Coconuts and birds have a strange connection since, oh, since the time I thought of blogging about this fascinating nature story in Deccan Herald (ignore the main pages of Indian newspaper sites and you are guaranteed to find really interesting stuff.)
Today's Question: do woodpeckers eat coconuts?
Apparently, this is a hotly debated topic among Indian orinthologists. Why? Because, it seems, one Mr. Ghorpade, a bird-enthusiast, was asked by villagers in Karnataka to shoot down a woodpecker because it destroyed their coconut crop by "making holes into the nuts and sucking the milk inside". Bad, bad woodpecker, but come on, Karnataka villagers, don't make me hang my kannadiga-head in shame. Why shoot when you can shoo? Mr. Ghorpade, being of a scientific bent, reported his findings in the Newsletter For Birdwatchers in 1970. However, some bird-watchers could not stand this smear campaign that was unleashed on innocent Woody and they leaped - sorry, flew - to its support.
So in the August 2005 issue of the same newsletter (35 years later, isn't that cool), one Mr. Neelakantan (aka The Blue-Throated One) published a rejoinder stating, conclusively, that he has "never once seen a woodpecker on a coconut tree". See, no wishy-washy, namby-pamby, cautiously optimistic, euphemism-cloaked defence there.
Woody don't hang around 'nuts. So if nariyal-pani is not the favored diet of this Winged Nut Havoc-Wreaker, what does it eat? No gourmet he, Woody lives on beetles and grub.
Lest you dismiss this as trivial stuff, read that wonderful article by Mr. Futehally about the seemingly implausible connection between the game of cricket, the bulbul and Punjab. Orinthology is to be thanked for India's cricket-bat manufacturing industry. Who could have thunk?
Now about this other well-known, if completely unscientific, connection between coconuts and birds. A soldier once asked King Arthur if a swallow could carry a coconut. If you don't know the correct answer, rent Monty Python's Holy Grail and solve one of the greatest riddles known to mankind.
If you've read this far, you are aware of the no-small controversy over another woodpecker sighting in America, aren't you?
(fonts are seriously effed up. My apologies.)