Over 100 little swifts were swiftly rescued by wildlife experts and volunteers in less than 48 hours, after being found stranded around Mumbai and Thane. The rescuers have said that such an unusual number of SOSs for the birds was a consequence of the unseasonal rains onMonday, resulting in a sudden drop in temperature and fewer flying insects for these birds to feed on. They were found to be weak and rather listless, volunteers reported.
(These birds are found in Africa and southwestern Asia and are vagrants and local breeders in southern Europe. They are found in both urban areas and on rocky cliffs where they build nests. They spend most of their lives in the air, living on the insects they catch in their beaks. They drink on the wing, but roost on vertical cliffs or walls. They never settle voluntarily on the ground. – courtesy Wikipedia)
Over 51 little swift birds were rescued by the Mumbai-based NGO Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW), 30 by the Wildlife Welfare Association (WWA), 12 by the Spreading Awareness on Reptiles and Rehabilitation Programe (SARRP), 15 via the bird helpline, while the remaining were rescued by individual rescuers, taking the number of birds rescued to over 100, these organisations said.
“The drop and fluctuation in temperature and then the unseasonal rains seems to have hit the little swifts. The same phenomenon has been noted not just in Mumbai and Thane but in other districts, such as Raigad, Pune too. This shows that the birds were hit by the climate change,” said Pawan Sharma, founder of RAWW.
Rohit Joshi, convener - Yeoor Environmental Society, Thane, said, “We first thought that the recent rainfall had affected these birds but surprisingly, none of us have received rescue calls for other small birds. The birds were reported to have collapsed on the ground, maybe due to the current rain or for unknown reasons. They were found shivering and unable to move. The bird rescued in Yeoor died on Thursday. Unfortunately our local volunteer didn’t preserve the carcass.”
Besides this, there are fewer flying insects for swifts and their chicks to eat, leaving the birds struggling to survive, experts have said.
Elaborating on the rescue, Aditya Patil, president of RAWW said: “In Thane, these calls were mainly from the high-rises in Kasarvadavli, Patlipada, Manpada etc. Our team was confused -- how come there were so many rescue calls for swifts (swallows, little swifts), as usually, when it pours we get calls for pigeons, kites etc. But no rescue calls for the latter were received,” Patil said.
Patil said that around 30 birds were rescued from Thane, of which two were dead while the others were treated and released.
Meanwhile, Joshi has written to the chief conservator of forests, Thane, Mumbai and the SGNP, requesting urgent attention to this situation and demanding a thorough investigation to check the possibility of any disease, considering the migration season. “I had requested the authorities to urgently issue an advisory from the forest department for the general public on how to safely handle and help these fallen birds, publish rescuers details/ helpline numbers etc,” added Joshi.
Why are these birds who eat and drink in mid-air, now falling to the ground, unconscious?
“Based on our observations in the last 48 hours, we speculate that it is a case of ‘torpor’ among smaller birds like swifts. Torpor is a short-term physical condition in which they voluntarily slow down their body functions / metabolism to conserve energy and heat. This condition is usually used by aerial birds smaller in size to survive severe weather conditions, especially harsh winters,” explained RAWW team member Ritu Sharma.
She added: “Mumbai’s temperature has been fluctuating between 19 and 20 degrees in the last 24 hours, coupled with unseasonal rains causing further dip in the temperature and blocking visibility. Most of these birds experiencing this condition stabilise post-rescue by simple steps of hydrating and keeping them warm.”