A village named Potthakudi in Tamilnadu’s Sivaganga district has kept its street lights off for the last 40 days to help an Oriental magpie-robin lay her eggs and nest in peace.
This came about when Karuppu Raja, a resident of Potthakudi, in-charge of operating the street lights in the area, noticed a small bird flying out of the main switchboard.
“My house is located at the end of a street where the main switch for 35 street lights is installed. I have been turning them on at 6 p.m and switching them off at 5 a.m since childhood. When I stepped out of my house one afternoon, I noticed a small blue bird flying in and out of the switchboard. Being curious, I went closer and saw that it was gathering sticks and straws. I did not know what bird it was, but it was building a nest,” says Karuppu Raja.
For the next three days, whenever he went to turn on the street lights, the bird would drop its sticks and fly to safety. But, on the fourth day, he saw three tiny greenish-blue eggs with brown spots on the nest.
He wanted to allow the bird to take shelter in that spot for the following months without being disturbed. But, doing so meant that he could not turn on the 35 street lights placed amidst the 100 houses.
“I took a picture of the nest it was building and shared it on a WhatsApp group with all the residents in my locality. I explained how I wished to provide a safe place for this bird to lay its eggs and asked for their support to cut the power line. Most villagers thought of this as an opportunity to give back to mother nature and agreed. But, some people thought this was an extreme step for a little bird,” says Raja.
Protecting the nest
The following day, he approached the Village Panchayat heads — Arsunan and Kaleeswari H — and urged them to visit the spot.
“When the boy requested me to cut the power line for a bird, I was surprised. So, I agreed to see it for myself. The bird had finished building the nest and kept leaves, grass, and straws all around to build a haven. During the lockdown, I saw many people suffering on the streets without a place to stay. I did not want to give the bird the same situation and agreed to cut the power line,” says Arsunan.
Once the main wire leading the switchboard was cut, it was covered with tape to ensure that the birds would not come in contact with a live wire. Apart from that, the Panchayat heads went door-to-door advising residents to stay vigilant in the dark of the night.
Karrupu Raja says, “It has been 40 days since the bird laid eggs, and now there are three healthy chicks. They have tiny wings, and are starting to develop feathers too.”
Moorthy A, another resident of Potthakudi, says, “When I heard that the village head was going to cut the electricity for street lights because of a bird, I thought it was a joke. But, after seeing the bird in its nest with the eggs, my heart melted. Since that day, I have been visiting the switchboard every day to see the nest.”
To ensure the bird does not get startled by the viewers, Karuppu Raja sees that no one goes too close to the nest, or arrives in large groups.
According to the Panchayat heads, power will be restored to the street lights only after the birds have abandoned the nest.
Images courtesy: Karuppu Raja
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)