dry flowers and leaves piled under the bougainvillea. A closer look revealed a tiny little cluster of black and brown feathers fluttering weakly in the undergrowth. The chick had not yet developed wings strong enough to make it back to the nest. We were very concerned, and felt quite helpless as the anxious parents hovered nearby. We prayed, and tried to see how it could be safe. When we did not see it late last evening, we hoped for the best.

Sadly this morning we saw the still little bundle of feathers. Nature had not meant it to grow into a handsome young Coucal, and to share our garden. Today, the Coucals do not call.


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