In the concrete jungle we live, we are more likely to miss the churping of birds than the hum of the AC or generator. But they share this habitat with us. And without them, much of nature would be lost as they are an important cog in the wheel. And yet, we are losing several species of birds daily forever because of shrinking habitats, lack of food and the all important space for nesting and nurturing the young. While the migratory birds receive occasional attention in the media, our native birds are hardly ever discussed.
Salim Ali, one of the best known ornithologists has sought to capture basics of the birds found in India and its neighouring land in a colourfully illustrated book About Indian Birds. Salim Ali'sniece Laeeq Futehally is the co-author of the book. The main purpose behind the book appears to be to infuse some interest in bird watching. The introduction states as much, that the book might ?entice you to get hooked into becoming an ardent birder and ultimately a true conservationist, for that is what our country needs to preserve its bird life?. Indian traditions involve feeding birds. The crows are considered as the representatives of our forefathers. It'sa custom to feed them in most homes. Modern astrologers suggest feeding birds and stray animals to get relief from various ?planet problems?. But these do not translate into interest in birds; on the other hand they become nuisance for neighbours. Our assertive action would involve planting trees where space permits and raising voice when a tree is cut because destruction of a tree tumbles the homes of dozens of birds nesting in them.
The book gives elementary information about the birds, their physiology and some interesting information on their superior capacity for vision and sound. Then page after page there are photos by Nikhil Devasar and lithographs, pages rendered colourful by the sheer variety of birds and their shades of wings and beaks. A useful handbook.
(wisdom tree, 4779/23, Ansari Road, New Delhi-110 002.)