Heroics & Urban Birds


A black kite, a carnivorous scavenger, flying over the Ghazipur area of New Delhi. Black kites are a common sight in the city, but are often fatally injured by the flying of paper kites.

We will take heroics wherever we can find them:

Meet the Bird Medics of New Delhi

Two brothers have given everything to treat raptors injured by a popular pastime.

By Photographs by 


Kite-flying became a symbol of national pride after India gained independence from Britain in 1947.

NEW DELHI — Sitting in his basement, below the crowded dirt roads of Wazirabad village, Mohammad Saud leaned over the body of an injured black kite.

The room was cramped, its walls chipping blue paint, the noise from the streets above drowned out by the whir of a fan. Mr. Saud stared at the bird in front of him for a couple of seconds, then gently folded its wing over with a gloved hand. At least two bones, four tendons and two muscles had been snapped. The bird’s head tilted back limply, eyes cloudy. Mr. Saud adjusted his glasses with the crook of his elbow, then stated the obvious: “This is a gone case. Nothing can be done.”

Mr. Saud placed the kite back into a thin cardboard box. As he did so, Salik Rehman, a young employee of Mr. Saud, reached into a different cardboard box and pulled out another black kite. This bird’s right wing was wrapped in a gauze bandage stained with dried blood and pus. Mr. Saud examined it briefly. Another gone case, he concluded; it would have to be euthanized.

Fourteen more cardboard boxes surrounded them, each filled with a black kite that Mr. Rehman, Mr. Saud and Nadeem Shehzad, Mr. Saud’s brother, had collected earlier in the day from animal hospitals around Delhi. The three men, along with a part-time veterinarian, comprise a bird rehabilitation organization called Wildlife Rescue that treats more than 2,000 birds of prey a year.

Nearly all of those birds are black kites, which are everywhere in Delhi. The Yamuna River, which flows by Wazirabad, is so toxic that some sections cannot sustain aquatic life, but kites scavenge muddy trash from its banks in swarms. On a typical day, dozens can be seen circling above Old Delhi, the bustling heart of the city, rising on columns of warm air.

Mr. Saud and Mr. Shehzad have sacrificed everything for Wildlife Rescue since founding it 20 years ago. Sacrificed everything for the black kite, a bird that is neither endangered nor particularly attractive and, in Delhi, is about as unloved as the pigeon. “It’s some kind of sense of duty,” Mr. Shehzad said, with a shrug. “If not us, then nobody’s going to take care of them.”…

Read the whole article here.

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