Guest column: Birds get a free run during lockdown
Many of the bird species in Lalbagh have been sighted in smaller gardens in the neighbourhood
A little into the lockdown both this year and in 2020, videos, photos and write-ups of peafowl (the peacock is just the male) started popping up on social media and in the news. And there were videos from Lalbagh too. Though people had reported sightings of peafowl sporadically in the past from there, it was never frequent. But with the lockdown, they were there right along Krumbiegel Road too.
This year again, the birds seem to have moved in right after the lockdown was implemented, albeit a little faster. Two of them, both females, were sighted in various parts of Lalbagh.
The ability of birds to fly gives them greater mobility than most animals. It is not that all birds keep moving from place to place even if they can, and some, like our common sparrow, are known to live quite sedentary lives. Others that are nesting don’t move from place to place during that period. Most migratory birds, which come south, start moving back to the colder north by April, and they are almost completely gone by the end of the month. So the birds that were exposed to the effects of the lockdown here were our resident species. They breed when the migratory birds have left and are no longer there to compete for food in May and June.
But over Lalbagh and the neighbouring Basavanagudi, people have noticed some changes. Many of the bird species in Lalbagh, which were largely confined to the greenery there, have been sighted wandering into even small residential gardens in the neighbourhood. The Paradise Flycatcher, which is infrequently found in Lalbagh, is one such bird. The Red Whiskered Bulbul, a lively little bird with very cheerful calls, could be seen even on once busy streets that have small trees along them in Gandhi Bazaar. The more active Grey Tit could be found on trees on various streets, including on J.C. Road, which was unthinkable earlier.
The number of Golden Backed Woodpecker increased in Lalbagh, and the lone individual hanging out there for the past couple of years, got a partner. The Alexandrine Parakeet, the largest parakeet we have here, also stayed over in Lalbagh during the last lockdown, and they are here this year too.
Prof. Madhavi Rangaswamy, of the Psychology Department at Christ University, who is an avid birdwatcher, says, “Traffic sounds and machine noise are way less than before, and we humans are becoming aware of the bird calls. We also have more time on our hands, so we will also notice more”.
Prof. Chetan Nag of Jain University, who is doing a study of the disturbance effects in Lalbagh, echoes this view. “Bulbuls and Tailor Birds have been more audible due to the reduction in noise pollution” he says.
Though the scientific community has been waxing loud about the changes COVID-19 could lead to in orientation of field research, there have been very few systematic studies with proper sampling design on the effect of the lockdowns on birds, which have surfaced so far.
(Dr. Krishna M.B. is an ecologist and ornithologist from Bengaluru who has been interested in bird and habitat conservation and improvement)