Architecture of a Bird

Excerpt: Editor's Choice - I saw this bird visiting the tree frequently. I have never seen such a bird before within the vicinity of my surrounding.. (Reads: 829)


Editor’s Choice: Short Story with Moral Lesson- Architecture of a Bird

Architecture of a Bird – Short Story with Moral Lesson
Photo credit: rollingroscoe from

And it flew away! Just about an hour ago, I saw this bird visiting the tree frequently. I have never seen such a bird before within the vicinity of my surroundings. It has green feathers and a greyish body. Her forehead is red and she has red claws too.

The bird, as I saw, was busily carving a hole in the Gulmohar tree rooted in our building’s compound. My window, where my study table is, frames a large portion of this tree. Since it rained yesterday; the leaves are fresh, without any dust, and as green as they could be. Moreover, the iron grill of my window has rectangular blocks, one out of which exactly encases the branch that the bird has selected to build in her residence. As we all know, the Gulmohar tree has these compound leaves…. each composite leaf multiplying into numerous smaller leaflets. And finally, each bush of the tree is topped by a bundle of bright red flowers containing tiny pollen grains.

Taking advantage of such a situation, and also its own colour, the bird almost camouflages with the site. The branch the bird has selected is very different. Actually it’s a junction of two tributaries of the tree. With no leaf on the branch, it also does not have a good appearance, I wonder, if the bird had been a human, she would have immediately rejected the place. Some of the portion of the branch has been bruised. The branch is also not completely developed, it is cut from above…. just extending less than a metre above the junction. There are no further distributions of this branch.

And she is back again…. she puts her head repeatedly in the minor circular cavity she has developed in the bark of the branch which must have become soil after absorbing the water from last night’s down pour. Widening the hole, she constantly comes in and goes out of my frame. Now I see… she goes in the bore, then comes out again only to sec whether any one has noticed her and as soon as the crows arrive, she flies away…. leaving the process incomplete.

Didn’t the bird need a shelter before today? Where did she stay before? And why only now, that she decided to build a home for herself? All such questions started bogging down my mind! But thinking on the lines; I got some answers. Last night it rained very heavily. Poor bird… if she didn’t have a shelter before, she must have become a target of the rain. May be she realized that the monsoon has arrived and there is a need of shelter. Or was she pregnant? Well, she didn’t seem to be! Or else, how could she fly so easily and in that case, it would have been her male counterpart doing the job. Somehow, I am very confident that the bird was a female.

As explained before, the site she had chosen was not quite nice. But analyzing the site, she must have chosen such a branch as it is half cut and no one would notice her (but she failed to so that as she is right in front of my eyes!). The cavity that she was drilling with her short beak was just above the junction. Perhaps, since the branch does not extend vertically above the cavity, there is no fear that the branch falls as the ends thin out internally. That is, the load of the upper half of the branch does not let it crack, even when the branch is hollow at the bottom.

Talking in architectural terms, the bird has selected a beautiful, but intelligent site. The hole in the branch is made on that side, where it makes an acute angle with the horizontal plane (in a three dimensional space). This will perhaps prevent the dripping water of rain from entering into the hole, thus keeping the interior space dry and favourable for living. Wood being an insulator, the temperature inside will be maintained. The only source of light is the hole which is made by the bird…. which she uses for entering as well as making an exit.

A small thin leafless branch grows just beneath the junction, extending high. This branch acts as a transition space for the bird, like a porch outside the house. The bird hangs out on this branch looking here and there, guarding her house.

The bird uses an immense intelligence in the construction of the home too. First, the cavity is expanded in the upward direction. She scrapes a little part of the internal wood, and then comes out to shake it off her beak and body. Then, after acquiring the satisfied depth upwards, she starts deepening the cavity downwards. Deepening the cavity afterwards has two advantages – one is that the bird herself does not get stuck inside the cavity she has made (because now, the floor level is the just where the hole begins). Also such a floor level helps the bird reach higher inside the branch. The second, and the more important and logical reason is that the dust that she is developing while scraping off the upper part does not accumulate in the lower cavity it would have been highly difficult for the bird to remove the scrapings from such a place, because unlike humans, the bird cannot blow it off!

In about six to eight hours, the bird is successful in “building” her house. Despite of the numerous difficulties she faced like the agitation of crows (who were just not letting her remain at that place), she kept her work on. She kept on familiarizing her face to them, as if announcing that she would be a part of their society now.

Past four days, she did not even visit the site where she decided to stay…. And it didn’t even rain for the past four days. I’m just waiting for the monsoon to arrive…. to discover more about the bird.

After all this what comes to my mind is that all creatures are subjected to extremes of heat and coolness, but most animals are much better equipped than man to escape such impacts or counteract them biologically.

As cold arrives, the mink grows a new fur coat; birds fly south and the bear lubernates to reduce its metabolism through slumber. To cool his blood in hot weather, the elephant moves his honey-combed ears. The bat can survive a change in its own body up to a temperature of 60 degrees. Termites build their hills in such a way that water never enters inside…. be it rain or an artificial source. The temperature inside is always maintained through air holes above. How did the bird come to know till what depth to penetrate inside the bark sideways so that the bark is not scraped off? Building sustainable habitats is still a million dollar question for humans…. And at least man is still unfortunate in this case!


About the Author


Anuj Daga graduated from Academy of Architecture, Mumbai in May 2008. He is the recipient of the National Award (awarded by Council of Architecture) and also the Charles Correa Gold Medal for his undergraduate design thesis. Anuj worked with Opolis Architects during Nov. 2008 to Dec. 2009, where he handled architectural and interior projects. He later went on to work briefly with Indian Architect & Builder as an architectural journalist. He has been teaching at the Academy of Architecture since June 2008 as a visiting lecturer and has also taught at the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture previously. He was awarded the Kamla Raheja Research Fellowship and was also a part of Max Mueller Bhavan for a research project “Cultural Spaces in India”. Anuj plans to build his research skills through teaching and writing.

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