CHENNAI: This is real estate that your 12-year-old can afford. Providing nests for as low as Rs 100, a group of wildlife conservationists in Chennai are hoping to increase the city's bird population that has slowly been declining over the years. "Over the last decade the numbers of birds in Indian metres have drastically gone down," confirms Mohammed Dilawar, who has been working on the Common Bird Monitoring of India Programme for close to a decade now.
As it turns out — space within the city isn't just a premium for us human beings hoping to invest in a dream home. The massive rise in apartment complexes has drastically reduced the tree cover in most localities, leaving our feathered friends with fewer options to set up their nests. "We've seen nests everywhere but on a tree when we go out to do our rescues — on window ACs, underneath sunshades, on top off Metro Rail pillars... all because of a lack of space," says Ravi Kumar, a reptile conservationist. Getting together with friends Shravan Krishnan, Dinesh Baba and Nishanth Nichu, this group is hoping to help more birds find homes this summer, which is particularly a requirement at this time as it also breeding season, he adds.
Handmade and eco-friendly, each nest is made of a bamboo log and can house a family of four small-sized birds. These could be sparrows, tits or parakeets. Hoping to recreate similar initiatives that were successfully carried out in places like Gujarat and Ooty, the nests will be sold along with bird feeders to create a comprehensive assisted habitat for the city's avian populace. "And this will be distributed along with booklets on what kind of seeds need to be placed in these feeders depending on what species of birds reside in your neighbourhood," adds Shravan Krishnan, a popular face in animal welfare circles.
According to the data collected from earlier projects right here in Chennai, it was found that in most cases the birds adopted the nests within a month, while in certain cases they took almost three months. "However the breeding has always been successful," says Sanjay, president of CARE that has been working on reviving the sparrow population in North Chennai over the last couple of years.
While there is no way yet to determine the specific increase of numbers of the bird population in pockets where nests have been placed, Dilawar, also a sparrow conservationist and founder of the Nature Forever Society based in Maharashtra reveals, "We distribute nests year-round to metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai, and we've seen a distinct increase in the winged population where these nests have been introduced." He adds, "All you need is a few birds of a particular species in the area to begin with, and within a year or two, it's safe to say that you will see a 20 to 30 per cent rise in the bird population there."
These bird nests and feeders will be available from Saturday. A volunteer will personally come to your home and help you set it up. For details, contact 9600119081 or 9884461090.
What NOT to Use For a DIY Nest:
Often bird enthusiasts do more harm than help by setting up nests that have not been scientifically tested based on material used and breeding knowledge, according to Mohammed Dilawar whose initiative, the Nature Forever Society caters to nests that are custom-built for birds of different sizes and breeds. Here are his tips on what not to use, if you want to create your own birdy nest:
- Cardboard: It gets easily soggy and wet, especially in humid coastal regions
- Plastic: Overheats during the day, leading to the eggs can boiled
- Oil Cans: Also overheats, leading to the death of the chicks inside
(Wood is best when creating a nest box. It is a natural insulator and appears inconspicuous, keeping the chicks inside safe from predators.)
Where to Place a Nest:
- Below a sunshade
- Isolated spot in your balcony
- Accessible tree branch
(A nest require shade and an adequate amount of sunlight. But keep in mind, it also needs to be cleaned annually to prevent parasitic growth from affecting the eggs inside. So don't forget where you keep it)
How Do Birds House Hunt?
- First the male inspects his house find. If he finds it suitable, he calls out to the female
- Once she flys over and gives her nod of approval, the two begin to decorate — sharing the load of finding twigs, grass and whatever meets their equivalent of a comfy mattress
- When the female lays her eggs, the male and female actually take turns sitting on them to keep them warm