Birds of Lahore - Sustainers of
By Uzma Saeed, Conservation
Officer, WWF - Pakistan
Lahore the city of gardens is heart of Pakistan. The city
has seen the heydays of the Mughals, Sikhs and the British; all left
their footprints on the history and cultural mosaic of the city.
Resultantly Lahore is a treasure-trove of monuments, historical relics
and remains which these nations have left in this historical metropolis
|Blue Rock Pigeon and Common
House sparrow (Male) (Scientific Names: Columba livia and
According to a survey done in the year
2006 the population of this city is counted as 10 million inhabitants
thus in terms of population it ranks as the second largest city of
Pakistan and 15th largest in South Asia.
Though an ancient city; over the years
Lahore has considerably expanded. However, along these modern additions,
the ancient monuments, old gardens, trees, graveyards and traditional
bungalows having attached gardens, large expanses of lawn and old
roadside trees some of them can still be seen, are gradually
disappearing. These green areas and old endemic trees of Lahore are home
to many resident bird species as well as many summer, winter and transit
migrants. Thus Lahore is a hub of a variety of bird species.
In urban Lahore, there are areas which
can truly be classified as places of breeding, nesting and roosting for
several bird species. The grounds of different habitats such as Lahore
Zoo and the Lawrence Garden, Mayo and Jinnah Gardens, GOR, Jallo Park,
Kinnaird College, Aitchison College and many others are home to various
Ornithologists of preceding times
documented the number of bird species in Lahore. According to one
study conducted in 1965 there were 240 bird species in Lahore. In
another study (1992) only 101 bird species from the parks of Lahore
were recorded. However, with an increase in the rate of urbanization,
the ecology of Lahore has been considerably affected and population
of birds in Lahore has reduced to just 85 including the resident and
migratory ones. The resident species of Lahore are Grey Hornbill,
Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Parakeet, Bulbuls, Doves, Spotted Owlet,
Babblers, Flycatchers, Mynas, Woodpeckers, Crows, Kites, Ashy Prynia,
Red Start, Warblers, Red Wattled Lapwing, Kingfishers, and the Oriental
Three types of migratory birds are
regular visitors of Punjab’s provincial metropolis. These are winter
visitors, summer visitors and transit migrants. The winter visitors come
in September and stay till May. They come from northern latitude and
higher altitudes e.g. Yellow Browed Warbler, Common Starling,
White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail and Large pied Wagtail come here in search
of food. Wagtails eat small insects, spiders, mollusks and soft seeds
from moist soil. They roost in tall typha and reed growth on the banks
of ponds and lakes..
Summer visitors arrive in summer from
southern parts of the country. These include Koel, Purple Sunbird,
Golden Oriole and Cuckoo species. They also come here in search of food
and for breeding. They stay in urban Lahore from March till September.
Passage migrants stop in Lahore for short
period of time and go to their breeding areas further south. Rosy Pastor
is a Palaearctic breeding species which is found in Lahore during
transit migration in spring and autumn. It stays here from April to
September. They are useful since they feed on locusts, but also eat
fruits, berries and other insects.
Jungle Myna, Roufous Tailed Finch Lark
and Indian Plaintive Cuckoo are the three new families of guest birds in
Lahore. The breeding of the Roufous Tailed Finch Lark was observed in
the Jallo Recreational Park whereas the Jungle Mynas were first time
seen in urban Lahore on trees and the lawns of Kinnaird College in 2004.
The recorded presence of Jungle Mynas has otherwise been observed from
Murree eastwards into India. The Roufous Tailed Finch Lark is found as
an erratic monsoon visitor to Northern Punjab whereas the Indian
Plaintive Cuckoo is reported from Margalla Hills of Islamabad.
|Black rumped golden
flameback woodpecker (Scientific Name: Dinopium bengalensis)
Blossom Headed Parakeet is a winter
visitor to Lahore and the vicinity. This Parakeet was observed in Mayo
Gardens in July 2004 which indicates that there might be a possibility
of dispersal from their breeding areas to Lahore and vicinity. Their
presence in the summer season is unusual.
All these bird species have certain
habits and habitat preferences at their dwelling places which are called
the ecological linkages. Trees are the backbone of an ecosystem playing
important role in cleaning the environment and recharging ground water,
hence offer an abode for many bird species. Trees like Pipal, Banyan,
Mulberry, Jaman, Mango and Shisham provide food, (in spring, spring
summer and summer monsoon season respectively) shelter, nesting holes
and roosting places to bird species. Banyan trees provide food to many
birds like Mynas, Bulbuls, Pigeons, Parakeets, Grey Hornbill and Koel
etc. These trees produce fruit for whole year because the fruit ripens
systematically one after the other on the apex of their branches.
Common Myna, Golden Oriole, Koel, Bank
Myna, Copper Smith Barbet, Golden Backed woodpecker, Pied Woodpecker,
Yellow Footed Green Pigeon, Grey Hornbill, Red Vented Bulbul, Oriental
White Eye, Rosy Pastor, Spotted Owlet, and Alexandrine Parakeet are
ecologically linked to Hareer, Banyan, Simul, Eucalyptus, Poplar, Pipal,
Wild Mulberry, Mango, Shisham trees for feeding figs and insects. These
birds also prefer these tall trees for nesting at approximately 10-35
feet. They also use these trees for roosting. Baya, the Weaver birds
even prefer to make nest on dates’ tree at 40 feet height.
Myna species, Parakeets, Red Vented
Bulbuls, Robins, Oriental white Eye, Jungle Babbler, Koel, Purple
Sunbird and Golden Oriole are ecologically linked to the medium height
Mango, Mulberry, Jaman, Gullahar, Dhrek, Pilkan, Guava, Peeloo, Kikar,
Mesquite, Gul-e-Nashtar, and Alistonia trees for feeding figs and
Birds like Sparrow Hawk, Bulbuls, Ring
Dove, Rose Ringed Parakeet, Magpie Robin, Spotted Owlet, Pied Myna and
House Crow use these medium height trees for nesting at approximately
10-20 feet. Mynas, Doves and Babblers use these medium height trees
for communal and individual roosting.
Pond Heron likes to make its nest on the
medium height trees like Kikar and Alistonia at a preferable height of
10-20 feet. This bird has adapted to build nests on exotic trees such
as Alistonia. They also make nests on Eucalyptus and Bamboo thickets.
Weaver Birds prefer medium height Beri
and Dhrek trees for nesting at a preferable height of 10 feet. Red
turtle Dove is ecologically linked to the medium height Mango and
mulberry tree for nesting respectively at approximately 10-20 feet
|Black Drongo (Scientific
Name: Dicrurus macrocercus)
Common Starling prefers Gul-e-Nashtar
trees along canal for roosting at 20-25 feet. Common Mynas also roost
along with these Common Starlings. Common Starling uses Simul tree in
winter to eat insects from its flowers. Blossom-headed Parakeets are
ecologically linked to Jaman and Pipal trees for roosting. They eat
Guava and fruits of Mango and Beri.
Koel and Rosy Pastors are ecologically
linked to figs of Jaman, Pipal, Banyan, Mulberry and Pilkan. Alistonia
trees and Bamboo thickets are used for roosting by Rosy Pastors.
Small trees like Guava, Loquat,
Pomegranate, Peeloo, Dhrek, Beri, Mesquite and Kikar are used for
roosting by House Sparrows and Jungle Babbler. The Rose Ringed
Parakeet, Koel, Oriental White Eye and Red Vented Bulbul use them for
feeding. Whereas Weaver Bird, Babbler species, Red vented Bulbul and
Purple Sunbird use them for nesting at 5-10 feet approximately. Purple
Sunbird uses Black Siris tree for eating insects on the leaves at 6-7
feet height approximately.
Dead trees also serve as excellent
breeding ground for the birds of Lahore providing roosting place in
the form of holes and cavities which are used by birds like common
Mynas for nesting at approximately 10-20 feet height in the parks and
gardens near the Zoo. Dead and live Simul and Gullahr trees are used
for nesting by Blue rock Pigeons at 15-25 feet. Birds like
Crimson-breasted Barbet, Maratha woodpecker; Magpie Robin, Alexandrine
Parakeet and Hoopoe also make nests in dead trees.
Climber species and thickets of
different kind of flora are also important for some birds that prefer
to make nest, roost and feed near to the ground. This kind of flora
also provides camouflage. Purple Sunbird is attracted to Bougainvillea
thickets for nesting at 5-15 feet height. Bamboo is also used by
Jungle Babblers, House Sparrows, Spotted and White throated Munias for
nesting, roosting and feeding respectively.
The expansive lawns of the play
grounds, bungalows and of parks and gardens during the grass mowing
offer a large variety of food for the birds like Mynas, Hoopoes, Pied
crested Cuckoo, Munias, Common Starling and Wagtails, the insects,
seeds and grubs. These birds are also attracted to these lawns when
they are flooded with water. The Roufous Tailed-Finch Lark is
ecologically linked to the long and thick grass for nesting preferably
near the edge of dried water channels.
With the increase of urbanization, some
bird species have adapted the urban environment for their subsistence.
Many urban structures like electric wires, electric poles, electric
lamps, buildings, nest boxes, houses, ventilators, shades, roofs and
canal banks are used by Mynas, Sparrows, Robins and Blue rock Pigeons
for nesting, roosting and feeding.
In humid summer nights, there is
abundance of flying insects near lights on road side pavements,
streets, parks, and gardens. Small lizards come to eat these insects.
Some amphibians like toad and nocturnal birds like Spotted Owlet eat
large insects in this light. Spotted Owlets eat these toads also. The
fallen insects around these lights become the food of Mynas,
Red-vented Bulbul, House Crow, and House Sparrow in morning.
|Pied Bushchat (Scientific
Name: Saxicola caprata)
giant large fruit bat roosts by day on large Banyan trees in Jinnah
Gardens and Lahore Zoo. Palm squirrel populations are common in all
areas where there are gardens. Huge flocks of Blue Rock Pigeons breed
and roost at night in the walled city as well as in old large
buildings outside the city’s stockade. Grey hornbill is found in fig
trees particularly in the Lahore Zoo, Jinnah Gardens, Mayo Gardens and
the Cantt. area.
A study done in 2000 revealed that
population in urban Lahore’s white backed vulture almost vanished.
The main culprit responsible for this important raptor’s extinction
is a veterinary drug called ”Diclofenac”. The drug is used by the
vets to inject livestock for curing joints disease in cattle. After
having found the lethal effect this drug has had on vulture
populations in Lahore and elsewhere, (it causes fatal kidney failure
in vultures) the drug has been banned by the Ministry of
The Indian Koel is a spring and summer
visitor to Lahore. Its arrival is usually in early April though most
of the population arrives in May. On the contrary in recent surveys
it has been seen coming around Mid March in Aitchison College. It is
a brood parasitic bird. It feeds on insects and fruits and drinks
water from water taps in the lawns of the bungalows. It lays eggs in
the nests of crows, and foster parent crows are seen feeding full
size cuckoo nestlings.
The predators for these birds in urban
Lahore are the domestic cat, ants, Sparrow Hawk and the House Crow.
These birds are important because they
control the insect infestation in the green areas of the city and the
vicinity and play important role in pollination. The seeds of the
Banyan tree cannot grow until they are passed from the intestine of
the Mynas, hence the role of these birds, trees and green areas in
maintaining the ecological balance and vice versa does not need any
overemphasis. They are important because they are part of food chain.
Unfortunately the ruthless cutting of the tall, old and endemic trees
is going unabated in this ancient and historic city. And all this is
being done in the name of city’s development, a development which is
not sustainable and hence destroying the over all biodiversity in
Lahore’s urban environment. These trees are necessary for the survival
of these bird species which contribute to a harmony of eco-balance. In
this regard collective efforts are needed by all concerned, the
general public, the stakeholders and the concerned authorities.
|Rock Bunting ( Scientific
Name: Emberiza cia)
To maintain and increase the number of
bird populations in Lahore, government departments like Parks and
Horticulture Authority (PHA), the Ministry of Environment and NGOs
like WWF need to develop a plan to improve the green pockets by
planting trees and vegetation like bushes and thickets so that they
attract a variety of birds preferring different nesting heights from
tall trees nesting’s to near the ground ones besides offering
different kinds of fruits and figs. These pockets are: 1: The Forest
Colony, Ravi Park, Railway Station, Engineering University and
Shalimar Gardens and the pocket 2 is The Aitchison College, GOR,
Kinnaird College, Jinnah Garden, Lahore Zoological Gardens, Cantonment
and Mayo Gardens extending up to the whole of canal area.
Stealing of the nestlings of Rose
Ringed Parakeet and Alexandrine Parakeet should be checked in urban
Lahore and there should be a strict implementation of the Punjab
Wildlife Act 1974. The solid waste management system should also be
efficient enough to avoid scavengers like the house crows and common
Authors: Uzma Saeed, Conservation
Officer, WWF - Pakistan. The last two
paragraphs of this article were written by Ms. Nida Masood.
The above article is based on research grant funded by WWF - Pakistan
Scientific Committee's Student Grant Programme for Masters Thesis of
Uzma Saeed at Kinnaird College, Lahore. This research and field work was
guided and supervised by Prof. Z B Mirza. Mr Shahid Iqbal helped in the
bird identification and research activities.
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