The Christmas celebration begins. Everyone seems to be so keen on celebrating this joyful festival by decorating their home with stars, lights, crib and playing secret Santa game with their family and friends. In this partial post-pandemic time and social distancing, the Secret Santa game tradition is gaining momentum in online portals and apps.

Secret behind the name

Red Avadavat (Male) with cotton seeds. Photo: Adithya Sharma

Like everyone, I was eagerly awaiting my secret Santa gift online or offline from the second week onwards. So, I waited for it, took a break and walked towards the lush grassland patch outside the city to click few flora and fauna snaps in the last month of the year. While I was in my usual way, some magical Red creature crossed in a fraction of a second. I watched it closely and missed the second time. On the third round, I recognized its a Red Avadavat – Avadavat – Amandava name derived from Ahmedabad in Gujarat India, exported these beautiful birds into the pet trade in former times. A full grown adult male has bright crimson color and white spots which remembers your favorite Strawberry fruit, so its called Strawberry Finch. In some place, it’s also called a Red Munia.

Northern Cardinals and Christmas connect

Northern Cardinal – Male(Red) & Female(Brown Coloration) in a Christmas tree decoration

I found a close resemblance to a Cardinal bird spotted in North and South America and closely associated with Christmas season. It’s so popular to see Cardinals in many Christmas merchandise items like greeting cards, coffee mugs, ornaments and lights in Christmas tree, etc. They have become closely associated with this holiday season to celebrate.

How to popularize this species

Red Avadavat Stamps – (From Left – Bangladesh, right – Cook Islands)

Likewise, Red Avadavat can be made good Christmas merchandise, commemorative stamp, etc. to promote this bird in our Indian subcontinent. Countries like Algeria, Bangladesh and Cook Islands released commemorative stamps. Red Avadavat are found mainly in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan. It presents in small flocks and stays together during the breeding season found primarily on the grasslands. So, its easy to build a spherical nest made of grass blades and lays 5 to 6 eggs. The real magic lies in their beak during summer it begins to turn red, and in winter Summer and darkens black during the winter season. The Red Avadavat male bird’s rich red plumage shows that it’s time to attract a mate for breeding and the female have a dull, brown coloration appears.

Red Munia and Santa Claus

The first Santa Claus illustrated by Thomas Nast in 1881

When it flew before my eyes, I thought a Lilliput Santa Claus passing with a bunch of gifts. It remembers Clement Clarke Moore Poem of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” which vividly describes the red coat St. Nicholas or Santa Claus as a jolly man who flies from home to home on a sleigh driven by reindeer to deliver toys to the kids. The iconic version of Santa Claus was illustrated by a political cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1881.

This year secret Santa gift

Red Avadavat (Male) with grass to give a final touch for his nest. Photo: Adithya Sharma

While everyone seems to receive their gifts from their secret Santa, I got to see a beautiful Red Avadavat for the first time and that must be a secret Santa gift from the avian world. Finally, St. Nick’s glimpse through Red Avadavat completes my secret Santa game in rejoicing. I got more excited than the real traditional Secret Santa game in exchange or an online one. Though it continues to evolve over the years, there are rules to ensure mystery, merriment, and a little elvish magic—the visual treat to my eyes is a modern twist to a classic.

Story: Siluvai Amalan | Red Avadavat Photos: Adithya Sharma