Why black kites attack humans

Prof. Q Qureshi, Nishant Kumar, Dr. Fabrizio Sergio and Prof. Y V Jhala
Prof. Q Qureshi, Nishant Kumar, Dr. Fabrizio Sergio and Prof. Y V Jhala

New Delhi, April 8 (India Science
Wire): A new study has found that the probability of attack by kites, birds of
prey that inhabit urban areas, increases in neighbourhoods where human
population is high and conditions are unhygienic. The birds also get more aggressive
when they have eggs in their nests.

Due to growing urbanization and a steady
increase in population, the cases of human-wildlife conflicts are occurring
more frequently. Many a times, such conflict leads to distress, injury, disease
and even loss of life to the parties involved. While this conflict endangers
population and survival of many birds and animals, black kites which can easily
dwell on human waste and garbage face no such challenge or danger.

Ecologists often applaud kites as
they clear the ecosystem of organic waste but their increasingly aggressive nature
which injures humans is a cause of concern. In a collaborative research study,
a team of scientists from India, UK and Spain have studied the problem in the
national capital region.

Prof. Q Qureshi, Nishant Kumar, Dr. Fabrizio Sergio and Prof. Y V Jhala).

Data about aggression shown by
kites was collected from twenty random sites in Delhi during the period 2013-2016.
Kites were considered aggressive when they made any physical contact with the
person approaching their nest. Researchers found that attacks were always from
behind and never when the person was staring at the kite.

Prof. Andrew G Gosler

It was found that kite aggression was
highly linked with the neighborhood conditions such as poor hygiene, ritual
feeding practice prevalent among some communities, high population density and
closeness of any balcony surrounding a kite nest. The study concludes that the
proximity with humans while feeding kites lowers their fear of humans as this is
mostly rewarded with food. It was also observed that kites, like any caring parent,
get more aggressive when someone approaches their nest having their eggs or
young ones.

“Given an environment with a low abundance of potential predators, and an extremely tolerant and positive attitude of local people towards kites such as ritual of feeding meat to kites adds to the success of survival of kites. Also the three sanitary landfill sites in the capital which provide human waste to them are largely occupied by the migratory populations of Black-eared kites as they feed on the human waste,” explained researchers while speaking to India Science Wire.

The study results, according to
scientists, suggest that after centuries of urban colonization and of
co-existence by kites with humans, their ecology and behaviour is finely tuned
on spatial variation in human religion, hygiene and poverty. “More research is
needed on urban animals to understand their adaptation to urban life,” they added.

The research team included Nishant
Kumar and Andrew G. Gosler (University of Oxford, UK); Yadvendradev V. Jhala
and Qamar Qureshi (Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun); and Fabrizio Sergio
(Estacion Biologica de Doñana-CSIC, Spain). The study has been published in
journal Scientific Reports.

By Dr. Aditi Jain

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