CHENNAI: The sky is clear, the air is fresh and the birds are chirping excitedly. With humans out of the equation for the most part, nature has taken the reins to paint a green picture. With the aerosol pollution levels at an all-time low, rare birds and even squirrels are making an appearance in parts of the city.
Despite the lockdown, nothing restricts us from enjoying nature’s fruits from our homes. Naturalist M Yuvan shares five grains you can find at home to attract squirrels and different types of birds. Yes, we understand that most of you have had enough of feral pigeons being a part of the equation, however, they rarely feed on the grains on our list. Get those DIY bird feeders, and watch nature in action.
DIY bird feeder
A bird feeder can be made by cutting off the bottom of a plastic bottle and attaching a plate at the bottom. Poke a few small holes at the base of the feeder and suspend the entire apparatus. The holes will allow small birds and squirrels access the grain and the plate will stop the grain from overflowing and spilling over. Because pigeons feed on the ground, they will not be able to perch and feed on a bird feeder.
Saamai (little millet)
If you’d like to see parrots and varieties of local thrushes visit your home, saamai is your chance to attract them. The little millet is often used to make pulao, pongal or kozhukattai. These birds love the little golden grains and will surely swing by for a bite or two if they find them. Throw in a few nuts like almonds into the mix and squirrels will make an appearance as well.
Thinai (foxtail millet)
On a day when you bust open the thinai to make pongal or adai, fill your bird feeder with a few of these grains and just wait for the sparrows and mynahs to glide straight in. Easy to fit and crush between their beaks, this millet grain popularly attracts smaller birds. Pigeons and crows that feed on the ground have stout beaks that cannot hold the grain in, hence they won’t come visiting you.
A healthy breakfast to look forward to, oats are widely consumed by most humans for that powerboost every morning. The rolled-out cereal is also loved by squirrels be it raw or cooked. One can even grind the cereal into a powder, mix it with water and make feeding blocks for squirrels. Make sure to place them on suspended platforms with ridges, to avoid pigeons from feeding on them.
Ragi (finger millet)
Ragi, the deep maroon grains are like fine sand. Perfect for making porridge and malt shakes, it attracts sparrows, finches, mynahs, parrots and squirrels. It will be an orchestra of bird species and one can actually record the different chirps emitted by each bird. One bird feeder full of ragi is like the matinee show at the theatre — just sit back and watch the show.
Varagu (kodo millet)
A millet mostly used by moms to get their kids to eat healthy, varagu is another common household grain one can use to attract birds, namely local finches. Popularly used to make upma, you can share a tasty snack with the flying beasts that often stick to open spaces at the outskirts of the city. Loud noises and smoke disturb the little birds, so remember to wait quietly and patiently for them.