Chennai-based Sekar opens his doors to hundreds of ring-necked parakeets.
The ring-necked parakeet is in no danger of extinction. In fact, it is at the other end of the conservation spectrum. The bird is found in the Least Concern category of the Red List book maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. A slew of studies on this Afro-Asian parakeet species show they are growing in numbers within the known areas of their distribution. But it is equally true that they don’t frequent urban spaces as before: one reason, ready on our lips, is unbridled construction activity and the resultant loss of trees. Seen in this context, Sekar’s experience with a horde of ring-necked parakeets is surprising, even baffling.
Every day, between 6.30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., hundreds of ring-necked parakeets visit his second-floor office-cum-residence on one of the busiest sections of Bharathi Salai, about 200 feet from Express Avenue mall, to feed on the rice grains and fried gram (udacha kadalai) placed on the rims of parapet walls.
By offering food at these times, Sekar, who services cameras in his office called Camera House, where he also keeps a huge collection of cameras that range widely in time and technology, has ‘indirectly trained’ these parakeets to keep this routine.
“They take offered fruits, but prefer grains because the latter can be fed on faster. Against a backdrop of vehicular movement and noise, their instinct for self-preservation is highly active and they are keen to have their fill as quickly as possible and move on,” says Sekar, who has done his best to provide some quiet for the birds.
“Between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., I avoid customers. People at a shop on the ground floor help me do this. They ask visitors to my shop to return after 6 p.m. In the evening, at least 200 parakeets come for food and I don’t have the heart to see them disturbed,” says 58-year-old Sekar.
This mass avian feeding began over a year ago, when Sekar placed food in a similar fashion for the blue rock pigeons that roost in the nooks around the windows of a building opposite his establishment. “After a while, a few parakeets began to come looking for food. Slowly, the parakeets increased and outnumbered the pigeons. In the last three months, their numbers have really swelled to hundreds.”
Sekar has no explanation for what is happening. All he knows is that parakeets come hungry to his house and leave, after feeding to the full. And, that’s enough for him.