Category: wild birds


Ring-necked Indian parakeet

Photo 48071477 © Glacyer | Dreamstime.com

By Sharon St Joan

A breeze came through the window as Captain Sundaram sat at a table composing a letter. He wrote many letters – thousands during his lifetime on behalf of animals – often dozens of letters each week. This one was to the temple authorities of the Meenakshi temple in Tamil Nadu, in south India.

He asked that the temple discontinue their practice of allowing worshippers to donate parakeets to the temple. These long-tailed parakeets – or parrots as they are generally called in India — were being sold to devotees by shops along the streets near the temple. After they were purchased, the birds were then given to the temple, supposedly as an offering to the Goddess Meenakshi, who was always depicted along with a parrot. Sadly, instead of being well cared for, the parrots then found themselves in an overcrowded aviary at the temple, where they did not live long.

Early days of Blue Cross of India

Captain Sundaram, along with his wife Usha Sundaram and his son, then a teenager – now Dr. Chinny Krishna -was one of the founders of the organization Blue Cross of India. Blue Cross is well known all over India for their outstanding work with and on behalf of animals.

Today, several decades later, whenever Dr. Chinny Krishna is visiting Madurai and has a chance to go back to the Meenakshi temple, he is pleased to note that the big parrot cage is now gone forever and that the parrots are no longer condemned to life in a cage. The big cage was taken down and the parrots are instead flying free in the wild, as they should be, as native birds of India.

When the temple authorities discontinued the practice of allowing birds to be donated to the temple, newspaper reports at the time reported that this practice was being stopped. They gave credit to Blue Cross of India for their persevering work encouraging the temple to abandon the unkind practice.

Back to the wild

The long-tailed parrots – or parakeets — are a species native to India, where they have always lived happily out in the wild. They can also be spotted up in the branches of city trees – and definitely heard as well. Like parrots generally, they enjoy singing really loudly, especially as the sun sets in the early evening.

Now flying free in the wild, the parrots are happy, and Dr. Krishna smiles too, glad that that they are living their lives in freedom.

His father’s letters, over so many years freed many birds and animals from harsh treatment. It was a mistreatment that did occur, but that was always out of line with the ancient reverence that people in India have traditionally held for the natural world – a country where animals historically have always held a respected place as the companions and friends of the Gods that are worshipped.

Blue Cross of India is now celebrating their 60th year of saving many thousands of city animals – and occasionally protecting wild ones, like the parrots. Blue Cross is the largest, the best known, and the earliest of the modern animal organizations in India, which now number several thousand groups.

Hanchinal Lake, Vijayapura, Karnataka

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In January 2023, the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) forest cell officers raided an illegal pet traders’ hub in the city of Bangaluru, in the south of India, and rescued ten Alexandrine parakeet chicks.

These are large parakeets native to India. Unfortunately, they are very popular in the pet trade because they are considered to be “talking parakeets.” They are protected under Schedule IV of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and it is illegal to take them out of the wild.

The demand for this species is high, and so this raid was intended to send a stern message to poachers.

When the chicks arrived at the WRRC, they were weighed, and their weight was between 110 to 140 grams. Dr. Roopa Satish, the Chief Veterinarian and Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator for the WRRC (Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre) and her assistants, examined each chick carefully, looking for any injuries or abnormalities. Then they were dewormed, dusted with an anti-parasite powder, and given fluids.

Next, they were divided into two batches of five chicks each and placed into two spacious cages. There was a wood stand for them to perch on and a heating lamp to keep them safe and snug.

Twice a day, they were handfed with a high-quality bird feed, reconstituted daily with water that was boiled, then cooled. Each chick was fed using a sterile syringe and was then carefully wiped off with lukewarm water.

Wiping them off keeps them safe, free from any ants or other insects.

Learning to eat on their own

After three weeks, their food was reduced just a bit to encourage them to learn to eat by themselves, and they were given plates of delicious fresh fruit.

One of the consequences of the young birds having been kidnapped from their nests and not having spent much time with their parents is that they don’t have very good natural immunity.

Lacking good immunity, they needed to be vaccinated for common poultry diseases. Extra attention had to be paid to keeping them really clean, not handling them except when necessary, and maintaining strict hygienic practices around them.

So far, so good

So far, thanks to all this care and attention – all is going well. They’re showing a good growth rate, their feathers are coming in well, and they are really lively and active.

Very soon, they’ll be ready for the next stage which is flight practice in a large aviary. The aviary will be prepared with lots of branches and other enrichment, then they’ll be moved into their new aviary for the next stage of rehabilitation, which is flight practice. During this time, they won’t be handled at all, but will be left to their own devices, preparing for life in the wild.

There’s a lot for them to learn – vital flight skills, as well as overcoming becoming imprinted on people. They’ll need to develop proper parakeet social skills, so that they’ll fit in well once they’re back in the wild.

There’s an enormous amount for the young parakeets to learn in order to get along well in their flock – the right etiquette and language – plus alarm calls, what predators to watch out for, and courtship behavior.

We might think the life of a bird is simple, but the lives of birds are never simple. Actually, life in the wild is very complex – and it varies with every species.

If all continues to go well, these young parakeets will be all ready in one or two years to be released back into the wild – to live in freedom.

Thanks to the WRRC and everyone there for their care and expertise in getting these parakeets all set for their next adventure – so they can fly free with long, happy lives ahead of them.

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Photo Credit: ID 71351990 © Rafael Ben Ari | Dreamstime.com
This photo is of another parakeet, not one of those in the story.

© Copyright, Forest Voices of India, 2023

Vijayapura, Karnataka

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On the night of July 6, 2022, a young spotted owl lost her footing and tumbled from a tree in Bangaluru, a big city in south India. Perhaps she had been startled by a group of songbirds that sometimes harass these small owls at twilight.

This was in the Basavanagudi section of the city, an old, very charming area with beautiful temples and colorful markets. Passersby, seeing her fall and remain lying on the ground, rushed to her rescue. She didn’t seem to be able to get up by herself and looked like she needed help.

One of these good samaritans knew just where to take her. They picked her up very carefully and rushed her to the WRRC – the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. The well-known wildlife center is located in Bannerghatta Forest, south of Bangaluru.

When they arrived, the little owl, just eight inches in height, was turned over to Dr. Roopa Satish, the Chief Veterinarian and Wildlife Rehabilitator and her capable assistants. They take care of hundreds of orphaned and injured wildlife every year, with the goal of releasing them back to the wild.

They noted immediately that she was a juvenile with her soft, fluffy, downy feathers still present. She was stressed, dehydrated, and no doubt wondering what was happening to her. She weighed 100 grams. Dr. Roopa examined her very thoroughly, noting that her right wing had an injury. There were no broken bones, but she had fallen from a great height and that could result in organ damage. She might have internal trauma.

For fifteen days, she was on medications, kept warm with heating pads, and handfed in order to coax her to start feeding on her own.

Since owls are nocturnal, she was fed in the evening. During the day, she was left completely undisturbed, in complete darkness and quiet – to have a chance to recover in peace.

She improved markedly, and within a month after arrival, she was much brighter. Her wing wound had healed, her appetite was good, and she was eating on her own, which was a joy to see.

Moved to a larger aviary, she was able to begin to practice flying again.

Her caregivers had made sure that she had a lot of hiding spaces so she could be completely hidden during the daytime, only coming out during the night. She was so well hidden that sometimes they even wondered if she might have escaped. But the presence of down feathers shed on the floor and her empty plate of food were clear signs that she was right there and doing well.

In the fall, as was normal, there were continuous heavy rains, so she couldn’t be released just yet.

Finally, on the night of December 1, 2022, she was released in the presence of the forest officials who had been specially invited to come to the center at dusk to witness the release.

She flew up vertically, effortlessly taking off like helicopter from the basket, which was placed on the ground, and disappeared into the fading light.

An innocent being gone back to the wild, thanks to the caring and expertise of the WRRC, and the wide circle of those who help in so many ways.

Photo credit: Photo 32814694 / Spotted Owlet © Panuruangjan | Dreamstime.com. This is another spotted owl.

© Copyright Forest Voices of India, 2022

Savalsang Grassland, Vijayapura

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