Bird sellers dupe buyers into believing they are buying legal “exotic” birds, when in actual fact they are buying Indian wild birds which are illegal to sell. The worst sufferers are parakeets and munias who are dyed and called different foreign names. The Red whiskered Bulbul is sold as an exotic Finch. The Redbilled Leotherix is sold as a Pekin Robin, a bird found in China. Indian Goldfinches are sold as exotic Eurasian Goldfinches and so on. Here are some more birds that are sold wrongly…
People who buy birds are vicious. Imagine keeping a free spirit in a small cage, never letting it see the sky, never letting it have the pleasure of making and looking after its own family. It is also environmentally unsound: for each bird you have bought, thousands of have died on the way and as soon as they are taken out of the forest, so many trees and shrubs whose seeds were spread only by the birds do not grow any more. So whole forests are lost when the birds are lost. Most bird sellers however cater to the “sympathetic to birds” market, those people specially from the Jain community who buy birds only to release them. The released bird is far from its home, has been weakened by weeks of confinement and has no idea of where to go for food or water. It will die in a few hours. But the man who has sold it to you will go back and get a hundred more. Don’t buy the bird, catch the man and give him a taste of confinement instead. In an earlier article I explained how the bird sellers dupe buyers into believing they are buying legal “exotic” birds, when in actual fact they are buying Indian wild birds which are illegal to sell. The worst sufferers are parakeets and munias who are dyed and called different foreign names. Here are some more birds that are sold wrongly.
Canaries are exotic birds and they are found in many varieties in the bird markets. The Himalayan Greenfinch or Siskin looks a lot like them and it is sold under the name of Belgium Canary. It has a drab and streaked greenish yellow plumage with a short and forked tail and is much less colourful than the Canary – but it is also cheaper for the trader to get from the poacher. The Black headed Bunting and the Redheaded Bunting males are sold as male and female canaries. The male of the redheaded Bunting is coloured orange and sold as a Red Canary. Sometimes the rare and endangered Finn’s Baya male which is yellow and brown is also sold as a Canary.
How many people know the variety of birds that we have in our country? Because the buyer has never seen the bird before – and in any case is buying the bird as a toy – he is happy to believe that what he is buying is “foreign”. The Red whiskered Bulbul is sold as an exotic Finch. The Redbilled Leotherix is sold as a Pekin Robin, a bird found in China. Indian Goldfinches are sold as exotic Eurasian Goldfinches. The Laughing Thrush is shown as an exotic by showing the buyer foreign bird reference books. Both the Thrush and the Golden Oriole are very much Indian wild birds. But this is not all. The Green Magpie is one of the main birds poached by the trade. When it is caught and kept in captivity its colour changes top blue either due to starvation or excessive sunlight. This bird is then sold as a rare exotic as its blue colouring is completely different from its colouring in the wild or a rare wild blue mutation. It is often smuggled out of India as a Hunting Chissa. The wild caught Emerald Dove is sold as a ‘captive bred “exotic dove”.
The Hill Mynah is a popular pet bird as many people want a “talking bird”. It is caught in the Northeast and smuggled to Nepal and Pakistan. Some of the Indian demand is met with “substitutes”. The Common, Pied and Jungle Mynas have their foreheads shaved and coloured red. Their feathers are coloured with a mixture of lamp soot and mustard oil. Sometimes a yellow balloon is cut and pasted to the naked shaved skin to give the appearance of a Hill Myna. The Black Drongo, a common city bird also becomes a victim : its tail is cut to about 2 cm and its flight feathers are trimmed and then it is sold as the Hill Myna. Sometimes the black Starling is sold as the Hill Myna. When the seller sees a customer, he starts sprinkling water on the bird pretending he is bathing it. This stops the customer from wondering why the feathers are so sticky – which is due to the oil based dyes. If none of these birds ever “talk” then the blame falls on the buyer – perhaps he is not feeding it properly or looking after it well. In any case what is talking by the genuine bird, merely a repetition of inane phrases that have been repeated before it hundreds of times for it to learn.
The common House Sparrow has not been spared by these poachers, smugglers, criminals. Female House Sparrows and Yellow Throated Sparrows are market with lamp soot on the throat and sold as male sparrows – which are killed by the Hakim trade for “medicinal” purposes. So many times we have seen chicks of the peacock mixed with chicks of the domestic fowl and sent by train supposedly for the poultry trade but in actual fact for the wild pet bird market. Wild caught quails are declared as Japanese Quails and their meat is sold in the small restaurants, specially outside wildlife sanctuaries. The demand for the jungle Crow for black magic is met by colouring a House Crow.
Some people are sick enough to buy stuffed birds and the rarer the better. For them a whole trade has opened up in Kolkata. Taxidermists get a whole lot of Indian wild birds and make stuffed specimens by joining parts from different birds and then selling them at exorbitant prices as rare bird species!
What is the purpose of such articles? For you to go into a bird shop and catch anyone who has been given a licence to sell “exotic” species but is actually selling Indian wild caught birds. You don’t have to know what the bird looks like. Just ask for the exotic name – and rest assured that it is in fact an Indian bird. The sellers need to be arrested immediately under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Do not buy birds. You are merely denuding India of her trees and her rain. Birds do not make happy or loving “pets”. They simply fade away and die. All you are doing is making money for the biggest criminals in India, those that trade in the misery of a helpless species.