Salim around the Society's collection of stuffed birds.Millard lent Salim a few books including Eha's Common birds of Bombay, encouraged Salim to make a collection of birds and offered to train him in skinning and preservation. Millard also introduced young Salim to (later Sir) Norman Boyd Kinnear, the first paid curator at the BNHS, who later provided help from the British Museum. In his autobiography, The Fall of a Sparrow, Ali notes the yellow-throated sparrow event as the turning point of his life that led him into ornithology, an unusual career choice, especially for an Indian in those days. Even at around 10 years of age, he maintained a diary and among his earliest bird notes included observations on the replacement of the males in paired hen sparrows after he shot down the males. He noted that male partner of a female sparrow was replaced soon after he had shot the previous male.His early interest was in books on hunting in India and he became interested in sport-shooting, encouraged by the hunting interests of his foster-father Amiruddin. Shooting contests were often held in the neighbourhood in which he grew and among his playmates was Iskandar Mirza, a distant cousin who was a particularly good marksman and who went on in later life to become the first President of Pakistan.