Pigeons of Delhi

In the Indian capital, the common pigeon has a consistent presence across the city. The familiar grey pigeons, known as the blue rock pigeons, have a very special place in the city. It is believed that feeding them earns you brownie points to reach heaven. At many prominent traffic signals in the city, islands have been created where pigeons are fed grains by the public. One or two vendors sit there and sell the grains, water bowls are kept ready. People have their favourite spots where they stop regularly to feed these pigeons.

A few years back, when I used to commute to work with a regular auto-rickshaw, the driver used to halt everyday at the CR park traffic signal on the inner ring road to feed the pigeons. Over the years now, a open concrete space near my office have gradually turned into one such feeding island.

It seems every residential area in the city is infested with the pigeons. They just need one opportunity to nest in your balcony or some nook in your home’s exterior, and they start taking that space as their birthright. They reproduce super quick and in no time, your exterior space becomes their ancestral homes.

In our home, we had never allowed pigeons to roost because we had seen the havoc they can create at my sister’s place, who was also in Delhi a few years back. We would clean away the twigs and wires with which the pigeons tried building nests. If they do lay eggs in any flower pots, we would move them elsewhere. By the way, when I say “we” I mean only “I” as my husband didn’t want be the bad guy here.

But once we committed the crime of letting a batch of pigeon eggs hatch which were laid in a empty flower pot. The credit goes to my husband, who thought that we will be committing a sin if we move the eggs and they are unable to hatch. And I must say, the chicks are not a pretty sight at all. Soon, ahother batch followed, and then another. And our balcony became their official residence. The floor, shelf and plants were covered with pigeon shit. The shit is toxic and super hard to clean. Every empty flower pot and top of the AC external units became hot pigeon nesting realty options. They even tried making nests persistently right next to the live plants’ stem in the pot itself. We ended up losing several plants in this way.

It all began innocently
Still cute
Not so cute anymore. Look how they mess up their own nests!
Getting uglier and dirtier
Bonding time with a parent
Getting bigger
Almost adults
All set to wreck fresh havoc

I showed my husband articles which said that pigeons are carriers of diseases, especially respiratory diseases. Their droppings and feathers are toxic. Finally, we started chasing away the pigeon couple (don’t know though whether it is the same couple every time or different ones!), throwing away their nesting material every time they make an attempt and moving their successful eggs. We placed plastic spikes on their likely roosting and nesting nooks and corners. But the damage had already been done. They are not afraid of my husband at all and don’t even bother to fly away when he is in the balcony. They honour me with a little fear as I was still the one doing the dirty work of destroying their nesting attempts. But their nuisance has now finally motivated by husband to join hands with me openly and keeping a watch on their attempts.

Over the years, the pigeon population in the city has increased manifold. As the concrete jungle in the city is fast expanding, sparrow population have dwindled, and the blue rock pigeons are aggresively taking their place. Pigeons are considered to be an invasive species. Thanks to their survival skills and adaptive abilities, they are able to nest and reproduce quickly in the most uncomfortable and scantiest of places, unlike the sparrows. They have adapted to the urban life where other bird species have not been able to keep up. Their food needs are happily catered to by the naive human population. What else do they need!

These blue rock pigeons are everywhere in the city. They are happily residing in human residences, architectural ruins, under flyovers, metro stations, shopping malls and even inside the airport. And humans are happy to feed them. They are living the life!

And this is not the story of Delhi alone! This is the story of many many cities across the country and may be other parts of the world too. And it is becoming a serious issue.

Ornithologists are of the opinion that feeding the pigeons is destroying their natural instinct to hunt. The food security is helping them to procreate without check, which is in turn is proving to be detrimental to survival of other bird species like the sparrows and mynahs. This is ultimately affecting the ecological balance. They are also contributing to spread various diseases with their droppings and feathers. Additionally, the pigeon feeding islands in the city are disrupting traffic and becoming major safety hazards.

A sweet little sparrow enjoying the sun and shade in our balcony

But the human residents are unperturbed and mostly ignorant to such concerns. They are thinking that by supporting these pigeons, they are helping to preserve nature. But are we really doing so?

Frankly, I don’t find these pesky urban blue rock pigeons cute and innocent anymore. And it’s time that we try and save the other less fortunate indigenous bird species around us. What do you think?

You can read more of my posts on birds in “My Chirpy Mornings”, “Lovey Dovey” and “Lovey Dovey – The Sequel”.

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