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Avian woes

Be it the Oxford of the East label or the Detroit of India tag or for that matter the big chunk of share in IT export that the city boasts of,Pune has surely come a long way.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni |
June 5, 2009 4:00:33 am

Be it the Oxford of the East label or the Detroit of India tag or for that matter the big chunk of share in IT export that the city boasts of,Pune has surely come a long way. But while looking at Pune as an ideal location for industrial development,it seems we have overlooked the fact that for years,it has been an ideal location for varied species of birds as well. Fortunately,in the struggle for supremacy between man and habitat,the feathered creatures seem to have displayed more maturity.

While the human habitat birds make up our world of the winged in urban areas,there are over 250-300 species of birds that are found in and around Pune,as the region offers a perfect habitat for species of all kinds. “Pune is one of few places that has varied habitats. With Pashan Lake,Katraj Lake,Mula-Mutha rivers creating wetlands,there are hilly areas such as Vetal Tekdi,Hanuman Tekdi,Parvati and so on. Agricultural lands,grasslands and forest areas surround the city in places such as Mulshi,Hadapsar and so on,” says Dharmaraj Patil,programme officer,Centre for Environment Education (CEE).

“As eco-systems undergo changes due to human interference,the birds in that region adapt to those changes as well. While house sparrow,crow,Magpie Robin,Red Vented Bulbul,Barn Owl and many such birds that we see commonly have adjusted well to the human habitats,there are many more who are in the process of adjusting and a few who refuse to adapt,” adds Patil. Throwing light on birds adapting to human habitat,Patil adds,“Nesting,roosting and breeding are the three main activities of birds. Apart from sparrows and crows,birds like Black Drongo (Kotwal),Rat Owl have started coming closer to human habitats for feeding. With insects and foodgrain as their major food,they feed mostly on garbage bins,unlike their conventional habitats,” adds Patil.

Birds like Muniya,Great Tit,Spotted Owlet are the new additions to birds that come to nest near human habitat. Some more birds we get to encounter regularly of late are Magpie Robin,Red Vented Robin,Rock Pigeon,Maina,Black Kite,Broadbilled crow and some more,informs Patil. “Nests of Spotted Owl can be seen in old buildings such as the ones in Pune University,whereas Muniyas are found to create bowl-like nests in windows. Bulbuls also make similar nests in gardens,” he adds.

“Wagtails,Red Wattled Lapwing and Riverterns are found near water bodies in the city. While water remains the prime source of food for them,their roosting takes place on the banks. I have spotted a flock of 300 Riverterns near Pashan Lake which is an indication of the fact that the lake is still a potential site for attracting birds,” says Patil.

While these birds come in direct contact with humans,there are a few in the city’s vicinity as well. While taking note of the extraordinary adjustments feathered creatures are making,Patil also adds a word of caution. “Despite the fact that bird species are adapting to the changed habitat,we cannot take them for granted. This evolution is for a short period and is an adjustment. The possibility of a species getting extinct cannot be neglected,” says he.

Habitats in Pune

Wetlands

Pashan,Katraj Lake,Mula-Mutha Rivers

Species found: White browed wagtail (local),White/Grey/ Yellow wagtails (Migrated from Europe),Rivertern,Cormorant,Ducks,Sandpipers

Feed on: Fish,Insects

Threat: Pollution,Increased construction activity near lakes like Pashan Lake,spiritual debris

Forests and Hills

Vetal Tekdi,Hanuman Tekdi,Taljai,Parvati

Species found: Great Horned Owl,Hornbill,Spotted Owlet,Woodpecker group,Parakeet,Coppersmith Barbets that stay in trees

Feed on: Small rabbits,rats,snakes

Threats: Ghats,Construction on hills,Illegal encroachments on hills

Agricultural land

Around the city

Species found: Baya,Scaly-bellied muniya,Buntings,Warbler group,Egrets

Feed on: While many feed on insects and grains,Baya and Muniya feed only on grain

Threats: Reducing agricultural land,use of heavy machinery

Remedies

“Birds are an important part of the ecological chain. Apart from keeping the rodent and insect population under control,many birds are responsible for pollination and sprouting. For instance,Dodo,a bird in Mauritius,was responsible for sprouting and with the Dodo getting extinct,a particular species of tree vanished as well,” says Patil.

Plan of action

* Objection to encroachments on wetlands,hills

* Do not kill birds and instead allow them to be in vicinity

* Use bio-degradable products

* Artificial nesting in terrace gardens can attract smaller birds

* Participate in activities such as bird feeding,bird watching and so on

* Oppose cutting trees

* Develop gardens

* Plantation of varied trees and not exotic plants like Congress,glyricidia

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