Joseph Sekar is a camera mechanic by profession. More widely known as the 'Birdman of Chennai' in the city, Joseph is a host to thousands of parakeets who visit him every day. For the past 11 years, the 63-year-old has been spending half of his daily income to feed his feathered friends.
A resident of Chennai's Royapettah area, Joseph diligently puts out 30 kilos of rice on top of his terrace, attracting upto 8,000 birds daily. His mission of feeding birds started years ago during the times of tsunami. Joseph used to put some rice grains and water for squirrels and sparrows to feed on. However, during tsunami, a pair of ring-necked parakeets, a once near-extinct species, started arriving his terrace.
Realising the need to feed the distressed birds, Joseph took it upon himself to ensure that there is more food. He started arranging wooden planks on his terrace and serving rice on them every day during the morning and evening hours. Soon, thousands of parakeets made his roof their pit stop, feeding on the food provided. The birds would arrive, peck on their food, and leave.
In 2015, when the floods hit the city of Chennai, the number of visitors arriving Joseph rose again. While his terrace could accommodate up-to 3,000 parakeets, over 5,000 birds started visiting him. "On a normal day I would have to clean the terrace twice after the birds leave as the rice would be spilt on the ground. But during the rains I would have to clean the place at least five times so that the rice did not get washed away," Joseph told The News Minute.
The ring-necked parakeets, once rarely spotted in the city, now fill the Royapettah sky every day. Speaking about their food preferences Sekar told The Hindu, "They take offered fruits, but prefer grains because the latter can be fed on faster. Against a backdrop of vehicular movement and noise, their instinct for self-preservation is highly active and they are keen to have their fill as quickly as possible and move on."