Birds cut down by kite flying on Indian Independence Day

In this Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 photo, a pigeon injured by kite strings rests inside a cage at the Charity Birds Hospital in New Delhi, India. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day caused its usual casualties this week, as birds caught by razor-sharp kite strings fell from the sky. Enthusiasts often line the strings of their kites with shards of glass or metal, with the aim of crossing an opponents’ kite strings and cutting it down. The last kite flying wins. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
In this Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 photo, a pigeon injured by a kite string is treated at Charity Birds Hospital in New Delhi, India. “This year there have been about 700 birds in just three days” since Independence Day on Monday, said manager Sunil Kumar Jain. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day caused its usual casualties this week, as birds caught by razor-sharp kite strings fell from the sky. Enthusiasts often line the strings of their kites with shards of glass or metal, with the aim of crossing an opponents’ kite strings and cutting it down. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
In this Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo, a kite seller holds a kite to hand over to a customer on Independence Day in the old quarters of New Delhi, India. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day takes a painful toll on birds that fall victim to their razor-sharp strings. It happens mostly to pigeons but also to crows, eagles and parrots. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
In this Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo, Indians ride motorbikes carrying kites to fly on Independence Day in the old quarters of New Delhi, India. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day takes a painful toll on birds that fall victim to their razor-sharp strings. It happens mostly to pigeons but also to crows, eagles and parrots. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
Rolls of kite strings are displayed for sale in the old quarters of New Delhi, India, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day caused its usual casualties this week, as birds caught by razor-sharp kite strings fell from the sky. Enthusiasts often line the strings of their kites with shards of glass or metal, with the aim of crossing an opponents’ kite strings and cutting it down. The last kite flying wins. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
In this Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo, birds fly among kites on Independence Day in the old quarters of New Delhi, India. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day caused its usual casualties this week, as birds caught by razor-sharp kite strings fell from the sky. Enthusiasts often line the strings of their kites with shards of glass or metal, with the aim of crossing an opponents’ kite strings and cutting it down. The last kite flying wins. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
In this Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 photo, veterinarian Rameshwar Yadav, 51, treats a pigeon injured by kite strings at Charity Birds Hospital in New Delhi, India. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day caused its usual casualties this week, as birds caught by razor-sharp kite strings fell from the sky. “It’s very painful to see your hard work in trying to save a life end in vain,” said Yadav. He takes solace in releasing those that survive into the sky again. “There’s no better feeling than giving them their freedom back.” (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
Rolls of kite strings are displayed for sale in the old quarters of New Delhi, India, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day takes a painful toll on birds that fall victim to their razor-sharp strings. It happens mostly to pigeons but also to crows, eagles and parrots. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
In this Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 photo, an Indian woman brings a parrot injured by kite strings to the Charity Birds Hospital in New Delhi, India. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day caused its usual casualties this week, as birds caught by razor-sharp kite strings fell from the sky. Enthusiasts often line the strings of their kites with shards of glass or metal, with the aim of crossing an opponents’ kite strings and cutting it down. The last kite flying wins. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
In this Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 photo, a helper displays injury caused by kite strings on a pigeon at the Charity Birds Hospital in New Delhi, India. “This year there have been about 700 birds in just three days” since Independence Day on Monday, said manager Sunil Kumar Jain. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day caused its usual casualties this week, as birds caught by razor-sharp kite strings fell from the sky. Enthusiasts often line the strings of their kites with shards of glass or metal, with the aim of crossing an opponents’ kite strings and cutting it down. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
In this Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo, Indians fly kites on rooftops during Independence Day celebrations in the old quarters of New Delhi, India. The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day takes a painful toll on birds that fall victim to their razor-sharp strings. It happens mostly to pigeons but also to crows, eagles and parrots. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

NEW DELHI — The annual tradition of flying kites over the Indian capital on Independence Day takes a painful toll on birds that fall victim to their razor-sharp strings.

Workers at the Charity Birds Hospital see it happen every year — mostly to pigeons but also to crows, eagles and parrots. The wounded populate cages lining the halls of the clinic's emergency ward.

The hospital, set up in the courtyard of the Digamber Jain Temple in the old quarters of New Delhi, relies on donations. It treats birds year-round for injuries they might have sustained in animal attacks or from flying into ceiling fans. But every August, its halls fill with hundreds of fluttering, squawking birds that have been sliced up by kite strings.

"This year there have been about 700 birds in just three days" since Monday, the day before Independence Day, said manager Sunil Kumar Jain. About 15 percent of those have died, he added.

Across the Indian subcontinent, kite flying is popular and competitive. Enthusiasts often line the strings of their kites with shards of glass or metal, with the aim of crossing opponents' kite strings and cutting them down. The last kite flying wins.

The competitions can be dangerous. Last year, three people were killed when kite strings cut their throats, prompting New Delhi to ban the coating of kite strings with glass.

The new rules have not helped the birds at the clinic, some of which arrived with razor-sharp strings still embedded in their flesh.

The deaths weigh on veterinarian Rameshwar Yadav, 51: "It's very painful to see your hard work in trying to save a life end in vain."

He adds, however, that he takes solace in helping the survivors take to the sky again. "There's no better feeling than giving them their freedom back."

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