Birds of a Feather

With the sparrow no longer the bird we grew up with, more and more birds are being threatened in Delhi. With a little effort we can protect these lovely creatures

Delhi’s birds are severely threatened by human activities today. Most of them are already extinct and many more are on their way out. Conservation of habitats is increasingly becoming crucial, and this is only possible if people are aware and well informed. A little effort on our part would go a long way in keeping our environs rich and chirpy

birds in balcony

HOW I STARTED

For me, it started as a mere pastime, sitting in my balcony observing birds. With time, this developed into my most-loved recreational hobby. The more I watched the birds, the more I fell in love with them and wanted to know more about them. My curiosity led me to read up on these winged beauties, study them up close and gradually I could identify them from their peculiar behavioural traits.

It took me eight months of putting out feed everyday before my first bird guest arrived and soon, more followed. The chirps and the activity that goes on in my balcony today is a bliss. No matter how stressed out my day is, once I sit down and watch them, I feel a sense of calm and tranquility wash over me.

Typically, my day starts at 5.30 in the morning, sometimes with the call of a Magpie singing or a Barbet calling. After changing the water for birds and putting out fresh fruit peels for them, I sit down with my blank canvas to paint and the birds just seem to get into my work, giving me all the inspiration I need as an artist. These lovely creatures are also my favourite subject for photography.

Just like a bunch of mischievous children running from one corner to the other, these beautiful birds flutter from one feeder to the other, sipping water and at times dipping their beautiful feathers to do some preening, perched over a bougainvillea branch.

From Parrots to Bulbuls to Tailor bird and Sunbirds, from Barbets to Silverbills and Magpies, the winged visitors keep my balcony forever busy.

In fact, it was a big surprise to spot a Green Bee eater, Woodpecker and a Kingfisher visit the Neem tree outside my house. Living in a colony with more houses and apartments than green, it was a rare sight. The noise of horns, is now replaced by the melodious calls of the birds and I am as close to nature as I can be.

Bird feeder

HOW AND WHAT TO FEED

Start by spreading a few grains on the ground to attract the birds. Gradually, hang multiple feeders to provide ample food. Birds enjoy cut up fruit. Black grapes, papaya, watermelon, melon etc are sure to attract Oriental White eye, Myna, Magpie, Treepie and Bulbuls. Theparrots, sparrows, doves and the Silverbills come for the grains.

I noticed that Sunbirds enjoy nectar so I put sugar water feeder for them. The water needs to be changed everyday. Once you have bird feeders, a fresh water bowl, some tall green plants for habitat cover and you are all set to welcome them.

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THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

Do not feed bread to birds. Instead, put out roti crumbs and rice for them.
Keep your feeders full and in a shaded area. Be consistent with the ritual. Don’t stop the feed abruptly. Also put out a bowl of water near the feeder. Birdseed can quickly spoil in summer heatand humidity. Check seed regularly.

Feeders must be cleaned from time to time. Set a day in the week and clean the feeders. Fill up fresh water everyday.

Respect trees as they are the natural habitat of birds. By looking after the trees in your colony, you contribute towards helping the species survive.

GENERAL BIRD BEHAVIOUR

The more time you spend observing these beautiful birds, the more you learn about their eating pattern, behaviour and calls.

The best time to see birds is sunrise to early morning and then again, in the mid and late afternoons. Most birds rest during the day. Songbirds like the Magpie and Bulbul are easier to spot an hour or two after dawn. This is when they are most active. Small birds are not very loud and stay hidden during the day.

Back home, at sunrise, Kites and Shikra often visit the neem tree outside my house. My bird book always travels with me for identifying any new bird and then reading about its behaviour.

Text and photos by : Ninjit Taneja

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