Bird Watching and Dr. Salim Ali

April 2, 2009


“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.  (http://www.nmnh.si.edu/BIRDNET/birds/ornith.html)

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: http://www.birding.in/dr_salim_ali.htm (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.



  1. That first shot is a prize winning shot.
    Very informative post on Salim Ali. Lovely post.

    • Thanks, Jags was very pleased with your comment 🙂

      Destination Infinity

  2. DI, I loved this post more because I have been a fan of Dr. Ali since childhood and was an avid bird watcher too. I was a member of Nature Club in school so had done lot of research back then.

    The pictures are beautiful.

    • Good to know that your school had a nature club and you were an active member. Our schools had only slow learners club 🙂

      Destination Infinity

  3. That was such a artistic way of doing the tag DI!!
    to be honest with you, I knew abt Ornithology but did not know abt Dr Salim Ali…it was very informative and also very nice pics!

    • To be honest with you too, I didn’t know about Salim Ali either. I came to know when I was searching for this post on ornithology! And thanks once again for Tagging me!

      Destination Infinity

  4. Nicely done tag DI, I loved it. AND great to know about Dr.Salim Ali.. great man… thanks for the info DI 🙂

    • I was also thrilled to know about him when making this post.

      Destination Infinity

  5. Wow! The first photo is amazing but saddening. Wish I could pry open the crocodiles jaws and release the bird. Nice to know so much about Dr. Ali!!

    Keep Blogging!

    • Yeah, it is saddening indeed. But it is the nature of the crocodile to hunt and eat. I thought more than twice before putting that picture here, but I thought it was a great shot for a photographer.

      Destination Infinity

  6. Amazing Photo post :), I will admit not much of a bird person, though the kingfisher looks good, (good I hope its a kingfisher). Thanks for sharing Info on Dr. Salim Ali.

    • I was also told that it is a kingfisher. So, I guess it should be! But among the other kingfishers that I have seen, this one is more lively!

      Destination Infinity

  7. DI, That was great! Lovely pics and a great way to do a tag too 🙂

    • Thanks, Smitha. Actually I forgot to pass on the tags (As usual!). So, why don’t you take up the tag and do it on your site?

      Destination Infinity

  8. hi destination infinity,

    I love your name here..
    that was a deeper study and review about the field of ornithology. Awesome clicks by your friend. Thanks for sharing.


  9. I always like fellow bloggers who like my online identity (For the reason, go to About page!). I wanted to initially write only on Ornithology but when I saw such a significant contribution to this field by an Indian, I decided to represent it to all.

    Destination Infinity

  10. I have Dr Salim’s book. It was in my father’s collection and I loved to read about the various birds and leafed through the book for the beautiful pictures.
    Thanks for bringing back the memories. 🙂

    • That’s great! There is a special charm to the hardcover books. Even though you have the whole Wikipedia available on the internet, the old encyclopedia is still charming!

      Destination Infinity

  11. Awesome pictures! The kingfisher looks gorgeous!
    And thanks for all the information about Dr Salim Ali.

    • Yes, the kingfisher looks colourful! I guess Jags has done a great job. It is his passion to come up with great clicks. Congrats Jags.

      Destination Infinity

  12. awesome pics 🙂 oh I have never went on a bird watching trip , but been to ranagantita

    • I guess you could go to Vedanthangal, there are a lot of birds there too…

      Destination Infinity

  13. Fabulous pics, DI! If you haven’t seen “Winged Migration” (a really great documentary), then you must.



    • I will definitely see it, thanks for the recommendation!

      Destination Infinity

  14. really nice pics..good to know about Dr. Salim Ali

  15. Thanks Rahul, I was also glad to know about him by making this post!

    Destination Infinity

  16. I also did a post on birds with pictures- amateur obviously… about how we found a baby sparrow, and didn’t know how to care for it!

    • You were lucky, once I wanted to make a house lizard as a pet (Anyway it was roaming around my room only). So I was searching in the internet for what to feed lizards. On seeing what to feed them, I gave up the idea!

      Destination Infinity

  17. Lovely birds! Great post!

  18. while salim ali & orinthology dont mean much to me, for i understand nothing of it, i read about his meeting a man I was researching….and wrote about that meeting.

    it will come up soon on my site..

  19. Waiting for that… BTW, I too didn’t know about Salim Ali before writing this post.

    Destination Infinity

  20. hy……….dr. salim is a great person.
    i wants to b like that

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