Ladan lies in a hilly tract about 125km west of Udaipur in Rajasthan. On 2 June 1988, at about 8.30 in the morning, we were crossing a ravine in Ladan forests when we came across a group of four grey jungle fowls, consisting of a cock and three hens, feeding about 90 meters away.
Taking advantage of the bushes between the birds and us, we reduced this distance to about 55 meters without disturbing them.
The birds were feeding, gradually moving away from us. Suddenly they stopped feeding and looked intently towards a bush about 20 meters away from them on a slightly raised ground.
The cock, which was in the rear, advanced and stopped just ahead of the group. We scanned the area with binoculars and saw a jungle cat crouching in the bush. Its entire body except the head was concealed by a low bush and it was slowly moving its head in clockwise direction.
In doing so it was also stirring some of the leaves of the bush. The cat was not visible and the birds were unable to distinguish the head of the cat, half hidden in the leaves, because it was constantly moving it on purpose, The cock became curious and advanced a few steps towards the bush; the other birds followed suit.
In this fashion the birds moved slowly and reached within 4-5 meters of the bush. The cat stopped its head movement and darted towards them. Before the birds realized the danger it had landed on one of the hens. The other birds scattered and flew away in different directions. Within seconds the cat disappeared into the bushes with its prey.
There are established methods by which most of the carnivores secure their prey. They are stalking, ambushing on water holes of game trails, ambushing them from low branches of trees on game paths, chasing etc. But some of the carnivores adopt novel methods to secure their prey. The curiosity of the birds to explore the phenomenon ended them into their death trap.
Yogi Berra had wittily warned, “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
By Raza H. Tehsin & Fatema Tehsin. Published in Journal of Bombay Natural History Society (1990)