It was just another uneventful summer afternoon. I was returning from work with a friend-cum-co-worker. As we rode past Sir Sayed Road playground in Mohammadpur, I noticed an unusual movement- just over our heads. Eyes on the road, I asked my friend Soma Deb what that was. She said, a bird was chasing another.
Interesting… this needed a full-fledged investigation, I thought to myself. I made a U-turn, parked the ancient Honda H100S, and approached the spot on foot.
The struggle was still on - a common Mynah was trying to fend off a crow to save its young ones. The birdling was on the footpath - it had fallen from the nest either trying to fly, or because of the crow-attack.
As I approached the birdling, it flapped its wings and flew some 10 metres away. The mother, sitting on a lower branch of a mahogany tree within the boundary of the playground, warned me with a harsh call.
I started regretting taking off the helmet before getting off the bike. I placed my hand over my head in fear of being pecked by the mother bird. I told her with a calm voice that I would not do any harm and asked her not to worry.
As I moved towards the birdling, it flew back to its earlier spot - 12 feet beneath its mother. As I turned to it, the mother issued another warning to me. I raised my hand in an attempt to reassure her and asked her again to calm down. This time, I uttered the words multiple times.
As I approached the baby bird, mama Mynah tweeted again, this time with a completely different, calm and short tone. Strangely, the birdling did not move an inch this time, and surrendered to my hands. As I scooped it up from the road, it made uneasy chirps, I guess from the discomfort of being in human hands for the first time. But it did not make any attempt to get away.
I climbed the grille of the boundary, placed the birdling on a tree branch as high as possible, and stepped back. Another adult common Mynah joined, the father I think, and quickly escorted the birdling deep into the foliage. As I headed back to the bike, I heard a gentle tweet. I looked back and saw that the mama bird had appeared on the lower branch again. This time, I knew, it had come back to thank me in its language.
It is clear that we can communicate with other species, especially pets, in many ways, both verbal and physical. But it was fascinating to have done so with a wild bird in order to solve a practical problem, i.e. not getting pecked, for the first time.