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Man and Birds
Dr. Sana Rehman
Assistant Professor, Rajdhani College, University of Delhi
(Published on: 29 June, 2022 @04 PM)

Birds among other animals are fascinating. Like Mammals, they are warm-blooded animals but, interestingly, they can fly!! They take care of the eggs like amphibians and like insects, they have the most beautiful colors. They are the closest relatives of reptiles and can often swim like fishes. They are everywhere frequently becoming indicators of certain characteristics of the environment. All these traits make them a classical organism to work with that can indicate several environmental phenomena with comparatively little effort. I believe, unlike all other animals, birds have a perspective because they see the world from angles that no other animal can visualize. They are present in the high mountain peaks, plains, and coastal areas. They are found on isolated islands (Galapago’s Finches) and uninhabited continents (Antarctica’s Penguin). You may find them in deep forests (Papua New Guinea’s Birds of Paradise) and deserts (Sandgrouse). They build their nest from tree tops to rock bottom on the sea coast to your rooftop. The Guano of the birds has been sold in the market for utilizing it for great economic benefit. They represent one of the most amazing phenomena of migration where they travel thousands of kilometers to spend chilly winters in comparatively warmer countries.  

If you observe closely, they have been associated with our society, culture, and literature. People believe that birds such as Storks carry babies after birth to their respective homes. Poems and stories are written describing them as a companion, friend, and sometimes foes. In India, Chatterboxes are known as tota (Parakeets), insomniacs as ullu (Owls), clever people as crows, beautiful people as more (Peafowl), and a good singer as Nightingale or Koel, Swifts for flying high and a romantic couple as pair of Swans. From, paintings to diagrams to sculptures to art, they are the animals, which are most extensively celebrated and popularized. Some birds are also flagship species such as Ostrich in Australia, Kiwi in New Zealand, and Bald Eagle in the United States of America. They are the symbol of hope and peace like Dove, a symbol of strength and power such as Falcon, and a symbol of death and despair like Vultures. We are awakened in the morning by the crowing of Cock and the chirping of birds describes the onset of spring. We just can’t dissociate birds from us.

Since their high mobility, agility, and sensitivity, they happen to react rapidly to changes in their habitat, which make them classical species to monitor land-use changes, environmental effects, and use and disuse of habitats. Many represent various environmental issues such as the effect of DDT pesticides on wildlife was first studied in birds. Rachel Carson first discovered that using chemical pesticides in agricultural activities is the leading cause of birds' decline. They are also an excellent indicator of environmental pollution for eg. Great Tits have been used as an indicator for heavy metal pollution. Common Buzzard from Sicily was used as a bio-indicator for monitoring environmental metals pollution and Dipper stood out to be a good water quality bio-indicator.

Unlike other living organisms, few selected species of birds appear to be well adapted to the urban environment, in most cases, have a dominant species. Adapting to new climatic conditions and environmental changes is an evolutionary trait that is possessed by every living organism. But birds seem to species have mastered their attempt to live with humans and now are officially called urban birds such as House Crow, Common Myna, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, and Pariah Kite. Interestingly, birds are the only set of animals that are described based on habitat such as terrestrial birds, waterbirds, coastal birds, urban birds, forest birds, etc. This is intriguing as they are the most studied animals as well. Many species of birds are critically endangered in India such as the Great Indian Bustard, Bengal Florican, Indian Vulture, etc. When we think of extinction we think about Dodo and Passenger Pigeon.  They are rapidly declining due to habitat loss, poaching, conflicts, and unsustainable practices. All the birds are important and represent one or more ecosystems and should be conserved and we must look after them because without them we are incomplete. We need to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with each through protection and conservation. 

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