Swallow crossing – go slow

We are very familiar with pedestrian crossings. It is a different matter on how we use it, either as pedestrians or as motorists, but these crossings exist for a reason.  Now, there are zebra crossings, toucan crossings, pelican crossings, puffin crossings – not for zebras or toucans or pelicans or puffins, but for humans. These crossings help pedestrians and/or cyclists get across the road, hopefully safely.

I propose a new name to be added to this list and would like to call it the Swallow Crossing. This one would have to be for the fast-flying, insect-eating, small birds, the Barn Swallows, at the Pulicat Bird Sanctuary, Pulicat Lake, Sriharikota (in the State of Andhra Pradesh, India). During one of Sugandhi’s and my recent trips along the lakeside, we saw a good number of these birds, flying from the river bank to the tarred road that has the lake on either side. Flying at about 11 – 20 m/s from one side to the other, they seem to brave the wrath of speeding vehicles that zip across from the main land to the space research center.

The Barn Swallows typically feed while flying, and they feed on flying insects. The banks of the rivers were full of mosquitoes. At first, we were wondering if the swallow colony was flying around to feed on them. But a couple of rounds up and down the lake seemed to tell us a different story. The swallows would get to the road whenever a vehicle was approaching closer. Barn Swallows are also known to display a behavior called ‘mobbing’ – they co-operate in groups to drive away predators. Were they mobbing the motorists ?

Whether they were mobbing or were feeding, they were getting across to the road every now and then. It was challenging to get a still image of the swallows that had decided not to be still, even for a moment ! Unless they were dying, or dead…

I saw one of them by the roadside, just hit by a passing vehicle. It did seem to be moving its eyes, but the rest of its body was motionless. All we could do was move it to the side, so that it can at least pass away in one piece and in peace.

The Barn Swallow is a small bird. Its conservation status says ‘least concern’. But, that doesn’t mean that its life is taken for granted. A ‘swallow crossing’ might help us to slow down on such roads. It might help save the life of at least one Barn Swallow. Maybe the size and status of a swallow doesn’t matter here in the space research town, but Life is still precious.




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