Taking care of feathered Bipeds – Greater Kashmir


About 555 species of feathered bipeds (birds) have been reported from Jammu and Kashmir. Among them about 262 species are found in temperate and alpine regions of Kashmir Valley. These bird species range from smaller granivorous birds like house sparrow (found near local agricultural fields) to bigger scavenging birds like vultures (found at higher altitudes and nesting on larger cliffs).
All these different species of birds play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance of nature in one way or the other. Besides known for providing various ecological services including pest control, pollination, seed dispersal, carrion scavenging, nutrient cycling etc., they are also well recognized as indicators of ecosystem quality and health of the environment.
Having highly specific habitat requirements, they become increasingly intolerant to even slight ecosystem disturbances. Being responsive to change, their diversity and abundance reflect ecological trends in biodiversity.
Moreover, rapid changing climate and other types of global changes are forcing shifts in the distribution of various bird species, resulting in new ecological implications.
Besides, they are used as creative and divine inspiration by different people round the world. Therefore, knowledge about birds in different habitats give valuable clues for ecosystem management.   They vary in their feeding habits and have varied food choices.
It is well known that commencement of winter seasons leads to various physiological and behavioural changes in organisms. Winter season remains quite tough not only for humans but for wildlife including feathered bipeds (birds) as well.
During the season there remains scarcity of different resources (particularly food and shelter) that are very much important for survival of different ecologically important bird species. So, they have to make toil for their survival during the season.
They have to move longer distances in search of food items and during such searchers they have to face inclement weather conditions. The inclement erratic weather and the larger time-taking searchers often lead to mortality of these beautiful creatures.
As humans we can put our heads together to make the life of other organism worth living. We must contribute our bit. More specifically during harsh climatic conditions (winters) we must take every possible step to provide feed to the needy, dependable living organisms such as birds.
During earlier times our elders and grandparents were having a habit to feed different living organisms (like cats, dogs, birds, etc.). But unfortunately this habit, if we observe during contemporary times, is hardly seen.
Those practices could have been quite helpful to living organisms during winters. Therefore, the need of the hour is to review all those practices to help birds during harsh winters.
How satisfactory it could be if every family among us, will pledge and keep practically some food items (grains, etc.) and water for hungry birds in their laws daily. Helping birds and developing conservation attitude is not the sole duty of government and non-government agencies but of every single individual.
What can be done at family/individual level to help birds?
1) To stay warm during night, birds use their energy reserves. Therefore, on colder days, they need to eat early in the morning. So, put out food for them during early morning hours. Providing high calorie and high fat foods (in the form of pea nuts, etc.) can help birds to remain warm and maintain their body temperature.
2) Birds need a source of water and we must check regularly the baths to prevent their freezing. On the other way, we can keep warm water in pots, etc. to make it available for birds.
3) We must keep roosting boxes at safer place so that birds can use them as shelters. One must make sure that such boxes are cleaned thoroughly before being used. This is to prevent any possibility of parasitic bugs surviving during winters.
4) For helping ground feeders, we must spread any clean mat over snow so that we can throw feed over it for such species.
5) Sensitize as many people as you can, about the importance of conserving and helping birds during winter season.
Dr. Hameem Mushtaq, faculty Department of Zoology, Central University of Kashmir
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.
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