While most poets writing their lines about birds in general and their favourites in particular fascinate themselves and their adoring readers glorifying the flight at great heights and over long distances across the planet earth as well as the magical colours of their plumes adorning the headgear of monarchs and women with captivating looks, poet Valmiki’s narrative in mythology portrays two birds focused on their heroics, one mounting a valiant assault on the Lankan King abducting Sita that proved fatal and the other surviving to pass on the crucial information that finally led to what readers of his narrative know very well. Incidentally, the two birds were brothers. A fable closely resembling the story of Valmiki’s birds is also traced to Greek mythology of astonishing vintage.
Description of birds by poets and lay bird-lovers doesn’t present their other distinguishing features than aspects of beauty, including their ability to fly effortlessly. Biologists have described the winged species as characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, laying hard-shelled eggs, high metabolic rate, four-chambered heart and a strong lightweight skeleton. They live worldwide, ranging in size from the 5 cm humming bird to the 2.75 m (9 feet) Ostrich, comprising nearly 10,000 living species. Some species are known to be intelligent which also make and use tools.
We learn from scientists that the process of evolution heralding the emergence of bird species spans nearly 60 million years, the point of time that saw the extinction of the giant lizards such as dinosaurs. The contribution of birds benefiting us in many ways seems to have been lost at wondering about (a) The crow as nature’s scavenger, (b) The homing pigeon as messenger, (c) The cuckoo for its melodious voice, (d) The vultures which clean up carcasses of animals and (e) The owls that hunt rats in dark, while their staple diet is insects. If the ongoing interference in the life of birds threatening their habitat, as it has happened in the case of the house sparrow, a rarity in urban spaces, continues in the name of development, we are sure to be overrun by insects to an extent beyond one can visualise.
While human beings are chopping down trees with disdain causing extensive deforestation, birds are known for dispersion of seeds in their aerial journey over vast areas. They are not asking for any reward for their selfless service to the rest of the species, which owe a debt of gratitude to the winged species, the beauties nonpareil.