Bring back the beaks

On the brink of extinction.   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

As children, we were witness to guests frequenting our homes without any invitation. They usually arrived as couples who made our homes as their homes. Though mother was never happy with their dirty and chirpy ways, we children looked forward to their visits, especially in their summer breeding season, as seeing their eggs and young ones was an added pleasure.

That is how summer vacations were spent in days when travelling was not as frequent. Now that these guests have bid goodbye to not only our homes but cities as well, they have been given the status of our state bird.

Yes, I am talking about the common house sparrows. Now that they are gone (are only mobile phones to be blamed?), the next interaction with birds in homes, for children of the present generation, has been limited to pigeons. They don’t enter the homes as much as sparrows used to do but confine themselves to vents (I wonder if somebody still uses the word roshandaan as ventilators seems so inadequate) with occasional forays inside the homes. With increasing air-conditioning, newer homes are being built without roshandaans. The exclusion of birds from our homes and spaces, thus, continues.

But we are not content with excluding them from our space; instead we are taking over their spaces as well. In recent times, for the sake of development and urbanisation (read metro rail, multi-storey apartments, malls and wider roads), many old trees have been cut in the city. These old trees were home to various hole nesting birds, such as House Sparrows, Barbets, Parakeets, Mynas, Indian Grey hornbills, Magpies and many other species which are often found close to human habitation.

Modern lifestyle encourages the practice of cutting down old trees which were ideal nesting sites for these birds. In addition to this, trees suitable for natural nesting or hole nesting species are rarely planted. Even when planted, it takes a long time (years) for a tree to mature and provide nesting sites to these birds. Thus, many avian species, common to human spaces, are disappearing from our surroundings. The most noticeable example of this is the common house sparrow.

Over a period of time, some of these species have adapted themselves to the newly developed cityscape. The art of building nests in nooks or crevices of metro pillars, buildings, behind air-condition ducts, clearly indicates their ease to our neighbourhoods. But these spaces are not enough.

To find a solution to this problem, conservationists have come up with the idea of installing artificial wooden nest boxes which can be easily placed in garden areas or to most likely sites of nest building. This will allow us to closely observe these birds in neighbourhood spaces. One success story of these artificial wooden nest boxes has been reported a few months back from Okhla Bird Sanctuary, New Delhi. This artificial wooden nest box gave safe shelter to Indian Grey Hornbill.

These artificial nest boxes should be installed in garden areas, houses, buildings and apartments. Not only this, such initiatives should be made a vital part of urban planning.

Though this initiative, by itself, will not be sufficient for regaining the lost avian species, as a part of multipronged strategy to provide nesting, perching and feeding sites, it can be of use.

We need more innovations and conservation strategies so that our future generations can enjoy the pleasures of watching these not so uninvited guests in our homes.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 5:54:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/bring-back-the-beaks/article4156217.ece

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