Snobbish Hariyals refuse to soil their dainty yellow feet by descending to the ground


Hariyal pigeon's diet includes various fruits, nuts, wild berries and seeds and they rarely come on the ground like other pigeons because they get their food from the trees only (Pic. Courtesy Kamal Sahansi)

The Maharashtra government refused to replace its state bird Hariyal with the critically endangered forest owlet by saying that their state bird  is unique and people easily relate to it. The state wildlife department made it clear that since the forest owlet is a very rare avian, it cannot become a state bird. Thus Hariyal or the Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon remains the state bird.

That was ten years back but since then many attempts have been made to replace the bird but Hariyal's  status reigns supreme.  

Unlike their cousins, energetic Rock Pigeons which are everywhere, lording over our skies and balconies, in air conditioning vents, crevices and parapets, Hariyal or the Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon (Treron phoenicopterus) is very shy. Hariyal's are so shy and lethargic, that they hardly set their beautiful yellow feet on the “dirty” ground.

The dainty yellow footed green pigeon (Pic Courtesy Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha)

“Aap Ke Khubsurat Pair Dekhe, Inhe Zameen par mat utariyega, maile ho jayenge ( Saw your beautiful feet, pls dont put them on the ground otherwise they will get dirty)”, I remembered the dialogue of blockbuster Hindi film “Pakeeza” when I was told about the behavior of Hariyals that they hardly come down on the ground.

“They are very lazy, sluggish and like to remain hidden – blending very well in the green foliage. They do not even come down to the ground to drink water. They quench thirst only from the dew on the fruits and leaves,” says my Raju guide in Bharatpur.

Hariyal  pigeons have diets of various fruits, nuts, wild berries and seeds and dwell in trees. These birds rarely come on the ground like other pigeons because they get their food from the trees only.

That explains the snobbish behavior of Hariyals and why they do not set their feet on the ground. Hiding in plain sight, according to , this species is commonly found in India and yet the hardest to spot. Largely frugivorous, they are a common species of green pigeon found in South Asia. But this common species of green pigeon has become a rarity in the cities. Far from the urban areas, they prefer to  live mostly in forest areas and nest on treetops.

In the early morning they are often seen sunbathing on the fruit bearing forest trees. They have a bright coloration and possess yellow legs and an orange-yellow neck.

Lazy Hariyal (Pic. Courtesy Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha)

These beautiful birds have whitish beaks, yellow tinged grey heads, yellow hoods and a triangular lilac shoulder patch. Their backs and tails have varied shades of green, wing edges are pale with dark tips, underside starts with yellow and then merges to green, undertail is white with brown edges. The Yellow-footed green pigeons get their name from their yellow feet. They have mesmerising violet eyes and blue iris with an outer circle of pink.

They are a loyal breed and often seen sitting in pairs even within a group. Their breeding season in India is from March to April. Their call is quite cute like a whistle.

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