Red-headed Bullfinch

Encounter – Red-headed Bullfinch (in a wall-eating cameo!)

Maybe we had stumbled upon the beauty secrets of this gorgeous bird

Strolling around the temple premises of Madhyamaheswar I saw a small bird hopping playfully on the plinth beside the Pujariji’s (priest) quarters. Slightly larger than a swallow, it had a golden-yellow crown, thick black bill and large round eyes.

I crept up to it, only to see it fly away. I waited in the vicinity for what seemed to be forever, hoping it would return, and suddenly spied a rusty-red version of the same bird between the reeds. It struck me that the first one should be the female and this one would be the male. 

Again, my attempt to approach to photograph unsettled it and it flew away but this time to another building a little way off. And here, I noticed it pecking at the walls of the building. My first impression was that it was trying to eat insects off the wall. After a few minutes it flew away into the dense forest below. I dropped all hope of finding it again. Later, I’d identify them as a pair of Red-headed Bullfinches (Pyrrhula erythrocephala).

After our customary tea from the stall of Beerbal, the temple canteen proprietor, I was about to return to our accommodation when I noticed the female bird sitting at the plinth of the shack right ahead. This time I was lucky. My approach didn’t alarm them, and I could get a good look at both the male and female.

The male Red-headed Bullfinch…

…and his lady
As I watched, both the male and female took turns nibbling at the plastering of the shack wall. Yes, they were clearly taking bites out of the bright blue painted walls. Sahastra and I surmised that they were probably after the calcium from the lime, though we are not sure of the reason for this. 

…and the happy feeding moments

Can anybody throw some light on this unusual behaviour?

– Text and pictures by Sandeep Somasekharan
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