Where have the sparrows gone? That’s something people living in cities are quick to notice. House sparrow populations have been declining worldwide due to modern buildings, disappearing home gardens and air pollution wreaking havoc on the bird’s habitat and food sources. House sparrows have been considered the most adaptable of birds capable of thriving in cities, farms, and suburbs. Though it is an aggressive little bird that pushes out native birds, its world-wide decline has listed it as a species very important as part of urban conservation. As record heatwaves dry up India’s water sources, dehydrated birds are falling from the sky with animal rescuers treating thousands of birds in animal hospitals.
Need for biodiversity and green spaces management:
Biodiversity loss has serious implications beyond just species loss and the deteriorating health of our ecosystems are eroding the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.
Covid-19 resulted in empty streets and made city life quieter. The acoustic quality of bird songs improved as birds did not have to sing louder to compete with the noise of traffic. The lockdowns had a positive impact on migratory birds using cities as ‘rest stops’ as they made long journeys across continents.
Birds are messengers and teachers of our environment and are indicators of wealth and prosperity. Where there are birds, you have insects, vegetation, grass, and plants to sustain the earth that we humans live off. Bird sounds have deeply influenced our societies and increased exposure to bird sounds have shown to improve physical and mental health.
Birds make us appreciate nature and are a natural alarm to wake-up each morning and the onus is on each one of us to make our homes and surroundings greener and more diverse. Our cities need to be ’restorative environments’ that facilitate recovery from everyday fatigue, negative mood and stress and exposure to sounds of nature specifically bird songs have shown to be very effective. Read this interesting study that shows participants who experienced a virtual reality forest environment with birds and water sounds showed significantly reduced pulse rate, muscle tension, whereas those who listened to classical music or silence showed lesser stress recovery.
India’s water bodies for birds:
There are thousands of bird species with India having almost 12% of the bird species found on the planet. Over 60 species are unique to the Indian sub-continent. Though wild-life experiences in India brings tigers and elephants to our minds, the foothills of the Himalayas, flood plains of the Ganges, and the off-beaten track of the tropical paradise of the Andaman Islands are bird paradises.
Here are a few popular bird sanctuaries in India and the water bodies that support it.
Arunachal Pradesh and Assam:
The eastern most state of India, Arunachal Pradesh is one of its kind because of the abundance of birds and some of the most important bird species found in the Namdapaha national park, Mishmi hills and Eaglenest Bird Sanctuary. With over 500 recorded species, these are declared as Important Bird Area (IBA). IBAs are an important indicator of bio-diversity richness holding threatened bird species.
Assam, the land of mystique blue hills and valleys serve as a rare refuge for as many as 109 species of birds as part of the Dehing Patkai, Maguri Beel wetlands and Kaziranga national park.
The rivers of Sunderbans and the Santrgachi Jheel in Howrah and the Kulik Bird Sanctuary are few of the well-known spots where thousands of migratory birds visit every year in winter.
We are biologically connected to bird songs. Researchers point to a ‘universal grammar’ that indicate common acoustic patterns between bird sounds and human speech giving us a better grasp on the communication patterns of other species and may even help us perfect natural speech for future robots and Artificial Intelligence (A.I).
Our lessons learnt from Covid-19 among others is how reduced human disturbances have been a positive story around linkages between bird songs, mental health, and alignment with nature. We must do our bit to increase bird diversity and its abundance in urban areas.
More varied bird songs are needed and how do we keep up that momentum? By educating ourselves, inspiring our younger generation to forge that connection with nature, visiting those precious waterbodies that sustain these birds, creating an emotional connection with them, listening to them, treating them like our loved ones and experiencing the calmness that comes with the sense of freedom and playfulness that birds exhibit.