Inspirational People

Bird Watching and Dr. Salim Ali


“My chief interest in bird study has always been its ecology, its life history under natural conditions and not in a laboratory under a microscope. By travelling to these remote, uninhabited places, I could study the birds as they lived and behaved in their habitats.” – Dr. Salim Ali.




Picture Tag and story.

This post was actually a result of two things: The Tricky Photo Story Tag by Sahaja and my search for a photo. I have very rarely clicked photos (Maybe once in a year!) and store almost none in my laptop! So, I asked my friend Jags to allow put up a photo that he took on his recent trek to Ranganathittu. The first photo is for the Tag (An awesome click!) and the other two are from his collections. You can see the entire collection of his photos he took during this trek Here and Here. From there, you could view his other nature photographs. The story: The crocodile, not satisfied with the fishes and other things it ate under the water, decides to have a snack outside the water too! It was actually in the adjacent rock and quietly went into the water and from inside the water a short and fast leap – Got his snack. Wasn’t he quick for his size? (This also qualifies for the Story in 55 Words Tag!). 

Ornithology is the scientific study of birds. Ornithologists study every aspect of bird life. Some ornithologists look at how birds live in their environment, while others look at how the parts of birds work together to make a bird. Some ornithologists focus on how birds find food, while others focus on how birds digest food. Some ornithologist’s research changes in populations of birds across whole continents; others study changes in blood cells in an individual bird. Ornithologists sometimes study how birds evolved and what their ancestors looked like and still others study how birds are changing in today’s environment and how they might be affected by the ecological changes in future. It is quite a broad field with significant contributions from non-professionals. Source: Birdnet Website.  (

There are people who always defy the stereotype. It is their nature to do so. One such person was Dr. Salim Ali, who was the eminent ornithologist of India. He was known as the “Birdman of India”.  He has won numerous awards, including Padma Shree and Padma Vibhushan from the Government of India. What were the significant events of his life that led to such accolades? Read on….

·         When Salim was 10 years old, he met the Honorary Secretary of BNHS (Bombay National History Society) W.S. Millard, who showed him the society’s splendid collection of stuffed birds. This was the major influencer for him to decide to take a career in ornithology.

·         Since there were no jobs in Natural History in India back in 1919, Salim Ali went to Burma to look after the family mining and timber business. Since the business did not do well, he returned to India. But, this was a rewarding experience for a naturalist as there were endless opportunities to explore the forests of Burma.

·         After returning, he tried to get a job as an ornithologist with the Zoological Survey of India, but failed to get one as he did not have an M.Sc or Ph.D.

·         He even went to Germany to study under the guidance of the noted ornithologist, Professor Stresemann but still did not get a job in India.

·         Before Independence, there were these princely states in India. He offered to conduct the regional ornithologist surveys of these areas which were little explored earlier, for the BNHS. It turned out that the princely states were also eager to record their avifauna and agreed to his idea while funding the camping and transportation. There followed two decades of blissful bird watching for Salim across the subcontinent.

·         After Independence, he took over the BNHS and managed to save the institution from closing down due to lack of funds by writing a letter to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who immediately came to its rescue!

Source: (You can read more about him here).

Dr. Salim Ali has done more than any other individual to popularize the study of birds in India. Today, there is an institute called Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History in Coimbatore, named after him and aided by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.


As you can see, he did not achieve all that he did because of the facilities provided to him. It was rather in spite of the facilities that were refused to him. But determined people always seem to find a way. We need to learn a lot from people like him.


Destination Infinity

You could find similar articles in the Music/ Photo posts section of this blog.


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