Is it possible to look at the sky and tell how sanitation is being maintained in a residential locality? Ornithologists say it is possible. If one sees flocks of crows it means the waste disposal system can be improved, and if one sees flocks of pigeons it means the waste disposal is good.

Crows that are omnivorous thrive in areas that do not have proper dumpsters and where the garbage is disposed carelessly.

The pigeons that are vegetarian thrive in areas where there is an abundant supply of grain or, in the urban context, in areas where there are pigeon-lovers who are willing to feed them. Though pigeon keeping is not too popular, pigeon-feeding is becoming very popular in the city.

The day is not complete for Life Insurance Corporation of India employee Bharat Kumar if he does not feed the pigeons that perch on the window of his office near the busy Benz Circle. Half a dozen birds squabble for the jowar and millets he leaves on the window ledge. “It is a lovely sight to see the birds eating the grain. God is there in all life forms. This is one way of serving him,” he says.

Feeding the pigeons is a daily ritual in several temples in the city. Priests and devotees feed pigeons at the old Sivalayam in One Town. Local businessman Baldev, who feeds pigeons that come to his office window, says feeding pigeons brings prosperity to those who feed them.

Changes in the lifestyle of humans seem to have a direct impact on avian life. Ornithologist P. Gracious says in posh areas where garbage is put neatly in plastic bags and then dumped into the dumpsters, the population of crows is on the decline because organic bits and pieces constituent a major part of their diet.

Another reason for the decline in crow population in urban centres is the cutting down of trees. While crows need trees to nest, pigeons are very comfortable in the ventilators of any building. “Even the drone of exhaust fans does not seem to disturb them. You can see them perched on the umpteen mobile phone microwave towers that have come up all over the city,” he says.

According to ‘The Book of Indian Birds' by Salim Ali, a major chunk of the urban pigeon population belong to the Blue Rock Pigeon species that has been largely adulterated through interbreeding with fancy artificial strains.

The pigeons that are loved and fed by some are considered a menace by others. Pigeons prefer to make their nests in apartments that resemble the cliffs and old fort walls in which they roost. They dirty the balconies with dropping and can even be a health hazard.

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