She is not an ornithologist, neither is she associated with any bird-lovers’ group. She has no formal training for treating injured fledglings. Yet Pratima Bhattacharya, 60, a homemaker in a
village in West Bengal’s Howrah district, has saved at least three dozen fledglings since her childhood and set them free once they are old enough. At present, this unsung heroine or bird saviour is nurturing two red-vented bulbuls for the last three months and waiting to set them free in the nature.
“In the middle of July this year, during a storm, three red-vented bulbul fledglings fell from a tree near my house in Nibra. They sustained injuries from the fall. I brought them home and gave them food and water. The three started growing and learnt to fly. One of them has already flown away. But the other two are still with me. I do not keep them captive, but they don’t want to fly away,” said Pratima. She added that she would feel relieved only when the birds returned to their natural habitat.
Pratima had even taken the baby birds to the local veterinary clinic and administered medicines. “I noticed that the fledglings could not sit on their own. So I took advice from veterinarian and administered medicine. Now they can fly and sit with ease,” Pratima said.
But this was not the first time, Pratima is naturally inclined to rescue any birds or fledglings in danger. “Since my childhood I have rescued several fledglings and set them free after nurturing and treating them. One such bird that I had named ‘Buli’ had lived with me for nearly a year before suddenly returning to nature. The bird was male and returned every evening with its girlfriend, stayed with me for an hour and then flew away,” Pratima said laughing.
There is a lot of greenery around Pratima’s house that is home to plenty of birds and animals. People in Nibra know Pratima for her ability to nurture fledglings. Naturally, whenever they find any injured birds or fledglings, they take them to Pratima.
Not only birds, other untamed animals also feel comfortable at home at the company of Pratima. Often squirrels come to Pratima and eat from her hand without fear. “A rodent that lived near our house, often ate from my mother’s hands. This is particularly surprising because rodents are afraid of human touch,” said Pratima’s son Anup.
Pratima was born and brought up in Howrah’s Mourigram amidst greenery. Her father was a farmer and would teach her to love nature. “Every year after each Nor’ester, many fledglings would fall from the trees and I would bring them home to treat them and set them free when they were old,” said Pratima.