Bird Watching

Birds Adaptation in the Urban Environment

Birds Adaptation in the Urban Environment
By: Ajay Gadikar

In the struggle to survive in their natural habitat  which is decreasing at a higher rate,  birds of Urban Indore are trying to adapt with human settlements.   Some of the bird species which are finding fewer trees and shrinking wet lands in city have started making concrete houses as their homes. Some , not getting  natural material for making their nests,  have started  using materials like plastic threads, electric wires and papers as nesting materials.

Today the main threat posed to birds comes from humans and his destructive tendencies and his manipulation of the environment.  The life of birds has changed enormously since humans encroached upon their habitats and began to use and spoil it.  Today,  near my home,  I can easily spot 100 pigeons,  5-6 Mynas,  1-2 sparrows and that's all about it,  whereas 5-6 years back I used to see at least 20 species of birds in the same area.

Very few birds have adapted  to the urban lifestyle and many have perished from our life. The House sparrow is a perfect example of it.  Once commonest of all,   its absence should be treated as a dangerous sign of how humans are fast degrading the environment.

According to a study by Juan Diego Ibáñez-Álamo, researcher at the University of Granada and Anders Pape Møller from Paris-Sud University in France done in 2012,  birds adapt to their habitat and develop new survival instincts just like humans.   Ibáñez-Álamo and Møller experimented with a number of birds belonging to 15 different species from both rural and urban settings and recorded their varied reactions to dangers faced by predators.  Cat  was found out to be the main predator of city birds. This report was published in the Animal Behaviour journal.  

Adaptation is the key today, even for birds for survival.   Birds like Common Mynas, Purple sun birds, Blue rock Pigeons, have been known for their existence along with human settlement from quit a long time in urban areas.   However, some recent observations suggest  that birds like Indian eagle owl, Indian grey hornbill, Red wattled lapwing, and White breasted king fisher that are  found in Indore have also started adapting and started living near human settlements with the changed conditions.

The Indian Eagle Baby Owl in its nest

I had photographed Indian Eagle owls nesting in a school building at the fringes of the city.  The creature is known for building nests in thickets found on barren land.  While the open land has considerably reduced in the city, the few chunks that are left are not safe for living and breeding due to human and animals’ intervention.

Similarly birds like peahens that usually laid eggs on grounds have started laying eggs on roof tops. During recent years the stray dog menace has increased many fold around the cities so the bird finds it suitable to lay eggs on the roof top of houses.  The Red wattled Lapwing has also been seen laying eggs on the roof-tops- an adaptation to survive in cities.  Generally they lay their eggs on barren land, however with lesser open areas and with increased movement of humans and animals on barren land,  the possibility of damage has increased and they have found roof tops as an alternative for laying eggs.   Eggs of red wattled lapwing are of muddy colour and cannot be spotted easily. The bird is known for making shriek sounds  to keep enemies away from the eggs.
A male indian Grey Hornbill feeding its chicks.  The nest is in a crevice on the wall.

During my study of Indian grey hornbills nesting behaviour,  I saw them now using holes/crevices found in the buildings as their nest.   Last year in an unusual nesting behaviour, I noticed that an Indian grey hornbill pair has made nest in a hole (cavity) on the 2nd floor of a multi storied building. Indian grey hornbill are common hornbill species found in the Indian sub-continent and traditionally make nests in hollow cavities found in tree trunks.

It was nice to see the remarkable adaptability shown by the hornbill pair,  I watched their breeding behaviour for the complete three months and understood that even in the absence of suitable cavity,  they have intelligently chosen  a place which was innovative and safe and were able to successfully raise their offsprings.

The white breasted kingfisher entering inside the nest

Recently I also noticed another remarkable nest site adaptation by a pair of white breasted kingfishers in a densely populated area.   Generally,  all of the Kingfisher species are known to live near water bodies or rivers, but the white- throated kingfisher is adapting to live with city life.   This white breasted kingfisher bird pair has chosen to make their nest in a hole left in the wall of a building. It seems to be an attempt to adapt with the urban lifestyle which is getting crowded by buildings at every possible nook and corner of the city.

A purple sun bird nest made using waste paper

With natural nesting materials getting rare, building a nest has also become a tough task for birds. Birds like crow and purple sun birds have started using artificial materials like threads, electric wires and papers for building their nests.   With the change in the habitat, not only the nesting but the eating habits of birds have also changed accordingly.  I have seen that white breasted kingfisher,  that used to live near the water bodies and ate fishes has  adapted to city life and started eating rats, lizards and insects found in the city.  The Indian grey horn bill was seen feeding chapattis to his chicks.

All these changes show that these birds are struggling but trying to adapt and survive in the urban environment.  If they do not adapt with the changing conditions, they would disappear like the house sparrows from our cities.

(Text and photographs by Ajay Gadikar.  Ajay Gadikar is an  Ornithologist from Indore.)   


Event on 24th July


Event for 26th July 2016

I am happy to announce that  AABID SURTI --a very  famous cartoonist ( creater of Dhabooji ) 
ARTIST --FROM JJ SCHOOL OF ART , a novelist --for adults& for children
And the founder of save water -  will be coming to interact with all of us on Tuesday date26 th July, 2016

Venue --
Rolie Anshuman's center for English, Sec 27, Near Hamilton Court, DLF ph-4., Gurgaon.

Time --5 pm --6 pm --all are invited 
You bring your children also. 

Organized by Seema Sud for Nature group. 


Event on 31st July 2016

July 31st, 2016

Insect Safari at Conservation Education Centre - Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary(ABWLS), Delhi

Monsoon is the time to watch our insect species. Monsoon brings out a bevy of insects. Monsoon allows for better communication among insects. The adult insects are out there to find mates, get it on, reproduce and seek suitable places to lay eggs. CEC will host an Insect Walk on 31 July 2016. The Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary supports large number of insect species. The walk will bring a diversity of insects for participants to observe. Participants are urged to wear comfortable shoes. Your walk will last about two hours. 


31st July, Sunday at 7:30 AM - 9:30 AM


Conservation Education Centre - ABWLS, Delhi

Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, Near Karni Singh Shooting Range, Tughlakabad, New Delhi- 110044

For details contact: Education Officer on 011-26042010 or 8800741864, 9868441983


Fees: Rs 350/ per head

Last date for registration: 30th July 2016

Photo: Mango stem borer by Rajendra Singh

Web of Life


-K. Amina Bibi

Agro Ecological Engineering is also Bio Intensive Integrated Pest Management. It is emerging as a new pest management strategy. It is an improved version of Agro – Eco System Analysis (AESA). It involves habitat manipulation of both below and above ground level. 

Below Ground Operations – Rhyzosphere Engineering – Living Soil concept
Organic Farming techniques like Crop Rotation, Organic Fertilizers, Seed Treatment / Bio Priming (Treating with Pseudomonas and Trichoderma), Biofertilizers including VAM & AM – Biofertilizers (induces Phosphatic utilization – Fungus & root symbiosis) encourages the multiplication of beneficial organism and they naturally control the growth of harmful organisms. 

Above Ground Operations – Multi Crop Concept
It involves many corps to grow in and around the field to get maximum biological activity. Growing right Border Crops according to the selected farm activity acts like an army to save the crop. Example is growing Bhendi (Okra / Lady’s Finger) in the border of paddy fields acts as yellow sticky trap. As the bright yellow flowers attract harmful insects provided them food (pollen and nectar) and shelter and protect the food crops from the harmful pests. Some of the attractant flowering plants are Marigold, Gingelly (Sesame), and Sunflower. Some trap crops are Mustard and Castor. Occimum spp plants are repellent crops including Tulsi (Hence it is known as mosquito repellent plant). 

Okra flower harbours many insects

Canna plants bordering fields

When habitat manipulation is done so as to encourage naturally farm friendly organisms, the beneficial organisms live in the flowers and protect the main crop from intensive sunshine and cold winds as they act as barriers. When such crop situation prevails, it is found that the populations of farm friendly organisms like Bracon and Trichogramma (Parasitoids), Spiders and Reduviid Bug (Predators), Pseudomons spp and Trichoderma spp (Bio pesticides). Entomopathogenic fungicontacts the cuticle, forms appresoria, penetrates into the insect, proliferates, produces toxins and ultimately kills the insect. The proper selection of strains kills specific host range without disturbing non-target insects.  

Butterflies are known to be the best gardeners on earth

This snake bird is almost a guardian angel protecting the crops from harmful insects, rodents etc

Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) are lethal pathogens of wide variety of insects. Biological control with the help of EPN is a very efficient organic insect control method. EPN are viable alternative to chemical pesticides. EPNs have a single free‐living stage, the infective juvenile (IJ), carries bacteria in its gut. EPN and bacteria are harmless to humans and other organisms. EPN are also used as a foliar spray to control sucking pests and other foliar insects.

Such organic farming practices when done in a systemic manner we are ensuring the uninterrupted WEB of LIFE (Food Web). Interdependency of one organism feeding on the other and the balance results in conserving the biodiversity.  As a result of the lives conserved at micro level (from microbes, insects) and macro level (rodents, birds, trees) the mankind get the economic benefits. The same principle may be applied to the forest ecosystems. When the small animals and birds are provided opportunity to live and multiply, the wild life will be conserved. Mere killing of rodents may result in the fall of the hawk population (which feed on rodents). Spraying of pesticides reflect in the fertility of men and immunity of mankind (as mother’s milk is found to have pesticide residue)

(Text and photographs by Amina Bibi.  K. Amina Bibi is a Post Graduate in Agriculture with specialization in Plant Breeding and Genetics. She is currently working as Agriculture Officer in Karaikal, Department of Agriculture, Government of Puducherry) 

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