The yodeling sound of ricochets from the city walls: ae-yaooon, ae-yaaoon.
Pre-monsoon thunder roars in the sky, and peacocks yodel from our roofs. Abandoned plots, tiny emerald strips of parks, densely packed colonies, university campuses, the outskirts of cities – peacocks seem to be everywhere, wagging their tails and trying to impress peacocks. And while there are many sad stories about modern losses, the great Indian peacock is not one of them.
Many Indians believe that hearing a peacock call – an unusual sound that is something like a giant, nervous cat meowing – means that it will rain. Indeed, when the thunder rumbles, I hear the peacock calling, a bit like a guard dog warning everyone. Others believe that seeing a peacock dance means that a monsoon will follow. That’s actually true – the monsoon is also the time when peacocks raise their tails and make shim to attract mates.
Seeing a peacock dance is an experience that every Indian should have.
But obviously, the dance eventually succeeds and the birds do well. The latest report on the birds of the state of India reveals that the number of peacocks has actually disappeared up in the last few decades. Even like other common birds – like the yellow-headed woodpecker, the common wood and the Indian thick-legged opal in India. And while the peacock faces threats of poaching because of its magnificent tail feathers and pesticide poisoning, it is still a common bird that goes from strength to strength.
Perhaps part of the reason is that the bird is a generalist. He gets along well in forests, but also in cities.
I see peacocks inhabiting two different universes. One is the one from the deep wilderness, a life spent between rocks and thorny bushes, eluding leopards and tigers.
I would see boiling peacocks everywhere while exploring the Sariska tiger reserve in Rajasthan. Their unavoidable colors are bold, but they still have the gift of camouflage. Opposite the rocky, emerald hill, a peacock would melt, green feathers looked like leaves, and a jewel blue neck looked like a trick of light. However, during the monsoon, the birds did not want you to miss them. Males would be out on the roads, green-and-gold glistening in the mild silver rain. Deep in the woods, the birds would not head towards our vehicles while playing; Instead, I would stop my Gypsy and wait for the serenade to end.
Another universe that peacocks have learned to inhabit are roofs. In cities, I see birds feeding and resting on rooftops with the ease they show on forest floor.
I also see them fluttering noisily through the vertical gardens, helping themselves to leaves and fruits, jumping from a tree branch onto rooftops with rehearsed ease.
And peacocks may be doing better because of climate change. A a recent study notes that birds are now found in larger areas of Kerala, while the wet state has not recorded much sightings before. “We used 100 years of weather data and 100 years of peacocks to find that birds are expanding their range. They were reported back in the 1970s with a much smaller distribution. This could be because Kerala is getting dry. The peacock could be considered a bioindicator of climate change, ”says PO Nameer of the Agricultural University of Kerala.
As a little girl I would hear jackals crowing at dusk and peacocks yodeling in Delhi. Jackals have disappeared from most parts of the city. But the peacock remains.
I always have an ear for their calls early in the morning and late in the evening. Because what we hear is what we like to listen to. Bestselling author Peter Wohlleben writes in his book, The heartbeat of the trees, about listening to Crane’s calls: “Since crane calls are one of my favorite sounds, I hear them even when, for most other people, they get lost in the ambient noise. I register crane calls … despite the triple glazing, the insulated walls, and the nightly hum of the TV. “
For me, the peacock call is a welcome city sound. It is passionate and rattling, but it is also devoid of anger or malice.
A world where the national bird can live in the capitals, walk the Rashtrapati Bhavan and sit on the city’s radio towers.
Lately, the peacock’s lustful calls are finding their way to zoom sessions; The birds handed me flower pots; I saw angry men pecking at them in their parts.
I salute everyone: thank God for their comedy, colors and dramatic relief. Although we come to terms with working from home, here is one bird that knows how to live in great life size.
Neha Sinha is a conservation biologist. She is the author of the book “Wild and Intentional Stories of 15 Cult Indian Species” (HarperCollins India).
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BloombergQuint or its editorial team.