Paradise on Earth | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 12, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:36 AM, October 12, 2018

Paradise on Earth

In Bogura's Shajahanpur upazila, a village called Gandagram is surrounded by two large, centuries-old bamboo bushes. These bushes house many a rare, exotic, migratory birds, and one of them is the precious Asian paradise flycatcher.

The Asian paradise flycatcher, scientifically known as Terpsiphone paradisi, is a summer visitor in Bangladesh. The bird is native to Asia and is called a “flycatcher” because it feeds mostly on flying insects.

Due to its widely distributed population all over the world, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had the bird in the “least concern” category since 2004.

Dr SM Iqbal, a local bird expert and associate professor of Zoology in Govt. MM Ali College in Tangail, had made two documentaries on this bird. “The Asian paradise stays in our country from April to September and later leaves for the west (India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar). In Bangladesh, these birds prefer to live in thick, large bamboo bushes or dense artificial forests,” he said.

A young male Asian paradise's head is jet-black and glossy while its feathers and tail look reddish-brown. It has a black turf (crown) on its head. The bird is endowed with a long 33-35 cm tail which is three times larger than its body, and the adult male has two long feathers which increases its visual appeal.

“The most amusing thing about the bird is that the colour of its plumage changes on its own throughout their lifespan,” said Iqbal.

For its first two years since birth, a male Asian Paradise will have feathers and tail that are reddish-brown. From its third year, the colour changes to a glossy milk-white. By the time its fourth year arrives, the bird becomes completely milk-white and black, which gives it a heavenly look, thus, its name is Asian “paradise”.

“Its Bengali name, 'Dudhraj', is derived from its milk-white plumage” said Iqbal.

The Asian Paradise generally set up their nests between two branches of a tree with straw, dry grass and use spider nets as a glue to swing their nests. The female birds lay four to five eggs and both male and female birds incubate the eggs for 15-20 days. Once hatched, both male and female birds take the responsibility of feeding the babies.

“What is interesting is that the Asian Paradise Flycatcher never sits on the ground or land,” Iqbal said.

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