Friday Fact: Coo of the Koel – Signs of Summer?
The weather is a balmy warm. The air is filled with the sweet smell of ripe mangoes. And with it, comes the sweet cooing of our favorite bird, the Koel. The black bird has long been a muse of poets and writers, artists and musicians. Many have tried to imitate or rather, replicate that mellifluous cooing that mesmerizes the human mind.
In Indian mythology and tradition, the song of the Koel is said to announce the arrival of spring. But in a country like India, a differentiator between spring and summer is so scarce! Does the Koel sing in anticipation of warmer weather? Rather not, it has more important things on its mind, one being an agenda to continue its clan by breeding at the right time. And breed at the right time it must, not to suit its own whim and fancies, but others birds’ timings. For this, the male Koel breaks into a melodious song, to mark its territory and to attract the female Koel. We often associate sweet voices with female voices, but in the bird-world, everything seems to be topsy-turvy!
But why the summer-spring connection?
The Koel is a brood parasite. This means that the Koel lays its eggs in other birds’ nests, and leaves its chicks for others to feed and nurture into adult Koels! Its resemblance to the House Crow makes our household friend, an easy target. So the Koel will go about laying its eggs in the nests of various other house crows and other birds. Poor Mr. and Mrs. House Crow are often unable to distinguish their own eggs from the Koel’s eggs due to their similar size and coloration. And voila! They incubate the Koel egg and feed the Koel chicks, thinking them to be their own! The breeding season of house crows falls around spring-summer time, and by default, Koels too time their breeding to coincide this period. How convenient and effort-free ideation by the mastermind Koel, dweller of cities and forests!
So we thought these nature’s con-men and con-women sang to glory for the beautiful weather. Who would think that there was a vested interest in the musical notes of the celebrated the Asian Koel!