Caring for Birds in Summer

By Ranjit K Sahu

A lot has been talked about saving birds to help the environment but seldom has the message been imparted deeply into the psyche of the general public to elicit a desirable positive effect on the environment through public participation. In the last few decades common birds like the sparrows have vanished from both rural and urban landscapes and birds like pigeons and crows that have a high degree of adaptability are vanishing too. Birds may seem insignificant at the first thought, many times even considered as pests. However, their role is pivotal in the creation of a healthy and sustainable environment for development.  They not only help to balance many factors like insect populations in the ecosystems but also help disperse seeds helping in the perpetuation of native flora.  In a world where there is increasing human wildlife conflict due to development activities and population explosion, the habitats of birds are readily shrinking pushing them to the brink of extinction at local levels in many parts of the world. Adding to the woes of the birds is the fact that global warming has caused the climate patterns to waver unpredictably placing additional challenges for the winged creatures to be able to sustain their populations. Most species today are affected by the expanding human settlements.  Although some like pigeons and crows have adjusted to the presence of humans, they still need additional support system and a helping hand from their human neighbours during adverse weather events.

Come summer and a vast part of the Indian subcontinent will be under the influence of fiery desiccating winds and the availability of drinking water would become a challenge for both humans and other creatures.

 Crows drink from shallow mud pans placed on the rooftop (Photo : Haraprasad Mahapatra)

While social pressures and a competitive world where every person has been struggling to acquire assets for survival has put a lot of pressure on the general public and youngsters, there is also a requirement for understanding the importance that a healthy environment is important for the society as a whole; for the wholesome mind and body development of everyone. Birds are not only a part of every ecosystem in the Indian subcontinent but are an integral part of it playing a very positive role both in terms of ecological contributions and aesthetic beautification. The common crow to the beautiful peacock, each bird helps in its own way to environment and to the conservation of the ecosystems. Government policies and organizational directives can at best be instructional and the action restricted to few species that are poster birds and animals in terms of policy formulations. For most other birds and animals that are considered common, the action has to be at the ground level, scattered across communities and dwellings with active public participation. This is a challenge as there is no practice of nurturing birds unlike in the developed countries that set up bird feeders, bird baths and other bird supporting systems. In adverse weather conditions, Indian birds not only face a challenge of surviving the onslaught of natural forces but are also at loggerheads with the human interests. Thus, the need to get the public to participate voluntarily to help birds overcome survival wars is urgent.

 

 

Youngsters hang pots of water in trees away from the reach of cats and other domestic animals. (Photo: Dilip Sahoo)

The next important question is where can it begin?  It is not surprising that today most environment revolutions have been carried out by the single minded determination and efforts of few individuals, whether it is the reclamation of lost natural systems or creation of forests in barren lands. How can such ethos be imparted to the generation next? The easiest thing would be to evince an interest in birds among youngsters by involving them in simple activities that can help birds. Making youngsters put out water and feed for birds during summer maybe the easy first step in this direction.   The simple activity will not only help the younger generation develop a sense of responsibility but also impart in them a value system of respecting elements of nature. Additionally this small outdoor activity can help them draw away from the addiction of electronic gadgets and create a need for a physical and mental activity akin to sports albeit in a more passive manner.

A lone pigeon  stopping for a drink on the rooftop

Charity begins at home and conservation of birds needs to begin at the local level-villages and suburbs to the cities. A group of enthusiastic youngsters can create a difference as evident from the recent activity of hanging pots in and around the small town of Itamati in Odisha. The aforesaid activity may not have an immediate effect but it is a small step that will at least create awareness and draw more public interest in future. Even if a few youngsters carry on this tradition, the community will be benefited immensely. Placing bowls of water for birds during summer can also serve as a pastime and kind of physical activity for the elderly and the retirees who can derive pleasure through bird watching. In India where the water tables are getting lower and water sources are drying away, there may not be many pots with water for the crow to fill stones to drink in the present scenario, s we need to fix the pots with water. It is time for people to chip in and help the winged creatures and other animals in their vicinity.

Rooftops are ideal to place water bowls and a shadow container placed near some kind of protection for the smaller birds from cats, and other predatory birds is preferable. Birds learn fast and once used to the feeders would become regular visitors. On a positive note, their droppings are important ingredients for any compost pits or manure for potted plants.

Let us bring back the birds into the community with a conscious effort as a first step towards creating an environment conducive to an inclusive and healthy society that can live in synchrony with nature instead of resorting to long speeches about nature conservation and other scientific jargons and indulging in ineffective free verbal suggestions.

About the Author:

Dr. Ranjit K. Sahu is a Research professional and freelance writer with over a decade of experience in biomedical research , currently located in Virginia, USA. His interests include education, environment, sustainability and health care in the underprivileged regions of the world.

 

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