Avian Expert Articles

The Birdman of Chennai

Indian ring-neck parakeets
photo credit: TheBetterIndia.com

Anyone who has taken an active interest in feeding neighborhood birds will know that it isn’t long before a group of birds become regulars. In fact, anyone who feeds birds in their backyards will immediately tell you that they’ve graduated from a simple small bag of mix to larger bags as well as more complex mixes to accommodate the various types that can be attracted to a ready meal. There’s a sense of satisfaction and awe when watching birds group around feeders. This is a world-wide trend. And there are some that feed birds on quite large scales.

In India, there are several people who have tended to exotic birds and have attracted thousands on a daily basis. One of those individuals is Joseph Sekar, who lives in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India. Chennai is considered an extraordinary tourist attraction, and is considered a ‘must visit’ location should you find yourself in India. Joseph Sekar is a resident who has taken upon himself the incredible responsibility in feeding thousands of parakeets. Here is that story:

For The Love of Birds

In 2004, Chennai was one of many coastal cities hit by a tsunami triggered by a record 9.0 earthquake centered in the Indian Ocean. That quake resulted in the deaths of over 250,000 people by way of those devastating tsunamis. With waves as high as 100 feet, the destruction was immense and immeasurable.

In the days following that disaster, Joseph Sekar discovered two ring-necked parakeets on his doorstep and fed them. They returned on a daily basis and eventually were bringing their friends to be fed. First ten, then fifty, and then a hundred became friendly for the food and water offered. Over time, Sekar found himself feeding thousands of arriving parakeets. To do this, he fed them cooked rice. Using his terrace as a feeding place, he constructed wooden planks upon which he placed the mounds of rice. He would supply the food both morning and evening. Soon, the “Birdman of Chennai” gained notoriety as the man who cared for the birds.

In 2015, Chennai would be hit with floods that damaged the city far worse than the tsunami did a decade earlier. Because of this, Sekar found the arriving bird population to have risen dramatically. It is said that over five thousand arrived daily for feeding. Sekar’s house was filled with water and still he found the way to feed his adopted fleet of parakeets. He would meticulously clean the terrace after each feeding to avoid rice waste from dropped grains.

Joseph Sekar estimates that it takes about 60 kg (a little over 132 pounds) of rice to feed the birds daily. This requires about 40% of his income from his camera repair service. Visitors to Chennai often come and stand outside to watch the magnificent arrivals and departures of the parakeets to the roof of his residence.

You can watch a beautiful YouTube video (here) of Joseph Sekar as he recounts that he doesn’t “have anything other than these birds. My life revolves around these birds.” People who dedicate themselves to the feeding of birds are special people indeed.

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