Author: Salim Ali
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195687477
The Fall of a Sparrow tells the real life story of adventure and self-discovery of Sálim Ali, India’s original bird man. Chronicling an era gone by and vividly describing forgotten landscapes, this engaging tale describes how a childhood curiosity for nature and an intrepid adventuring spirit led to an unusual career choice.
Born into a Muslim family of Bombay, Salim Ali was orphaned at the age of ten, and brought up by his maternal uncle and aunt. The then secretary of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) introduced him to the serious study of birds as the result of Ali’s chance encounter with an unusually coloured sparrow. This episode and the subsequent tours of BNHS’s stuffed birds collection sparked off the twelve-year-old’s life-long passion for birds.
Eighty-seven at the time of writing and an internationally renowned figure, Ali vividly describes his childhood adventures in the wild and subsequent expeditions to almost every part of the Indian subcontinent. The birdwatching stories are interspersed with lively details of family life and youthful adventuring. The more than 100 visuals—comprising photographs, line drawings, and paintings of birds by past masters like G.M. Henry, J.P. Irani, and C.J.F. Coombs—are an unusual feature of this adapted edition. These paintings were originally prepared for the ten-volume Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (OUP, 1971) which continues to be in print even today. The colour plate section, featuring some of these paintings in their original avatar, makes this illustrated edition a delight both for young readers and for collectors.
I had grown up only on the traditional accounts of nesting habits. But I noticed that the birds had not read the textbooks. In brief, the findings are that the male baya is an artful polygamist. He may acquire any number of wives depending upon his capacity to provide each with a home. At a particular stage in the construction, when the nest is about half finished, there is suddenly, one fine morning, an invasion by a party of females prospecting for desirable homes. While the examination is in progress the builder clings on the outside, excitedly flapping his wings in invitation and awaiting her verdict. If the female is satisfied, she just takes possession of it and accepts his impetuous advances. Having completed this nest the male proceeds almost immediately to start a second one a few feet away, and the whole process is then repeated. Thus the male baya may find himself the happy husband of several wives and proud father of several families.
-from The Thrills of Bird-Watching
Interlude at Bombay and Marriage
Jobs 1923-9 and Germany 1929-30
Hyderabad State Ornithological Survey
Dehra Dun and Bahawalpur 1934-9
Ornithological Pilgrimage to Kailas Manasarovar 1945
Motorcycling in Europe
The Thrills of Bird-watching