God’s only mistake!

Purple Frog Responds...(c) Young World, The Hindu, 2012

The Purple Frog is offended. He writes to Aristotle about his “dear bird-brained friend” which is listed among the top ten ugly birds in the world!

Yes, it’s a pity the forest has no mirrors! If there were, many I see here would have a complex. In the dense rainforests of the Western Ghats, it is hard to find a pretty face. It is true that I spend a good part of my life underground. But do you know why? It is painful to see beautiful forests marred by ugly creatures roaming in it. Imagine a lion-tailed macaque leaping from branch to branch; monstrous-sized mammals called elephants with wrinkled skin and enormous ears and four-legged animal called gaur that never takes off his white socks! Zoom out of this region and look at the whole world. Weird creatures fill every nook and corner of it. Seen Giant salamanders? Or resplendent quetzals or Komodo dragons? If you have, then you would think I am a cool guy!

Want to know something else? Listed among the top ten ugly birds of the world is my dear bird-brained friend — an honour he quite forgot to mention in his letter. A mirror would make him seal himself in along with his mate in a tree hollow.

What’s so Great?

People call him the Great Indian Hornbill. What makes him great? Hard to tell. Maybe, it is his body size of nearly four feet. Perhaps, it is his over-sized monstrous yellow bill. To gild the lily, this great eyesore has a hollow, bony helmet-like thing on top of it called a casque. I know Knights’ helmets were called that but why have the same name for this fellow’s hardhat, especially when he uses it to butt into another moron of his illustrious family in mid-air?

If you really want to see more of his really freaky behaviour, come here to the Western Ghats.

Buceros bicornis the Great will entertain you with his absurd courtship rituals. He will display his tail feathers, open out his wings, flap them rapidly and “knock” on something hard with his bill. Why would that impress anyone? He has black feathers on his upper body and wings; white ones on his throat, chest and belly. The white is usually stained yellow with his preen-gland oil. Why is that a great show?

Anyway, the more astonishing part comes after this.

The female finds a tree hollow and lines it with leaves and feathers. She then seals herself in by plastering the opening with clay or mud, salivary secretion and droppings. She leaves a slit opening for her mate to bring her food while she lays her eggs (one or two in a clutch) and incubates them. Only after her ugly chicks are reasonably developed, and only after she has moulted and grown new feathers, does she come out. Ain’t seen any improvement in her looks though!

This huge omnivore is endangered as people hunt him for meat and for his silly-looking casque. Oh, I forgot to mention that the Great Hornbill mates for life. Do you know why? There aren’t many or rather, any attractive alternatives!

Purple frog

Reply from Aristotle

Hmmm, quite an enraged, endangered fellow!

Published as part of a series titled ‘Aristotle’s Mailbag’ in Young World, The Hindu, dt. August 20, 2012


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