Mumbai: Bird call in Juhu
A backyard bird count initiative by a 17-year-old involves residents in a mission to protect and increase avian population. Join in
A proud early riser since she was 10, Sanchita Jalan never felt the need to set an alarm to wake up. Sparrows and parrots chirruping at the windowsill of her Juhu apartment is the sound that nudged her out of sleep. But that began to change three years ago, when the problem of the dwindling bird population in Mumbai hit home.
"It felt like there were no birds left in Juhu," recalls Jalan, 17, a 12th grader at Dhirubhai Ambani International School. Not one to be a mute spectator, she took it upon herself to bring the birds back to her windowsill. "What started with a single bird feeder in our balcony, eventually translated into 500 feeders in the JVPD area," she says, adding how with her aunt Nita Shah's help, she began selling bird feeders priced at '100 from door to door.
She also designed a pamphlet to distribute with the feeders to help the uninitiated gauge the gravity of the situation, and how small steps could go a long way in making birds feel at home in an increasingly concretised city. And that's how the initiative, Feathered Flight, was born.
With a steadily growing bird-loving community in her neighbourhood, Jalan has now launched a backyard bird count drive under which residents have been counting the number of birds visiting their feeders and sharing pictures. The idea is to understand and collate data on real-time population of birds in the Juhu area. "Documenting bird visits provides an interesting insight into their behaviour. For instance, not all birds will visit you at the same time of the day. Similarly, different species like different varieties of grains. While sparrows like barley and broken rice, parrots prefer sunflower seeds," she explains.
To further acquaint herself with avian life cycle, Jalan has signed up for workshops conducted by the BNHS at the Karnala bird sanctuary, and even attended a week-long session at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the US. "It was there that I learnt about ways to avoid counting the same bird twice and how to gauge if the bird population in an area has indeed gone up," she says.
So, are there more winged beauties in Juhu than there used to be? "I think it's safe to say that the bird population in my neighbourhood has increased by 20 per cent [since 2015]. We are even seeing species like the red-crested sunbirds make a comeback after years," the teenager beams.
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