Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Persistent Pigeons of Mumbai

It is more than a minor battle. It is a major war. How does one scare away the pigeons from one's balconies, flower-beds or the windows of one's apartment? The pigeons are birds who prefer to live in buildings rather than on trees. Unlike crows or other birds, they build nests for breeding in whatever safe places are available in houses, large residential blocks and industrial buildings. They breed four to six times a year. Once the eggs are laid ( two each time), you can forget evicting them for two full months i.e. till the eggs are hatched, the babies grow up and get wings to fly out on their own. If you fail to use the small time gap offered to you between one cycle and another, you will have to wait for another two months. Unless, of course, you are the type who is capable of evicting mercilessly the parent-pigeons and the baby pigeons by any means. I am not that type. So, I utilized the time gap by watching the birds every day and the moment, the young ones started flying, I just waited for two days to ensure that they can really fly and then had the balconies covered with a nylon pigeon net. The net is really good, costs about Rs.1200 for 10'x7' and the labour for fixing it another Rs.1000 or so. But before laying the net, there was this enormous task of cleaning the place dotted with the accumulated droppings of the pigeons. It is said that the wet droppings are not harmful, but dried droppings, which create polluted dust while being swept, could cause respiratory problems for the human beings. Therefore, it is advisable to wash the place first with phenol-mixed water before removing the droppings. Now, where have those pigeons gone? They are going to apartments in higher floors and one day they will be evicted from there too. Already, some residents of the higher floors are consulting me on the nylon net. By the way, pigeons avoid ground floor apartments. The higher the apartment is, the safer for them it is, they seem to think. If you think that the pigeons can be scared away by shouts or threatening them with a stick etc. , you are mistaken. Pigeons are very persistent. They are a highly intelligent species. I have read that it is one of the only six species who can pass the ' mirror' test i.e. they can recognize their appearance in a mirror. I am told that they can recognize all the 26 alphabets of the English language. No jokes. Give a google search command and satisfy yourself. Tests have established this fact in U.K. Of course, the Indian Pigeons might fail this test; they should be taught Devanagari or South Indian scripts.The point is that they remember their homes and so in spite of your driving them away every time they appear in your balcony, they will return sooner than you think. This 'homing' talent of the pigeons has been very well utilized by the human beings since centuries. Sending messages through pigeons to places several hundred kilometers away was a common thing in the past. In the first world war, pigeons were used by army units to convey messages regarding troop movements and survivors to the high command and vice-versa. I have read that a particular American carrier pigeon named Cher Ami was decorated with the French Award 'Croix de Guerre ' for its heroic service of saving 200 men through timely delivery of 12 messages during World War I. Not only that, after its death, its name was inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame. If you disbelieve me, press the Google button again. Some more interesting facts about Pigeons. They live for about 10 years. They originated from northern Africa, particularly Egypt. Since there were no trees there, they lived on the rocks. So, subconsciously they perhaps fear trees and prefer solid structures to live and breed in. All religions are sympathetic to pigeons. The Sikh religion connects the pigeons with reincarnation. Guru Gobind Singh's pictures show him with a pigeon. The other Indian community which feeds pigeons regularly, in my opinion, is the Gujarati community. Pigeons are monogamous. The male pigeons woo the females through puffing up their neck feather, bowing and running around in circles at the same spot. The moment you watch this drama unfolding and thereafter their locking their beaks together in an ecstatic dance, beware and rush to buy the nylon net for your balcony. Otherwise, you must wait for two more months till the logical culmination of one complete breeding cycle. Do not complain later that I did not warn you.

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