Body shaming is for the bird-brained

The Siberian Stonechat’s brown, black, and white color palette may not be an instant crowd-pleaser. But we cannot judge birds by their appearances. It makes even less sense than doing that to human beings.

You reserve the right to pass on the candidate, who shows up for a job interview looking like Andy Dufrene after crawling through 500 yards of doo-doo at Shawshank State Penitentiary. If your date comes dressed as Pikachu for a dinner date, you are allowed to wonder, without triggering outrage, why a dress code was not followed.

However, there is no excuse to behave differently with birds based on their physical appearances. It can be contemptuously dismissed because body shaming does not exist in the birding universe.

The Siberian Stonechat may lack the flamboyance of a flamingo or a hornbill. During the breeding season, the male wears a brown vest and a black suit with a white tailcoat. At best, he looks suave. Besides the pale pinkish underparts, the female of this sexually-dimorphic species appears even less striking.

But, in this part of India, they are sought-after winter visitors.

The stonechat’s travel plans are awe-inspiring. It visits southern Japan, Thailand, West to Northeast Africa and India during the winter. On migration, it can travel as far as Alaska. One look at it, and you cannot help but think about all the places it must have seen; all the experiences it must have had.


About 12-14 centimeters in size, the stonechat travels light; gargling only songs in its throat. It goes far because there is music everywhere. All it wants to do is to add another note.

That is why birdwatchers do not always go after those with the brightest feathers, the largest crests or the curviest beaks. They go after birds that make them feel something special. The first note of a song. A flap of the wing. A hunting technique. There are so many things to admire about them. Their appearances barely matter besides helping you identify them.


The Siberian Stonechat aka Saxicola Maurus aka Dark Rock Dweller may not be the best-looking bird around. But it will hold your heart captive when you get to know it a little better.

Gathering little things.
Observe and report.
Your big picture
is yours alone.

Also read:

A birdwatcher’s first-time experience with a Siberian Stonechat in Delhi

Saxicola Maurus vs Saxicola Rubicola: The view from Portugal

A sight for eager eyes at Thiruvananthapuram Bird Race 2018


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2 thoughts on “Body shaming is for the bird-brained

Add yours

  1. Amazing. I admire the way you write about birds. After Ranjit Lal, I look upto you for not just writing but understanding birds in such a personified way. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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