There are a staggering 10,000 species of birds around the world. Coming in bewildering adaptations, shapes, and colorations, there are birds that amaze us every now and then with their evolutionary gifts and add-ons.
These wonderments take our thoughts to birds that showcase their tail: Where imagination takes form beyond normalcy.
Some are garnished with extra-long sets; some are adorned with wire-shaped feathers forming a train behind; and some with feathers twisted and curled in the most uncommon manner. In all cases, the modification is colored vibrantly.
Bangladesh, despite being small and populous, has 711 bird species: The count is still on as we are sighting new and rare birds every year. A handful of these species display modified tail-feathers.
This is their story.
What is a tail-feather: Tail-feathers are asymmetrically shaped, but always paired, long, stiff, feathers on the tail of a bird. Known as rectrices, the primary task is to aid in flight and balance. Together with those on the wing, rectrices generate thrust and lift, and serve as a radar.
Rectrices may assist in secondary tasks, mostly concerned with impressionism. Whether to keep a territory or to win a female in the hit season, these feathers have a tendency to deviate from standard structure. Elongation and ornamentation is one form of deviation. Evolved tail-feathers may be retained throughout adulthood, or appear temporarily in nesting time. However, their ornamental tails can attract predators, but they still retain these tails for procreation.
Long-tailed birds regardless of sex and season
Doing justice to their title, racket-tailed drongos are distinct with long tail streams ending in a racket. In Bangladesh, we have two species: Greater racket-tailed drongo and Lesser racket-tailed drongo- cousins of the more common Black drongo.
Magpie and Treepies:
Magpies and treepies standout from their relative, the crows, thanks to long, straight tail feathers. The Rufous treepie, Grey treepie and Common green magpie are residents of Bangladesh. The Rufous treepie is a common denizen of homestead and urban greenery. The other two prefer dense forests. Magpies and treepies are brave and dominating birds known to lead a mixed-species hunting flock as well as to steal food.
Coucal and Malkoha:
These stocky birds generally possess long tails which can be, in cases, unusually broad and spade-shaped. The Greater and the Lesser coucal are two of many coucals which are seen here. Because their tail has a faint similarity to that of the pheasant, and appearance resembling the crow, the coucals are often called crow-pheasants. The Green-billed malkoha is a general face of all forests of Bangladesh. Unfortunately, the Sirkeer malkoha is long gone from country. It is the only long-tailed bird that we have lost. However, this species is still found in the Indian subcontinent.
Birds with sex- and season-specific tail-streamers:
Asian paradise flycatcher:
If we give high marks for excessively long feathers, the paradise flycatcher will give others a sprint for the title. The males grow two extraordinarily long tail feathers to impress females. The ornamentation stays throughout the year. The bird is small but the two feathers can easily exceed a foot!
Once considered one species, the Indian paradise flycatacher is split into three:
The red junglefowl are common in forests, but are often overlooked. The males are extra-ordinarily baffling. Even though they are a showstopper, spotting them can actually be difficult in their native habitat, as they prefer to live in dense and thick layers of undergrowth. The spectacular tail stream with two central shiny black feathers become dark iridescent green on the rump.
Aptly named, males of this water-loving bird put extra charisma into being dashing during the breeding season. During the monsoon, the males’ central tail feathers grow nearly to the length of the body — in order to showcase fitness to females. The longer and the brighter the feathers, the more successful the male will be in finding a mate.
Watching a male jacana in a wetland brimmed with monsoon water in a shadowed overcast day is a sight of a lifetime!