Don’t cage the winged wonders

People have always been fascinated by a bird’s beauty, grace and joyful chirping. Unfortunately, this fondness for birds often misleads us into thinking they belong within the four walls of our home, when they are in fact wild beings that are meant to be free. The caged (pet) bird trade poses grave dangers to our delicate ecosystem and also relegates our feathered friends to an imprisoned life that bears no resemblance to what nature intended for them.

Says Gopi Shankar, of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, Bannerghetta, “Recently, 21 Alexandrine parakeets were rescued by the police from a pet trader. All of them were fledglings.”

He reveals that when the underfed young ones were brought to the rescue centre, they were so hungry that they ate double the normal feeding quantity for their weight. He refers to a bird trader’s profit orientation and observes that they are not motivated to give these birds the right nutrition or quantity, while they wait to sell them and get ‘new stock’ from the wild.

“Most fledglings are stolen from their nests, and this leads to depletion of wildlife. Of the 21 parakeets, one of them died despite our best efforts. They have a high mortality rate during transport,” he says.

Caged birds often show symptoms of depression and loneliness, and those that have had their wings cut off as babies can never be rehabilitated in the wild. Environmentalist Mohammed E Dilawar, who was featured in Time magazine, offers an alternative idea to those who love the presence of birds. His NGO Nature Forever Society ( manufactures and sells man-made nest boxes and bird feeders across India. He also suggests planting more native plants to welcome the winged ones into our living spaces.

If you already have pet birds, consult a local animal rescue organisation or a veterinarian to find out what can be done to improve the quality of their lives if they are not capable of being rehabilitated in the wild.