Flyaway Tales

Every year, winged travellers from near and far make their way to the Indian Subcontinent. Richa Chadda explores young people’s literature that captures this glorious natural spectacle, for Migratory Bird Day (11 May)  

Year after year, skies in different parts of India are adorned with the spectacle of winged travellers from around the world. Many of them journey thousands of miles from their homes to escape harsh climates, find food and nesting grounds. 

Bird migration is a wonder of nature and reflects the interconnectedness of global ecosystems. A growing collection of children’s literature in India offers young readers an insight into the fascinating intricacies of these migratory patterns. 

The Visitors 

Thousands of Amur falcons, travelling from Russia and China, descend upon the northeastern state of Nagaland, staying for about a month to bulk up their bodies for their onward journey across the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean into Africa. It is estimated that these small raptors cover upwards of 20,000 km every year. Their endurance is celebrated in Prabha Nair’s So Long, Amur Falcon, a book that delves into the life and trials of these resilient birds, beautifully illustrated by Deborshee Gogoi. 

Flamingos, often seen standing on one leg, with their long necks twisted or coiled, make for a captivating sight. Deepak Dalal’s Feather Tales: A Flamingo in My Garden brings to life the vibrant journey of these beautiful pink birds, whose presence in India’s wetlands is a sight to behold. For younger readers, Little Flamingo Searches for Food by Shamim Padamsee, illustrated by Neetu Sharma, offers an engaging narrative of a young flamingo searching for something interesting to eat. The Dance of the Flamingo by Anita Mani and Vijay Kumar Sethi is another noteworthy mention, capturing the delicate dance of survival and migration in poetic prose and stunning photographs.

Another species that catches the attention of birdwatchers is the demoiselle crane, which flies in from its breeding ground in Central Asia to the Thar Desert in Rajasthan and the Rann of Kachchh in Gujarat. Flocking in thousands, these cranes are a treat to watch. Their interactions with the local animals is celebrated in Sujatha Padmanabhan and Shruthi Ramakrishna’s Khari: Journeys Through Kachchh, illustrated by Kalyani Ganapathy.

The Places they Visit 

Alice McLarren’s The Mountain that Loved a Bird, with vivid illustrations by Stephen Aitken, is a heartwarming tale that beautifully narrates the relationship between a barren mountain and a visiting bird, symbolizing the harmony between nature and its inhabitants. Another book that takes readers to the high altitudes where migratory birds find a temporary home is Deepak Dalal’s Ladakh Adventure

Surprisingly, there aren’t enough books on India’s famed bird sanctuaries. Chaos at Keoladeo by Priya Fonseca, a thrilling adventure set against the backdrop of the vast Keoladeo National Park, is a notable exception. 

Know More

Geeta Dharmarajan’s The Mysteries of Migration unravels the enigmatic aspects of avian migration. It provides insights into the incredible navigational skill and instinctual drive that propels these birds across continents.

For those inspired by the legacy of India’s renowned ornithologist, Salim Ali for Children by Zai Whitaker offers an inspiring look into the life and contributions of the Bird Man of India. Finally, for those looking for an authoritative reference for slightly older readers, the Indian Bird Migration Atlas by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) meticulously documents the migratory routes, patterns and the conservation status of India’s migratory birds.

This collection of literature not only educates but also inspires a sense of wonder and responsibility towards these creatures and the habitats they visit. As we turn the pages, we are reminded of the delicate balance of nature and the need to preserve it for generations of both birds and humans to come. 

List of book recommendations from the piece:

1. So Long, Amur Falcon (BNHS)
2. Feather Tales: A Flamingo in My Garden (Penguin India)
3. Little Flamingo Searches for Food (Scholastic India)
4. The Dance of the Flamingo (Pratham)
5. Khari: Journeys Through Kachchh (Kalpavriksh)
6. The Mountain that Loved a Bird (Tulika books)
7. Ladakh Adventure by (Penguin India)
8. Chaos at Keoladeo by (FunOKPlease & Penguin India) 
9. The Mysteries of Migration (Katha)
10. Salim Ali for Children (Hachette India)
11. Indian Bird Migration Atlas (BNHS)

Bio: After a corporate career of over a decade, Richa Chadda now chases her dream of working with children and books. From organising literary events to promoting reading, she loves it all.