What is common between the Javan tiger, the Western black rhinoceros and the golden toad? All of them are species that became extinct in the past few decades.
The baya weaver bird, however, has been proving fit enough to survive, as Darwin would have put it.
The baya continues to return to a small patch of land near the Sector 10 Metro station in Dwarka each year, thumbing its nose at all human efforts to destroy its natural habitat. Trees have been replaced by concrete and glass jungles, the area has been encroached upon and occupied, and though their numbers have dwindled since they first arrived in 2010, the baya has refused to back down, marking its territory every year with its signature nests adorning the thorny trees in the area.
The number of trees is on a steady decline since 2010. Where there were around 50 full-grown babool trees in the area, there are only about a dozen small ones now. The baya nests have also taken a hit — around 50 nests compared to the 200 in the past. It's a silent war waging, with humans trying to take up way more space than they need, and the baya birds, with dogged determination, returning to nest every year and claiming their space right back.
Nature activists are taking the bird's resilience as a positive sign. Environmental activist and a resident of Sector 22, Diwan Singh, has been working on the revival of water bodies and conservation of animals in the sub-city. “It is really a unique phenomenon to watch. Kids should be taken to field trips to the spot. Nature is best appreciated by experiencing it, not through biology books.”
Diwan advocates the protection and preservation of all living species. He says, “It is sad that we are not serious about protecting nature. I have seen a night shelter adjacent to the baya nests. It should not have even been allowed. Authorities should relocate the shelter as soon as possible. All encroachments need to go as well.” He further says on the subject, “Their natural habitats should be conserved. Water bodies need to be revived and areas around them restored to their natural state.”
Faiyaz A Khudsar is an eminent scientist from CEMDE (Centre for Environment Management of Degraded Ecosystem) and in-charge of Yamuna Biodiversity Park. "I was delighted to hear that there are baya birds in Dwarka. There are four types of Bayas found in India — baya weaver, black throated, streak weaver and fin weaver. The species which are nesting in Dwarka would probably be baya weaver. These birds probably lost their original habitats."
He adds, "Since they have been coming here for the past six years, it must mean that the particular area is conducive to their nesting and breeding."
Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) finds such phenomena rare for any metropolitan city. Centre Manager, BNHS, Delhi, Sohail Madan, says, “The baya colony in Dwarka comes as a surprise. The only baya I have witnessed in Delhi was in Asola Bhati Wild Life Sanctuary. So many nests in such a small patch of land is really unique. I will visit the place this weekend to find out more about them.”
Education Officer, CEC, BNHS, Delhi, Ishtiyak Ahmad says, "We should raise awareness about the baya weaver so we can save the species from extinction."
The baya (Ploceus philippinus) is a weaverbird found across the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia. Best known for its hanging retort-shaped nests woven from leaves, these birds are usually found in grasslands and cultivated areas. These nest colonies are usually found on thorny trees or palm fronds, and the nests are often built near or hanging over water, where predators cannot reach easily. They are widespread and common within their range but are prone to local, seasonal movements, mainly in response to rain and food availability.