FOOTLOOSE IN MUMBAI
The Pigeons of Rush-Hour DadarWhile the city's green spaces and heritage buildings fade away, itskabutarkhanas survive, man and bird feeding each other in a beautiful moment of poetry
Shibu JagadevanMumbai, June 12:
IT WAS picturesque when they put it up on the bigscreen, songs and all. Amrish Puri feeding pigeons in lush greenfields. And Shah Rukh Khan trying the same thing and failing miserably.
Khan would've done much better, if he had simply come over to thekabootar khana near Dadar railway station—a 70-year-old traffic island that is home to more than 10,000 pigeons.
The kabootarkhana, a heritage structure, is a circle of about 1,000-odd square feet of open space with a water fountain that once ran perennially and some wooden crates that serve as pigeon holes.
Its residents perch on windows, rooftops and trees, feed inside the circle, drink at the fountain and, when they're not doing anythingelse, paint the lamp posts and rooftops white. The Jain temple in front has an idol of Shantinath Bhagvan—a Jaindiety associated with the pigeon.
The Jains have traditionally offered grain to pigeons as part of their prayers. In the days when grain sellers lined these streets, traders made offerings to the Bird of Peace before the start of business. Whilemost of those grain stores are gone today, there is one hawker who deals exclusively in pigeon food.
His wares—sacks containing channa, jwari and corn and about 20 empty tin cans. Passersby can buy Rs 5 worth of grains in a can, throw themto the birds and see a heap of husk remain within a few seconds of thegrain hitting the tiled floor.
Given that the birds eat up about 800 kg of grain everyday, this manmust be doing pretty well for himself. While the city protests all the time it spends commuting, Matungaresident Ramesh Mallik (28), takes an extra 20 minutes everyday to come here and feed the birds before setting off to Santacruz, where he works.
The rest found a convenient alternative. ``People who can't personally feed the birds pay us to feed them a certain amount of grain everyday. Our store alone offers 100-150 kg of grain on behalf of ourcustomers,'' says Dilesh Hiralal Satra, owner of the Dhanji Naiyagrain store and a fourth-generation resident of the area. Satra's father is a trustee of the Dadar Kabootarkhana Trust—the association that pitches in during food shortfalls, arranges medical camps for the birds and removes the 25 or so birds that die everyday.
"Some days, very few people turn up—like when there's a transport strike—and we have to dig deep into the gow downs to ensure the birdsdon't starve,'' says Ketan Vora, grandson of Valamje Ratanshi Vora, who founded the trust in 1935.
The light is fading now, and in one of those moments we'll probably never understand, the birds suddenly fly off in a burst of grey in that softly violent way they have. And you're in the middle of traffic again.
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- Name: Johanna
- Location: Brooklyn, NY, United States
Monday, June 13, 2005
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
City unveils plan to eliminate pigeons
BY ANGELA BROOKS
Boomerang Staff Writer
A good share of Laramie's pigeon population could soon be headed tobird heaven.
The Laramie City Council will consider a plan Tuesday to eradicate pigeons from the city — by trapping, shooting or poisoning them. Under the proposal, the city would sign a $2,033 contract with theU.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services to destroyor capture the birds over a two-week period.
The program couldcontinue into the future, with each additional extermination costingthe city $1,344.City officials say the pigeon population needs to be reduced becausethe birds carry infectious diseases that could be passed to humans.
They also carry parasites, destroy property and are the targets ofcontinuing nuisance complaints."I don't think we could ever get rid of all of them, and having just afew pigeons doesn't threaten humans," Interim City Manager DickWaggener said.
"But when the numbers continue to multiply, we have todo something about it."Officials have recommended using a combination of lethal andnon-lethal techniques. Within the city, the pigeons would be capturedwith live traps. However, Waggener said he was uncertain what wouldhappen to the birds once they are trapped.
Outside city limits, exterminators would use guns or chemicals to killthe birds. Waggener said poisons would be used in a "very safemanner," ensuring that other animals don't come in contact withchemicals or dead birds.The plan initially would focus on the downtown area, Mountain CementCompany and the University of Wyoming Agriculture Research Facility.
The Old Fox Theater, the abandoned downtown building that has become apopular pigeon hangout spot, also would be targeted.It is estimated that up to a thousand pigeons have lived in thetheater at any one time, according to city officials.The pigeons have managed to enter the old theater through a large holein the roof.
There are several feet of bird feces inside the building,which officials say poses a health hazard. Dusts containing fungalspores can be left behind by the birds and spread by the wind."I think anything we can do to make this a healthier place to live isour responsibility," Waggener said.For years, Laramie residents have squawked about the pigeon problem:bird poop on their balconies and windowsills; feathers and deadpigeons plugging their roof drains; pigeons flying inside theirwindows or making homes out of satellite dishes and other manmade devices.
"We've received many complaints from people across town," Waggenersaid. "It's not just the downtown area. Everywhere you go, you findpigeons."The city currently has no ordinance or policy addressing pigeoncontrol. After reviewing the Laramie Municipal Code, the cityattorney's office has determined the elimination plan wouldn't classify as "cruelty to animals.
"Waggener said he wasn't certain how many pigeons would be captured or killed if the plan is approved by councilors. Exterminators would workup to 56 hours during each elimination period and would attempt tocapture or kill as many birds as possible during that time, he said.In the long-term, the city must eliminate nesting and roosting areas,remove food sources and continue periodic population control, Waggenersaid.
When people feed the birds, either intentionally orunintentionally, it aggravates the problem, he said.
According to the USDA, pigeons depend on humans to provide them withfood and sites for roosting and nesting. They primarily feed on manure, insects, grains, garbage and other food provided by humans. Most pigeons live on rooftops, ledges and other architectural features on buildings. Pigeon feces deface and accelerate the deterioration of buildings, and officials have responded to cases where birds have damaged property.
Waggener said some downtown business owners had threatened to poison pigeons, but were discouraged from doing so. It is common for cities to control pigeons, because it's unlikely individuals could effectively control populations on their own, he said.
So far, no one has opposed the plan."I'm sure there will be people who are opposed to doing anything withpigeons," Waggener said. "But we haven't received complaints yet."
I am not kidding.
Friday, June 03, 2005
BIRDS, BIRD CONTROL & HUMAN HEALTH (updated 5/14/05)
Many people are disturbed about the poisoning of pigeons and other birds in their cities. Bird poisons have been banned in places such as New York City; Fort Collins, Colo.; San Francisco, Great Britain, and most recently, in Boulder, Colo. To view Boulder’s new bird sanctuary ordinance, go to http://www.ci.boulder.co.us/clerk/agenda/2002/100102/o-3c.pdf.
Bird poisons should be banned everywhere because they are:
Avitrol and other bird poisons are not, as frequently reported, “LSD for birds.” Avicides such as Avitrol are acutely toxic, and they kill. After birds ingest treated grain or kernels, they suffer from seizures and a slow shutdown of the nervous system for up to 15 hours. If found in time, rehabilitators can save some birds, but without treatment, the birds die.
Songbirds and other birds feeding on the poisoned bait are killed, and predators such as raptors, foxes, hawks, cats and dogs are at risk of secondary poisonings from feeding on the dead or dying birds. It is illegal under federal law to harm any endangered, threatened, or migratory birds.
People who hire exterminators to poison birds actually save money and frustration by switching to non-lethal methods, because lethal control is never effective in the long term. Bird populations respond to poisoning with increased birth and survival rates and decreased emigration. If food, water, and shelter remain, others will move in to the open space within a short time. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, killing birds can actually create favorable grounds for breeding and can result in an increase in bird populations.
Dangerous to Humans.
Humans can die or become ill from accidental ingestion of or skin exposure to small amounts of bird poison, as occurred in Las Vegas recently after a little boy brought home a pigeon he'd found. The bird was dying of Avitrol poisoning. Shortly after, the family began to show poisoning symptoms, and the boy became very ill. His parents are taking legal action.
According to New York City's Avitrol ban, "Avitrol is too deadly and too blunt an instrument to be used in an urban setting."
Effective bird control = humane control.
The only effective strategy is the simultaneous application of three basic techniques:
1. physical exclusion from a structure2. humane repellants to produce conditions that compel birds to avoid the site3. cultural methods that focus on the elimination of the food supply.
Simple modifications in a building's structure can discourage birds from landing or nesting. Netting, wire coils/porcupine wire, spikes, Mylar tape streamers and slanting boards are among many do-it-yourself solutions to evict birds.
Ropel, a foul-tasting deterrent, also repels birds. (Sticky chemical repellents applied to ledges to discourage roosting are touted as humane but can actually kill birds and other wildlife.)
For more information, go to http://www.birdbarrier.com/ and http://www.urbanwildlifesociety.org/UWS/BrdCtrl/BrdCtlProd.html.
Pigeons and other non-migratory birds have suffered from a program of misinformation led by "pest control" companies and biased media.
Myth: Pigeons spread disease.Fact: There have been no documented cases of disease in people caused by wild or free-ranging pigeons (Humane Society of the United States).
The public is at little or no health risk from pigeons (Cincinnati Environmental Advisory Council). There is no evidence that a person can contract the West Nile virus from handling live or dead infected birds. According to the National Institutes of Health, "One could not justify an eradication of pigeons for the sole purpose of protecting people from cryptotococcosis and histoplasmosis." Authorities concur that bird poisons pose more of a risk to human health than any bird droppings do.
Myth: Avitrol is not a poison but merely a "flight alarm": The affected birds emit distress calls that scare off the others. Fact: Pigeons do not scream. They have no sound for pain. Avitrol kills, plain and simple.
Myth: Pigeons have no natural predators. Fact: Hawks, owls, falcons, eagles, cats, rats and foxes all use pigeons as a food source in urban areas.
Myth: Killing birds will reduce their numbers.Fact: Killing birds actually creates favorable grounds for breeding. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, if one-fourth of the birds in a flock are killed, the flock can be expected to return to its original size within six months to two years.
The National Pest Control Association, Avian and Wildlife Biologists, and other animal experts agree that extermination and other removal schemes are, at best, temporary and wasteful solutions to bird control.
Exterminators won’t reveal this fact because killing birds guarantees repeat business. For more information about RMAD’s work to protect wild birds, contact Jill Bielawski at email@example.com.
Boulder Declared Wild Bird SanctuaryBird Poisoning Outlawed
by Jill Bielawski
October 7, 2002
When 14-year-old Emily Davis encountered rock doves convulsing and dying on a sidewalk in Boulder last April, she started making phone calls. To her dismay, she found that pigeon poisoning was common and legal. With the help of Rocky Mountain Animal Defense, Emily has learned that speaking out against cruelty to animals is worth it.
Thanks to a committed team of activists including Emily and several others, pigeons and many other birds in Boulder gained their first legal rights. On Oct. 1, the Boulder City Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance declaring the city a bird sanctuary that protects all wild birds (ordinance available at http://www.ci.boulder.co.us/clerk/agenda/2002/100102/o-3c.pdf).
Migratory songbirds are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Boulder ordinance protects birds left off the federal list, such as pigeons, English house sparrows, and certain kinds of starlings, cowbirds, blackbirds, grackles, and geese. Violators could face 30 days in jail and fines up to $1000 per bird.
Anyone seeking a permit to be exempt from the law would be required to first state in writing that he or she has taken steps to control the situation by using exclusion devices and non-injurious bird repellents. A permit to poison would only be considered when a genuine threat to public health arises, but the chances of such a threat are slim.
Property owners who have traditionally hired exterminators to poison birds will save money by switching to non-lethal methods, because lethal control is never effective in the long term. For more information on bird poison, humane alternatives, and facts about birds and human health, see the RMAD Fact Sheet on Birds.
A humane, common-sense approach is most effective for bird control. Humane techniques require more patience but are less expensive and far more effective in the long run. It’s a win-win situation for birds and people.
The starlings at Mapleton Mobile Home ParkThe bird ordinance will not affect Boulder’s Mapleton Mobile Home Park, which the media pitted against the bird sanctuary ordinance in a media-created controversy this summer. A dozen homes sit beneath trees where a large flock of starlings or grackles comes to roost each summer.
The city and many of the affected residents opposed lethal control, which would have proved to be an impractical, logistic nightmare anyway. Most important, killing the birds would not have solved the problem. The birds have left for the year, and the city will be ready with humane solutions for their return in 2003. Attaching a rotating sprinkler to the trees and spraying the birds for short intervals over a few days has not been tried and might very well do the trick.
Also see text of ordinance:
"Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace." Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965)
Hairy Animal Control Tactics
Not Crazy About Cat Huntin? What About Toad Whacking?
By Buck Wolf/ABC News
Thursday, June 02, 2005
June 02, 2005
Rehabilitator faces fines for helping injured birds
By MADELAINE VITALE Staff Writer, (609) 272-7218 Marybeth Bennett used to be the person to go to with an injured bird.Local police departments, animal societies and residents in the area knew she would care for the bird whether it was a hawk, a crow or even a pigeon.But a state crackdown has changed that, eliminating people like Bennett who made up for the lack of full-scale rehabilitating centers in the region.
The closest one now is in Medford, Burlington County.Bennett's permit to rehabilitate birds expired in 2001 and was not renewed in 2002.Nevertheless, Bennett's husband, Bill, spent $4,000 on materials and built an aviary, or "giant birdcage" as they affectionately call it, on their friend Jack Snyder's property at 1560 Somers Point-Mays Landing Road in Egg Harbor Township.
On Oct. 30, 2004, the Bennetts' worst nightmare came true when officials from the state Division of Fish & Wildlife got a search warrant and seized 14 birds, including four red-tailed hawks, five crows, mourning doves and a vulture.They arrested Marybeth Bennett and issued several summonses for failure to possess a permit for regulated nongame species.She cried and told the investigators they were handling the birds too roughly, according to court papers.Within a short time, the Bennetts had only pigeons left to care for - one type of bird they can because it is not indigenous to the area.
They feared the worst for the birds seized because many could not be released into the wild due to blindness or nerve damage."Fish & Wildlife is pulling the plug on rehabbers left and right," Bill Bennett said as he stood a few feet from his wife, who was showing a photographer the aviary on Monday. "I understand there are rules, but some laws are just ridiculous. It's not like she is hurting anyone."Not only did Marybeth Bennett get in trouble for a good deed, but so did the man who allowed it to happen. Authorities issued summonses against Snyder for the same offenses as Bennett because he allowed her to use his vacant property.
Karen Hershey, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the department appreciates people who rehabilitate wildlife, but they need permits to do so."Miss Bennett didn't have a permit. She took in birds, including hawks, which are protected by state and federal law," Hershey said. "We require rehabilitators to be licensed for the protection of the animal as well as the public."Bennett and other rehabilitators said in the past few years that Fish & Wildlife has made it difficult for rehabbers in the state.A few years back, at least 100 facilities contained wildlife rehabilitated by people such as the Bennetts.
Now there are only 27, Marybeth Bennett said.Robert Filauro, Bennett's attorney, said he has learned a lot about what people go through who try to care for birds and other animals since he took the Bennett case. "I have discovered that there are a substantial number of people out there who want to help animals but are told they cannot by Fish & Wildlife or they do it in spite of the rules," he said. "They feel that since she is not a licensed rehabilitator, she can't take care of the birds."
"The bottom line here is I don't think they should be targeting individuals. The world is a better place because of the Marybeth Bennetts of the world, but I guess the state does not feel that way," he said.On Memorial Day, the Bennetts headed up the dirt driveway to feed the 20 or so pigeons in their care, which include beautiful racing pigeons - called rock doves.Some can no longer fly; others have wing injuries or are blind.
Others were domesticated birds, including one show bird that clearly stuck out from the rest with its lithe body and glossy white-feathered feet.Under Marybeth Bennett's care, the pigeons appear to be doing just fine.One pigeon plopped into a tub for a quick bath. A green and purple pigeon circled around a white and black racing pigeon.
Others just cooed and huddled together atop the large cage on planks just below the eaves, basking in the sun.Marybeth Bennett tells people who depended on her for the last nine years to call Fish & Wildlife if they find injured birds.But she worries."The state does not have the manpower to come down here and take injured birds," Bennett said. "And people aren't going to travel an hour to Medford to drop off birds they find that were hit by a car or something. The birds will just die."Now Marybeth and Snyder are in court.
The Attorney General's Office is handling the state's case.At first the cases were heard in Egg Harbor Township Municipal Court, but the judge sent the criminal cases to Superior Court in Mays Landing.Jeanne Swift, an animal caregiver and one of the founders of the Beacon Animal Rescue in Marmora, used to go to Marybeth Bennett when she got a call about a hurt bird.It sickens Swift to hear what Bennett and Snyder are going through.
"They are being treated like criminals for helping the birds, and the fact that Jack (Snyder) is in trouble for allowing her to use the property is ridiculous," Swift said."I always could trust her because she took good care of the birds and gave them a chance," Swift said.A couple weeks ago, Marybeth Bennett and Snyder went to the first hearing on the indictable offense - failure to have the state permit to possess the birds.If indicted and convicted, they each could face jail time and $60,000 in fines."My dream is to have an even bigger facility, my license back and lots of help," Bennett said. "But I don't think that will happen."To e-mail Madelaine Vitale at The Press:MVitale@pressofac.com
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
"Birds Brainier Than Previously Thought..."
February 3, 2005
Contact: Jennifer LoukissasNIMH Press Office301-443-4536
Birds Brainier Than Previously Thought
The brains of birds appear to be more similar to those of mammals than previously thought. An international consortium, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this week announced new language to identify brain structures in birds. This landmark change, the first such shift in a century, reflects new evidence about the function and evolution of the vertebrate brain, mapping out similarities between structures and cognitive abilities in avian brains and the brains of mammals. The Consortium report is published in the February 2005 issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
The new research revises the work of 19th century comparative neurobiologist Ludwig Edinger, who first named avian brain structures using the classical view of evolution and the ideas of Charles Darwin. Edinger believed that evolution was progressive and linear; that the mammalian brain was a more evolved form of the rudimentary structures of the reptilian and avian brain. New findings over the years have shown that birds possess neural capacities beyond those of some small mammal species.
The old terminology for areas of the bird brain equated them to human basal ganglia — structures thought to be involved in only the most instinctive behavior. Previous opinion held that the malleable behavior of mammals required the higher-order neocortex found in mammals. But collected genetic, behavioral, and molecular evidence shows that, although the structures are organized differently, areas of the avian brain perform functions similar to those of the mammalian neocortex, which is responsible for performing sensory information processing.
In addition to subdividing regions of the brain, the new taxonomy erases misnomers stemming from the incorrect use of prefixes to imply the relative age of different regions. The clarity of the new labels allows neuroscientists studying non-avian brains to understand the relevance of findings in bird research.
“This new approach to the anatomy of the avian brain allows scientists working with birds and mammals to compare their findings more effectively,” said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health, lead institute on this project. “This re-naming effort should also increase the power of comparative studies, yielding new insights from the avian brain that can help us to understand other vertebrates, including humans.”
The Avian Brain Nomenclature Consortium comprised a team of 28 neuroscientists — international specialists in avian, mammalian, reptilian, and fish neurobiology — led by Duke University neurobiologist Erich Jarvis. The project was funded through the National Science Foundation and several NIH institutes: National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
International co-authors included:
Onur Güntürkün, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany; András Csillag, Semmelweis University, Hungary; Loreta Medina, University of Murcia, Spain; George Paxinos, Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, Australia; Martin Wild, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Tom Smulders, University of Newcastle, United Kingdom
Co-authors from Duke University Medical Center included:
Lubica Kubikova, Connie Siang, Kazuhiro Wada, and Jing Yu
Co-authors from other U.S. universities included:
Wayne Kuenzel, University Arkansas; Diane Lee, California State University Long Beach; Stephanie White, University of California, Los Angeles; Harvey Karten, University of California, San Diego; Georg Striedter, University of California at Irvine; Jennifer Dugas-Ford, University of Chicago; Laura Bruce, Creighton University School of Medicine; Ann Butler, George Mason University; Gregory F. Ball, Johns Hopkins University; Sarah Durand, LaGuardia–CUNY; Claudio Mello, Oregon Health & Science University; Gerald Hough, Rowan University; Toru Shimizu, University of South Florida; Scott Husband, University of South Florida; Alice Powers, St. John's University; Keiko Yamamoto, University of Tennessee Health Science Center; Anton Reiner, University of Tennessee Health Science Center; David J. Perkel, University of Washington
NIMH is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Federal Government's primary agency for biomedical and behavioral research. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
For more information on NIMH research using songbirds, go to
Here's one woman's experience and insight when confronted with an exhausted, dying, pigeon in Delware, PA...