How Smoke Affects Breeding of Birds

Mohit Aggarwal
Apr 27 · 3 min read

Leaf Litter burning in urban human colonies

The current pandemic and subsequent quarantine is a blessing in disguise for our non-human friends. Nature is taking its time to recover and so are our non-human friends that bless us from time to time by either sitting on our window sill or a branch of a tree.

For the last few years, I have been harping to the RWA that leaf litter should not be allowed to burn. The burning of leaf litter has many negative effects

  • Aggravates the suffering of asthma patients in the colony
  • Adds to pollution (of which we already suffer so much)
  • Does not help breeding birds and their chicks

The lockdown has helped us immensely in this regard. The local gardeners are not tending to the gardens really, not manicuring them, and thus not collecting leaf litter to burn. An awesome and welcome change, in my opinion.

Mosquito breeding

It is the following myths that have added fuel to the fire (pun intended) to the support for leaf litter burning:

  • The myth that leaf litter contains mosquito larvae
  • The myth that the smoke will lessen the spread of mosquitoes

Yes, this is the time when mosquitoes are in greater numbers, and they do indeed pose grave threats by spreading diseases like malaria, dengue etc. However, mosquitoes do not breed in foliage or leaf litter, but in stagnant water.

Kerosene fumes

To keep mosquitoes under control, one popular, and so-called ‘effective’, the method is to spray kerosene fumes in our colonies, parks etc. As mentioned before, these fumes don’t help our asthma, breathing, bird chicks and other life. This is probably the worst control mechanism that the government uses. Only if they stop using Kerosene fumigation to save us from its ill effects, will some better sense prevail?

The breeding season of birds

The main time that birds breed is between March and May. However, this is also the time that the local authorities decide to prune branches, and trees, in order to keep the foliage low, in order to

  1. Keeping the mosquitoes away (a myth)
  2. To regenerate fresh foliage during the monsoon

But what happens in the process is that the birds’ nests get destroyed and their numbers don’t rise.

Here, I am not talking about the benefits of having birds in the colonies, that is common sense and the residents will always appreciate having birds around for various ecological reasons.

Bulbuls and sunbirds, for example, are enjoying this new-found humanless season. Their nest-building and breeding are in full swing with a sudden population boom to be expected. Cavity nesters like Indian Grey Hornbill, Rose-ringed and Alexandrine Parakeets and Coppersmith Barbet are also enjoying this time.

But nature always balances. The availability of nesting trees and impending population growth of smaller birds is likely to also result in an increase in numbers for Shikra, a popular urban bird-eater, a common predator of many of the aforementioned species. It is amazing how nature finds ways to keep things in check.

Again, the lockdown has helped this immensely. The local authorities are not hacking the trees, not pruning them, and the number of birds is enormous. Awesome!

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