The World Migratory Birds Day

Their Future is our future

This is the theme of the world migratory bird day being commemorated on May 13th.

Avian migration is one of the most wonderful events of nature. Birds fly distances to find best ecological conditions and habitat for feeding, breeding and bringing up their young.

Migratory birds are birds that travel distances for various reasons, but primarily reason being food and nesting. birds move between the northern and southern hemisphere in search of food, and safe and comfortable nesting zones.

Migration could be short distance that is in the geographic range from high altitude to low  or it could be of medium order within a reasonable radius and  then there are long distance ones that are across continents. A bird like Red knot travels 16,000 km twice a year.

These birds fly year after year with very little deviation in the flyway corridor. The first year birds often make their first migration on their own, it is almost as if the flight chart is memorized by the DNA. How the birds do this is not really understood. However it is known that they orient themselves with the sun during the day, the stars guide the navigation at night and geomagnetism can be tapped on any time. Olfactory sense seem to play a great role when it comes to navigation in the case of the homing pigeon.

Many birds have a preferred pathway for their annual migration, these usually involves important stop overs that provide food supplies that are critical to the birds survival.

These flights are dangerous and ardours. It challenges the physical and mental capacity of the bird. There are predators that threaten the bird. In the recent years, the land reclamation and poaching is eating into the natural habitat disorienting the avian migrations. Many birds are attracted by bright lights while some are confused resulting in collisions with structures. The latest hazard being the tall communication towers.

Role of migratory birds in economy.

Migrant birds are biodiversity indicators of the state of our environment, as their migratory patterns match their feeding and breeding needs. With change in climate there is a change in the timing of the elements of their life cycle too.

Migrating birds act as eco-wardens, and health wardens as they feed on insects and rodents. Vultures which are almost non-visible these days are natural scavengers they can dispose large carcasses rapidly , thus playing a critical role in nutrient cycling. Vultures west Africa to southeast Asia are declining partially due to poisoning of their prey.

The migrant birds follow the food trail, this feeding pattern leads to flower pollination and seed dispersion.  This is part of natures ecological regulation.

Project UNEP Siberian crane wetlands were about sustaining Siberian cranes and millions of other migratory water birds. This restoration not only provided the migratory birds like Siberian Crane to rest and feed it also helped to provide millions people water. The wetlands act as carbon sinks and help in combating climate change. The wetlands are flood defences and help to sustain productive fisheries.

Guano in Quechan language means droppings of the sea birds, this is considered one of nature’s best fertizers.  The Incas considered it so valuable that access to was restricted any disturbance to the sea bird incurred death penalty. Guano allowed improved soil texture, clearing of toxins and speedy decomposition.

The bird dropping result from a complex process starting with the living plants eaten by insects, which in turn are consumed by the fishes that are eaten by the sea birds and digested by the sea bird.

Falconry is another economic activity that uses avian migration, the roots of which lies in Asia dating back to 2000BC. Falconry has been recongnized by UNESCO as global cultural heritage since 2010, it is an art of hunting with trained birds of prey. The decrease in the demand has brought about 60% drop in the species over the last 20yrs. Falconers however are working at conserving of raptors and their prey through preservation of natural habitats and captive breeding. Recently the falconers have reintroduced a species that had totally vanished.

Bird hunting is a major socio-economic activity around the globe, and billions of birds are hunted each year. This along with land poaching has resulted in a decline of migratory bird population. The flyway of these global avian, run across nations and their decline effect globally.

At the end of the day it is for us, to sit up and ensure that these health wardens, natural pollinators, biodiversity indicators , natural scavengers and soil doctors are safe. for their future is also our future, we need to re-commit to sustainable development.

UN migratory movie





As the birds fly.

Travelling companions,

This is something that happened when I was choreographing for Swapna Vasavadutta. There is a particular dialogue where King Udayan looks at the flying birds and comments on their formation and companionship.

To choreograph this, I had to observe the flight patterns of the birds. The birds I realized exuded beauty and serenity as they swooped, drifted and glided and created magnificent patterns across the skies. Once we surrender to the sheer beauty of it all, the birds can be a long source of inspiration; they could be messengers from the spirit realm or a symbol of the human soul as they cast of their earthly moorings and soared heavenward. An upturned wing a graceful flutter all so effortless and free…More magnificent still was the sight of the migrating birds, progressing steadily across the horizon in a solid V formation that is a singular pattern too unique to be a mere chance.

Pushing steadily forward this aerodynamic V reduces air resistance for the whole flock. With wings moving in harmony, the feathered group continues its course across the sky, covering more ground together in as community more than as individuals. When the bird at the front gets tired she will move to the rear of the formation where the wind drag is the lowest and a more rested bird takes her place.

Maybe we need to replace the V with We in our structure and feel the dynamics of charting an adventurous course with others. The strength of others moving long side us may lend power to our lives through the journey of life, when buffeted by unexpected gusts we can choose to find refuse in the loving shelter of friends and family. We may even marvel as an otherwise difficult day passes like a swift wind. As a kindred spirit charts a way for us through the clouds and rain ahead. If our wings ache during the journey maybe it is a good idea to let someone else fly at front for a while. All of us move faster when we move together.

Uir spyug friends.

butterfly on my daughters hand.
butterfly on my daughters hand.

Somewhere a bird sings, its chant hang plaintive and melancholy fills in the still air… I think it’s a lark or something. Our tradition has it that they sing with voices of lost lovers. If the stars are smiling on them you will hear its mate call back in a moment. The silent woods that border our house, we share it with birds, and its strange birds have always been a part of our lives.

My children are over their cocoach bashing days. Both are young adults. Sometimes I wonder at the way they take their bonding with nature for granted.

Right from the day they were kids somehow birds seem so much part of our lives. First it was the sparrow; there was one that had its nest on the loft of my daughter’s room. And my daughter would leave crumbs of bread for it.

When we moved to this place on top of a hill, that overlooks the river strangely enough we don’t seem to fraternize with the sparrow any more the birds are more exotic now, the Bhardhwaj, the peacock, the speckled  eagle and other  migratory birds.

My daughter’s have got into the routine of leaving a few grains of rice and a dish of water for the crows. The crow is so demanding it will eat the grains only if I or my older daughter leaves it.  what I found most amazing is when I had an accident and was bound to my bed, a crow would perch itself on my window, the minute my daughter left, and stay there till she returned it she would enter the room and say      “Hi amma”

the crow would caw before I could reply, and fly away.

My nephew had come down to visit us, to him the birds were something he had never really observed his first interaction with the avian kind had him gushing, “The bird he flew from his swinging creeper to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill.”

“OH! He is showing off” my younger daughter retorted.

“Actually nothing in the world quite as adorably lovely as a bird when he shows off—and they are nearly always doing it” explained my older daughter.

“How do you know?” my nephews tone was that’s a long haul you are throwing.

kissanpurMy younger daughter very seriously told her cousin, ”to see the bird you must be part of silence but to become friends with the bird you should be part of stillness.”

There have been days when the butterflies perch on my daughters palm like she was a flower quite comfortable, while she carries on doing what she has to do. I have heard tell the bird in a very reasonable tone, “Just wait I’ll get the camera” and the bird holds on until she has clicked it.


abundanceBirds migrate, their homing skills, using different techniques like smell, vibrations from the earth’s magnetic field and geographic clues.

I never realized how much humans did it too, until we travelled down to Udupi for the week-end.

When we left home for the anegudde temple, on the way would be smell of the drying fish, which would slowly merge with the unconscious until we reached Santhekatte where there vegetable market with its own particular smell of vegetables blending with the drone of the vending women.

As we move north the extensive rice and sugarcane fields of uppuru, with the wafting fragrance of the paddy fields it is so typical earth fragrance with dash of salt tingle, like the rice of Uppuru leaves a tinge of saltiness when cooked. Long distances of silence until we reach the town of Brahmavar where the bustling bus-stand was the landmark.

Kalluchappara of the Kota temple which doubled as the bus-stand the ornate door carvings we knew we were near the destination where we turned right Annegudde. Well that beautiful structure is destroyed.

But this time gone are the chandini rice fields of Sagri, and all the landmarks, the smells, all marred by the raising dust, stench of emerging slums and noise from the earth cutters.

citizen journalistCould the environmentalist actually sit down and try to educate the population as to whether this large destruction is really required? What does it achieve? Do we really want Karwar to Malbar belt to become a hub of prostitution and drugs? Gokarana is already turning into one.

could we think for ourselves instead of some joker Delhi uses our resources to feed his pocket?