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Knowing birds in the close vicinity:

By Rajashekhar Pant

She often does remind me of the miniature portraits of the Jaina School of Art, in which the bow-shaped eyes would stretch right up to the edge of the earlobe. However, what looks like an arch shaped elongated eye on her elegant face is actually a line in black known as eye-strip.

I am talking of a beautiful, somewhat coquettish bird called chestnut-bellied-nuthatch (Sitta cinnamoventris). With a dark grey and bluish back, she has a chestnut brown underbelly. Besides a prominent bill, she is gifted with strong feet to have a firm grip on vertical stems.

Territorial by nature, she seldom migrates and is seen round the year in my hometown i.e. Bhimtal. She is a restless songbird and is often seen moving up, down and sideways on stems. If she notices you looking at her, she slides to the other side of the stem, craning her neck now and then to see whether you are still there. Despite her being arboreal, I have noticed her many a time landing on the bird feeder to share the feed with sparrows. Unlike tree pies, she never shoos her heterogeneous companions on the feeding tray.

Her main diet is small insects. Wedging her food at times in the crevices of stem and hacking it to pieces has earned her the name nuthatch. She does her nesting in the hollow cavities on trunks.

It is a treat to watch her sliding on tree trunks, at times upside down. It often does remind me of a small toy we as children would buy from a local fair. It happened to be a small monkey hooked in a spring and tied to an iron spoke. It would slide upside down, jerking all the way, when the spoke was swayed or kept vertically upwards.