“I am hearing many bird calls, particularly barbets and koels these (lockdown) days. I have never heard so many bird sounds earlier.” This observation from a friend came up during a casual conversation and set me thinking. My friend was probably hinting that more birds had moved into Bangalore because of reduced human activity and the lower levels of disturbance thereof. As someone interested in birds, I began reflecting upon my early days of bird-watching and the present scenario: the city was certainly quieter, and the calls of birds more audible during the pandemic lockdown months. This seems to have come as a surprise, particularly to the uninitiated.

I was wondering whether there are birds that have found the ever-changing urban settings conducive for their survival, and if so, how they have used the space. In fact, some interesting research has already gone into understanding how birds have adapted to a noisy urban landscape. But I shall not try to explain those findings in this popular article.

Apart from high noise levels, the cityscape today also boasts many high-rise structures. Have any birds adapted to this spatial change? Well, the first bird that came to my mind was the infamous Blue Rock Pigeon. I do not recollect seeing this bird frequently during my early years of birding, spanning over three decades. One typically saw the Blue Rock Pigeon near places of worship which had tall structures. Bangalore, like many other cities, did not have an “enviable” skyline during the initial years of its formation. Today, the scenario is very different – one can, on a misty morning, see ‘sky islands’ in the city, with structures towering over everything around.

High-rises on a misty morning.

So much so that pigeons have now invaded many high-rise structures, both residential and commercial. This has led them to being seen as a problem by the inhabitants of these buildings. What is it that the pigeons have found so conducive in the city that they have managed to assume pest proportions? The natural habitat of Blue Rock Pigeons, as their name suggests, happens to be rocky ledges. This affords them ample safe roosting and nesting opportunities. Now that we have created habitats for them, they have come to be a regular feature of the cityscape. Not to forget, they are also beneficiaries of the human generosity that prompts many a citizen to indulge in the act of feeding these pigeons.

Blue Rock Pigeon

Pigeons are part of the food chain, and it is only natural that their predators also make an appearance, albeit minimally, in the city. Interestingly, the resident cousin of the Peregrine Falcon – the Shaheen Falcon – has been seen repeatedly in the city. The hills around Bangalore with rocky ledges and outcrops are the natural home of the Shaheen Falcon. Amongst rocky outcrops, it finds ledges to nest on, as well as open spaces where it can dive at great speeds in pursuit of its prey. However, a friend of mine has been seeing this bird time and again within a cluster of high rises in the city! Perhaps it is just a matter of time that this handsome raptor will start residing and breeding amidst these skyscrapers, like the Peregrine Falcon does in New York.

Shaheen Falcon

As a birder, when I plan a trip to the hills or areas with rocky outcrops, a tentative list of possible birds to be seen is formed in my mind. One small, nondescript bird is usually part of this list – Dusky Crag Martin. As the name suggests, these creatures are partial to rocky cliffs and crags. Now that the city offers similar situations, they seem to have adapted comfortably to city living. In recent times, I have seen them flying effortlessly around tall buildings, hawking insects and resting on the many ledges around. They have also found wet ground, made pellets of soil, and built their lovely mud cups for nesting. These birds now reside amidst tall structures and seem to visit their nests almost every day. That is not all – they also put to use the other infrastructure that is part of these high-rises.



Flocks of the Little Swift too can be seen balling in the vicinity of high-rises. These birds cannot perch, and consequently, they fly continuously, even collecting nesting material (feathers) on the wing. They use this to make a nest under the eaves of buildings (otherwise under a rocky ledge), where they stick the feathers together with their saliva! It is a sheer pleasure to watch them fly in and out of the nest at seemingly breakneck speeds.

From the above examples, we may be tempted to revel in the belief that high-rise structures effectively mimic certain natural habitats, and therefore offer a great service to some bird species. At this juncture, let us also pause for a moment and reflect on the opportunity cost – this development comes at a huge price. The reducing green cover and increasing pollution are making life in the city hostile and difficult not only for us, but also for a variety of birds, insects and other creatures that share the space with us.

That said, I would like to leave you with a question – what can we do in our personal capacities to bring in and support other life (not necessarily only birds) into our midst, making our own lives more enjoyable?