Imagine that there are no bird clubs, local, specialist, or national. Imagine that there are no bird shows. Such is the situation for the aviculturist in India. Very different from Great Britain or the United States, Indian bird keeping is not organized and lacks any means of communication. The Indian fancier is very much on his own. The sole source of information is the bird dealer.
What makes the situation all the more paradoxical is that India is a country rich in avi-fauna. Though illegal, many Indian birds are locally kept. These include Indian Hill Mynah, Shama, Golden Chloropsis, Golden Fronted Fruitsucker, White Crested Jay Thrush, Pekin Robin, Indian Zosterop, Red Avadavat, Green Avadavat, Black Headed Mannikin, Spicebird, Racket tailed Drongo, Pagoda Mynah, Alexandrine Parakeet, and Ring Neck Parakeet. Most of these birds are very rarely maintained overseas.
The Shama, the Golden Chloropsis, and the Racket tailed Drongo, are superb mimics of birds and other animals. One Calcutta enthusiast has a collection that includes Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Indian Hill Mynahs, Canaries, Java Sparrows, and Red Avadavats in addition to a Shama Thrush. The Shama has mastered the songs and calls of all the other birds.
For the Racket Tailed Drongo, size is no obstacle. This feathered performer frequently lets loose with a tiger’s roar. This is very disconcerting, to say the least,to any birds, monkeys or other animals-including tigers! The Shama Thrush and Golden Chloropsis are frequently kept in captivity by Indian fanciers. Unfortunately, the Racket Tailed Drongo is notoriously short lived in captivity.
Strangely enough, most Indians maintain their native birds singly, as songsters or mimics. Few try to rear the native birds. More are interested in culturing birds that are very common in Great Britain and the United States:Budgerigars, Lovebirds, Cockatiels, the various common Australian finches, including the Zebra, and Canaries. Only Yellow and Roller canaries are bred. Type Canaries are unknown. I was struck by this, considering the many years of British influence. The larger parrots are often kept as novelties, but few Indians are breeding them.
There is one way that Indian aviculture resembles that in the USA-bird keeping is expensive. This sorry state of affairs is further accentuated in the subcontinent since the average per capita income is about seventy dollars. In India a house with a canary is the home of a rich man. Birds are the pets of the well to do.
India has many zoos and bird sanctuaries. These bird sanctuaries owe great debt to the late British naturalist, E .P. Gee. He visited the bird sanctuaries at his own expense and made many suggestions to the Indian government for improvement.