I’ve been waiting for over an hour beside a small stream on the outskirts of Mangaluru. Sitting silently, unmoving beside my camera and then it happens. An orange and red blur moves in close and transforms into an unbelievably beautiful small bird as it perches on a branch close by. It is an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, the smallest but most beautiful among Kingfishers in India. It is a bird that is much sought after by birders and bird photographers in the country but rarely seen and such a bird is to be found in our own Kudla.
Mangaluru is home to this and many other interesting bird species though not many may be aware of the fact. There are close to 240 bird species, both resident and migrant which can be seen here and if one were to move around 40 kms inland there are several more to be seen. Over here one comes across a variety of birds from Raptors to Waders. This is because of the variety of habitats found here, such as; the sea-coast, rivers, lakes, streams, grassland, marshes, laterite plateau, forests as well as human settlements. This provides food and shelter to a good number of different kinds of birds. I have seen and recorded a variety of birds here such as Crested Hawk Eagle, Booted Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Yellow Bittern, Ruddy Turnstone, Verditer Flycatcher, Common Kestrel and many others.
Our beautiful city is home to many birds obviously and this has attracted a lot of people, young and old to venture into birding and bird photography which is a good thing. There are even birders who come from other parts of the country seeking birds that are only found here. This kind of activity creates an awareness for our ecology and an appreciation of nature’s wonders. It also gives the participant a feeling of peace and well-being. It also teaches one to be patient and the rewards are usually proportionate to ones efforts and patience.
How ever all is not rosy over here. Alas this city of mine is seeing exponential growth. This has destroyed the very habitats that are so treasured by birds and bird lovers at an alarming rate. Unless we wake up and realise the damage we are doing, it won’t be long before the birds that are rapidly dwindling in numbers may vanish altogether. This is real bad news, as birds not only look beautiful but are also pollinators and seed propagators. They create the vegetation around us that we take for granted. With our rapidly decreasing tree cover we are bound to pay a heavy price soon.
So if we and our children are to continue to wake up to bird-song in Mangaluru, we had better act now to save our birds and their precious habitat.