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A Bird's Eye View Of The Future

White egret cranes are known as Koho, appropriately pronounced as को:ओ in Ho Adivasi language. They are also known as Bagula in the local language and one of my neighbouring villages in Jadugoda is known as Baglasai because the village is home to lots of cranes who build their nests in the trees. These cranes love to stay in groups, hence they build nests side by side on different branches of a single tree.

Did you know that one of their biggest qualities is that these feathered avians can predict drought as well as good rainfall? According to elders of the Ho Adivasi communities, they have traditionally been able to predict monsoon trends based on their observation of the birds. Yes, the birds who live in proximity to humans change their behaviour in anticipation of the rainfall.

The elders say that the number of eggs that an egret lays depends on the kind of monsoon that is expected that year. An egret lays two eggs if rains are predicted to be abundant, but lays only one egg if it foresees a drought in the immediate future. Interestingly, Adivasi men do not climb on the trees to find out the number of eggs; they figure it out later by listening to the cry of the chicks. If the year is about to be blessed with a good monsoon then cries of more chicks can be heard. This is probably because the cranes anticipate less availability of food during drought and therefore limit the number of chicks they bring to the world. The cranes feed on fish, frogs, and insects which are more easily available only during good monsoon. The drought not only affects the crane species but all living species on the earth. In keeping with the monsoon prediction by the cranes, the Adivasi community, too, prepares itself for the season accordingly.

This system of predicting monsoon is one of the examples of age-old Adivasi knowledge of behavioral patterns of birds and animals. Often, there are debates about the scientific validity of such systems as they are stored in the traditions of Adivasi communities rather than being academically studied and written. Hence, there is always the question of evidence to back up these beliefs. However, it may be noted that the correlation between animal behaviour and weather has been noted in many other communities as well. An article by The Guardian says: Cranes are vocal birds, and when they are calling loudly, folklore predicts bad weather, and the birds are said to be consulting with one another over which course of action to take to avoid the coming storm.

Many other articles available online highlight that birds can predict weather. An article on The Old Farmer’s Almanac says “If crows fly in pairs, expect fine weather; a crow flying alone is a sign of foul weather.” In addition, another belief says that birds perch on power lines when a storm is approaching. That’s because low barometric pressure is a reflection of the low density of air molecules that makes it harder to fly.

There is so much to learn from the cranes and implement those understanding and knowledge in our lives. There is a famous Hindi proverb "Pair utna hi failana chahiye jitna bada aapka chadar ho" which tells us how we, humans, can learn from birds and animals in managing our limited resources. When cranes foresee the drought, they fear and worry about their future and accordingly indulge in “family planning”. They lay fewer eggs because they know that during the drought, resources will not be easily available thereby making it hard for chicks to survive. They have better understanding than humans in terms of consuming resources and balancing their needs.

Humans have consumed more resources than they need for survival without considering that other species should also have a share in these limited resources. Mahatma Gandhi once said that the Earth provides enough to fulfill our needs but not our greed. In this modern age, human actions for economic growth and comfortability have adversely affected the environment and have threatened its balance. Surprisingly, the government, industrialists, and the so-called civilized population are not concerned about how their actions can affect each living being on earth. Even when there is overwhelming evidence of human impact on climate change, many are not ready to make changes in their lives that would mitigate the threat. Humans are not willing to give up their greed and safeguard the available resources of the earth for the future generations and all living beings.

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