What is happening to the birds of Dhaka?
Back when I was just seven years old, I still remember that delightful evening at Mirpur Original 10, where my mother would sometimes take me to the roadside foochka stalls to treat me with foochka and chatpati. It was in the open areas of the footpaths where the customers could enjoy foochka in the open environment. There we waited for our snacks and suddenly, I noticed the entire evening sky getting filled with the wing-beats of a large flock of sparrows flying in one direction to return to their homes or nests as it was getting dark. Their chirps filled the air as hundreds of them kept descending to their homes as the minutes passed by. As a child, I was quite amazed at the mesmerizing view, but I was completely unaware of the fact that I might not be able to see such a large group of these wonderful creatures in the future.
Now, twelve years have passed since then but my love for nature still lives. But every time I observed the environment outside my home ever since my childhood, I always noticed that the number of times I could catch a glimpse of birds kept shrinking. For the last few years, I haven’t seen any typical flock of sparrows nor have I even seen a typical flock of crows. Crows are quite common in our areas, but are rarely seen in flocks or small groups these days. Some wonderful and wild birds such as the Common Myna or Bhaat Shalik (Acridotheres tristis), Pied Myna or Go Shalik (Sturnus contral), Jungle Myna or JhutiShalik (Acridotheres fuscus), Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker or Kaththokra (Dinopium benghalense) and the National bird of our country, the Oriental Magpie Robin or Doel (Copsychus saularis) used to be quite common in our areas as they could be seen at least twice in a month in the previous years but now I can only catch a sight of these birds for like once in six months! As harsh as it sounds, most of these birds are quite the “endangered species” in Dhaka and soon could be in the brim of extinction, if proper actions are not taken for the survival of these magnificent gems of nature.
The decline of the numbers of these species of birds can have unfavorable effects on the environment in which these bird species thrive in. The decrease of such bird populations can result in the downfall of the ecosystems in which birds play a vital role. For example, there are many birds that feed off many unwanted insects or invertebrates such as aphids, caterpillars and slugs, which are considerably pests that can eat parts of many fruiting and flowering plants in the gardens of many urban areas and eventually kill them. However, it’s prevented as these birds eat these insects and prevent them from overpopulating. Among such birds is the Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotusjocosus), which is locally know as the Bulbuli. Some of these birds are also known to contribute to the pollination of various types of flowering plants which help many plant speciesto bear varieties of sweet fruits. A prime example is the Malagasy Green Sunbird (Cinnyris notatus) , also known as Mutushi Pakhi among some locals. If the population of such birds keeps decreasing, the numbers of these unwanted invertebrates would increase and pest attacks would be much more common. Therefore, fewer plants would be able to reproduce by pollination, resulting in the decline of plants as well. The increase in the numbers of some insects can also cause more and more of them to enter people’s homes at night in the presence of electric lightings at home, which can be quite irritating. Some insects, which the birds often feed on, such as cockroaches, flies and ticks can enter homes more often if their numbers increase greatly and spread harmful diseases and cause infections.
The most familiar reason behind the decline of birds is habitat loss which is very common in Dhaka as many forms of vegetation are lost due to cutting down of many trees and clearing of shrubs and grasslands for the construction of large buildings for further urbanization in Dhaka. Due to the loss of their habitats, birds not only lose their homes in which they find suitable shelter for their young and to breed in, but also lose many of their vital food sources such as leaves, fruits or seeds of some plants and small insects which also live in these habitats. Another major reason behind the dwindling of bird numbers is pollution; air, water and soil pollution is an increasing problem in Dhaka which can easily spread toxic chemical compounds to the surroundings that can cause them to accumulate in the birds’ bodies through food chains and eventually kill them by poisoning.
As country-lovers and cautious citizens, it’s our responsibility to look after the birds by encouraging the growth of large numbers of trees and helping birds to build their nests and reduce overhunting. Bird conservation projects must be held at a national scale to help encourage the growth of bird populations in urban areas throughout the country. Suitable and efficient actions must be taken to help the habitats of birds grow in cities along with upholding strict laws for pollution control. The technology should improve and the economy should focus on the proper disposal of poisonous waste products from factories with care to make sure they do not harm any birds or any other organisms around (including us humans). Man-made nests built out of clay-pottery, wood or cardboard boxes can be placed in suitable places throughout the city so that they can save all the trouble for the birds when it comes to nesting. People should be encouraged to plant more trees and develop a hobby for gardening according to their capabilities in order to provide a proper environment for more bird species and to grow a strong connection with mother nature as well. Leaving out bowls and pots of water and grains in balconies or hanging them on windows also helps to nourish the birds that struggle to look for food and water.
If we care for mother nature at present, then there is no doubt that she will reward us back in the future and that we and our latter generations may live to cherish it.
The writer is a student of A’level of Cherry Blossoms International School