The Grey Hypocolius (or simply the Hypocolius) is a monotypic bird in the family Hypocoliidae; there are no other bird species in its genus and family. It breeds towards West Asia (including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan). The winter range extends from the Persian Gulf to India. Fulay, in the Greater Rann of Kutch, is one of the very few places in India where one can see this beautiful winter migrant.
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On Darter Photography’s Wild Wild West tour to Greater Rann of Kutch this February, this bird was high on our list. We reached Fulay, bordering the Banni grasslands, early in the morning to catch the first rays of the sun there. Salvadora persica (or Toothbrush tree) and Acacia nilotica trees are found in some numbers in Fulay. Mr.Jugal Tiwari from CEDO has observed that the bird depends mostly on these trees for food and roosting places.
As we waited it out in the agricultural fields, the Hypocolius flew into view and settled down on one of the bushes.
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This was a male, distinguished by the black mask around the eyes. It got busy with breakfast and gave us some excellent views.
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At one point, it perched right in the open to survey the area.
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After the first round of feeding, it settled for a while within the inner branches of a tree.
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We had a great time observing the bird and its movements over the period of half an hour. All the time, we were also wishing that the female Hypocolius would come into sight. The female has a plain grey face. It wasn’t meant to be and we bid adieu to the bird to venture further into the Rann of Kutch.
Thanks to Mr.Jugal Tiwari and Mohammad bhai for the wonderful sighting and expert tracking of the bird. Hoping to be back next year for a date with the female Hypocolius 🙂
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