Environment

Reports of distressed pittas fly in thick and fast

An Indian pitta with a broken wing rescued in KK Nagar and brought to the Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary; and an X ray of the wing. Photos: Special Arrangement  

It can sometimes be hard to tell what killed an exhausted migratory bird — the exhaustion of long-distance flying or the kindness of its benefactors.

The Indian pitta is susceptible to both. Animal rights activist and rescuer Shravan Krishnan is once again doing what he has done over the years, around this time — educating Chennai residents on the do’s and dont’s of pitta rescue and care. One can sense the message coming with a gust of urgency.

Through the first half of this week, Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary at Theosophical Society, found residents from different addresses — one from KK Nagar, two from Thiruvanmiyur and another from Adyar — entering the portals of the facility carrying injured and dehydrated pittas they had found in their stomping grounds. The pitta brought in from KK Nagar has a broken wing.

The Xray of the broken wing of a pitta rescued in KK Nagar and brought to the Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Xray of the broken wing of a pitta rescued in KK Nagar and brought to the Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special arranagement

Setting out from regions as far as the Himalayan foothills, Pittas are known for bumpy landings in their wintering grounds, being disoriented, dehydrated and sometimes hugely injured.

In well-meaning but uninformed hands that have rescued these birds, they may be in for a greater ordeal.

Sharvan particularly points out one assumption that significantly adds to the bird’s distress.

“It is a small, colourful-looking bird, and people may get confused and take it for a baby bird.”

One can visualise the “care” that does the bird more harm than good.

“They are small birds and so, highly prone to stress. Too much of handling and too many people around them would definitely stress them out,” observes Shravan.

Pitta rescue and care. Photo: Special Arrangement

Pitta rescue and care. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special arranagement

The animal rescuer runs through a few points that ought to be ticked while nursing a pitta back to its wings.

“Firstly, do not pick them up immediately and drop them at a rescue centre unless their condition warrants it. You keep them in a cardboard box in a dark, quiet, cool room. If you can afford to keep it in air-conditioning, nothing like it. Or, just any cool room — may be, the bathroom — will do.”

The pitta grows only to be adorably tiny, and its stubby tail helps it retain a picture of “babyishness” through its lifetime. Look what happens when people do not know the pitta, let alone this facet about it.

“Many people kind of give them milk and other things. They are mostly insectivorous. Do not feed them anything: Just keep a bowl of water with ORS,” says Shravan.

That advice applies to any bird — migratory or otherwise — found dehydrated or disoriented.

And, a distressed pitta is not a photo op.

“Do not handle the bird too much, taking photographs and selfies.” Circle back to the point about what can happen to pittas that face “too much handling”.

“After a day or two, it the bird is fine, release it at the same spot where you picked it up,” says Shravan. “If it is completely down, has a broken leg, a broken wing, then bring it to the rescue centre. Out of a hundred cases, only a few would be like that.”

Any migratory bird can suffer similarly from the effects of long-distance flying, and Shravan draws attention to how the orange-headed thrush has been brought into the dispensary many a time. However, the pittas are unfortunately light-years ahead in the matter, proving to be delicate darlings among long-distance migratory birds.

Pittas are affected in this manner in their other wintering grounds as well. “With Bengaluru in its migration path, such cases are reported from the city. An organisation called Avian Reptile Rehabilitation Centre (ARRC) in Bengaluru addresses this issue among others. We interact with ARRC regularly around issues of this nature that pertain to migratory birds, and also about the issue of birds being put in danger on account of kite-flying with the manja thread. This is rampant in Bengaluru. In Chennai, the situation is better because of the ban, but it still happens.”

Shravan points out that most facets of caring for pittas the right way apply to other migratory birds that have a rough landing after a long journey.

“Most of the migratory birds are susceptible to dehydration, but Pitta is huge in this respect; I would get 30 to 40 calls, and many people would not know what it is, with some mistaking it for a kingfisher.”

To find help for a pitta in distress or any other bird, migratory or resident, call 9445070909.


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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 10:43:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/reports-of-distressed-pittas-fly-in-thick-and-fast/article37030996.ece

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