Many sensitive birding souls are of the opinion that birders should not watch birds too keenly, lest they traumatise them and make them do such hideous things as desert their chicks. To some extent, they have a point — would you like to be stared at through binoculars by a bunch of shabbily dressed people who call you all kinds of names and sinisterly tick your name off in a notebook, especially while you’re having a cozy moment with your partner?

Some birds, however, have taken matters into their own hands and decided that bright city life (and the lights) is what they want. After all, people moved from the country into the city to better their lot, (and become billionaires) so why not them? And the birds that have done this, have prospered — leaving their country bumpkin cousins ​​far behind.

Sparrows followed us from the grainfields to the godowns, markets and our homes because we spilled grain everywhere en route. They moved in with us (rent-free) in our verandas and above our ceiling fans where they brought up generations of babies. Of course, all this slowed down and virtually stopped when we began hermetically sealing up our homes and using pesticides which killed off the insects their babies depended on, and other reasons, but yes, while it lasted, they enjoyed city life: I even remember them whizzing around inside the Indira Gandhi International Air Terminal in Delhi and wondered what flight they were waiting endlessly for!

Then there are those infernal nuisances — the blue rock doves. Originally, they hailed from homes made on rocky cliff ledges (they were and are hopeless at house-building) but soon found that cities, with their buildings, houses and air-conditioning ducts, made wonderful places to live and breed like runaway nuclear reactors. . Even better, city folk seemed to welcome them and thousands of generous souls daily scattered heaps of golden wheat and corn at their feet. As a result, their numbers shot up and now they’re trying to push out other city birds such as mynas and sparrows. Worse, they are absolutely not potty-trained. Even if trapped and Set free miles away from their cities, they will return equipped with a homing instinct that would be the envy of Google Maps and any GPS. There are so many of them that their BO has started causing lung problems in many of us.

Crows have shared our cities with us for eons. Mischief, thievery and general dadagiri are their forte but they are more efficient at garbage disposal than any city municipality. Clever and canny, they may even form personal bonds with us — there was one gentleman I met who served them breakfast every morning and called them down from the trees one by one, by name, like a class teacher taking attendance. He knew them, their parents and their progeny! There’s another gentleman in Chennai who hosts something like 3000 screaming parakeets every day for meals. Take my word for it, these guys are not about to go back into the hinterland anytime soon!

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Black kites wheel over the city skies, looking out for road kill and meat markets, circling easily on the thermals generated by heat islands in the city. They’ll think nothing of diving down in front of your car to pick up a dead rat from the road, and again, many have formed bonds with us. Youths fling up pieces of meat to watch them dive and snap them up in mid-air.

Indian mynas behave as though they were always born and brought up in cities, and they prefer to strut around like landlords in gardens, parks and marketplaces. They’ve been taken abroad too for pest control purposes — to New Zealand, Australia and several exotic islands in the Pacific where they have outshone the locals (just as we do when we go to the US or UK) and are now being discriminated against as though they were illegal immigrants!

Even mynas that still like the country life, will often roost in cities: I remember watching a huge flock of mynas rising and shining and setting off for the day from a loco-shed in a railway station (perhaps Chandigarh) where they had spent the night as the big locomotives rested beneath them, making one hell of a racket. In Rome, they say huge flocks of rosy starlings spend the day in the surrounding fields and then return to the capital at dusk to roost because it is warmer and safer in the city.

Seagulls too, with their glacial gimlet eyes, have taken to coastal and inland cities. In many coastal towns in the UK, they have become menaces, stealing chips from children waylaying grannies. A YouTube video showed a gull walking into a supermarket, picking up a package (probably of frozen fish!) and sauntering out again without paying. Here in Delhi, they flock to the Yamuna where they are treated to namkeen by people crossing the river in boats.

And in New York City, the sleek, fierce Peregrine falcon (once in danger of being extinct), is happily nesting on penthouse ledges, mobile masts and other high perches (of which there is no shortage) and dining off the flocks of blue rock. doves that have also made the city their home. NYC is said to have the highest density of Peregrine falcons anywhere in the world and they are doing far better than their relatives in the countryside. Rest assured, no Peregrine is about to be nostalgically sighing Take Me Home, Country Roads!