Staff of Neendakara Coastal station go to the beach at 4 a.m. to buy fish to feed the birds
With stories about bird flu doing the rounds, personnel at the Neendakara Coastal police station were a little alarmed when they spotted several blue herons lying on the ground. They instantly alerted the Animal Husbandry Department and the autopsy held at District Veterinary Centre revealed the cause of death as starvation.
Since the harbours of Sakthikulangara and Neendakara are among the few avian-rich sites in the State, they are home to hundreds of fish-eating species, including storks, egrets, cormorants, and herons.
When the Coastal police found the birds famished and half-dead, they decided to step in. “You cannot feed them foodgrains as they eat only fish. So we began to buy fish from country crafts which return at 4 a.m. On the first day we bought fish for ₹1,000. We keep some fish on a wooden stand on our station premises and spread the rest in areas where the birds flock. We have been arranging food for stray dogs coordinating with voluntary organisations, but arranging fish during lockdown was a bit difficult,” says sub-inspector M.D. Prashanthan.
According to the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2019, the harbour area has a very high count of little egrets. While some birds go in search of food to other places, some species such as blue herons can hardly survive outside the coastal ecosystem. “They live on the seashore eating the discards from boats, which will be more than enough on normal days. But with trawlers lying idle and only a handful of traditional fishers venturing into the sea they were struggling. They were collapsing for lack of food and the stray dogs were preying on them,” he adds.