State of India’s Birds 2023: Birds of Prey, Migratory Shorebirds & Ducks Have Declined The Most

On an assessment based on 30 million field observations from 30,000 bird watchers, the second edition of State of India’s Birds report was launched on August 25 in New Delhi. It highlighted that there are over 204 species declining in the past three decades.

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State of India’s Birds 2023: Birds of Prey, Migratory Shorebirds & Ducks Have Declined The Most

The report highlighted that 204 species of birds have been declining in the past three decades while the population of 217 species is stable or is increasing in the last eight years.

After a gap of three years, the second edition of State of India’s Birds report was published today, on August 25. The report assessed 942 species of birds and found that populations of raptors, migratory shorebirds, and ducks are on the sharpest decline in the country.

The report was based on contributions of 30 million observations by 30,000 birdwatchers which were analysed for trends and distribution across India. The report is the result of a partnership of 13 premier institutions of the country — six government institutions and seven conservation NGOs, together with a number of independent professionals, its press statement mentioned.

It highlighted that 204 species of birds have been declining in the past three decades while the population of 217 species is stable or is increasing in the last eight years. It also concluded that birds that live in key habitats like open ecosystems, rivers, and coasts have declined.

“The State of India’s birds report is an outcome of observation records contributed by a large number of birdwatchers across India. This augurs well for citizen participation and is an important contributor towards biodiversity conservation. Following this report, the next step should be an action plan for conservation of bird populations and habitats,” Ravi Singh, secretary general and chief executive officer of World Wide Fund India, was quoted in the press statement.

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Further, the report has classified 178 species, including Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Common Teal, Tufted Duck, Greater Flamingo, Sarus Crane, Indian Courser and Andaman Serpent Eagle to be of 'high conservation priority'.

It maintained that the generalist species of birds like feral Rock Pigeon, Ashy Prinia, Asian Koel and Indian Peafowl are doing very well. Other common species like the Baya Weaver and Pied Bushchat are relatively stable.

Manoj Nair, a senior official in the Indian Forest Service said at the launch of the report, “Forest department and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change control a major part of the country. They are the primary stakeholder. There should be capacity building of frontline forest staff by enabling them to actually get hooked to birding. It has to be passion-driven. Outreach and education is also important”.

A key takeaway from the report for the research community was highlighted by Pia Sethi, ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and forestry.

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“Insectivores and raptors are declining and we don’t know the reason. It is poorly understood. Wealth of information is there but it is important for us to understand it, see what are the ecological factors. Birds should be important for us and we need to reflect and bring about a change in the atmosphere which encourages science because we can’t talk about protection and conservation unless we are able to do that kind of research,” Sethi said.

Threats to birds in open habitats

According to the report, birds that are present in the open habitats have to majorly face two categories of threats — from conversion of open to closed habitat, and those that ‘directly cause mortality and lower survival’.

“The ‘openness’ of open habitats is severely compromised by the spread of invasive, drought tolerant woody plants, as well as wind turbines and power lines. Another threat to ‘openness’ is the concept of planting woody species—native and non-native. In the high altitude grasslands of the Western Ghats, some planted exotic trees like Wattle are now invasive, threatening the future of birds like Nilgiri Pipit,” the report underlined.

Further it mentioned, “Birds of these habitats also face many direct threats to survival, including those from energy infrastructure such as power lines and wind turbines. Ground-nesting birds, characteristic of open habitats, are vulnerable to predation by free-ranging dogs and other human-subsidised predators”.

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Also, according to the report, “The decline of riverine sandbar-nesting birds is attributed to widespread pressures on rivers from irrigation schemes, transportation, human disturbance, domestic use, and pollution from agricultural and industrial chemicals”.

Threats to coastal birds

The report stated that the major threats to shorebirds in India include habitat degradation, changes in land use, blocking of river mouths, aquaculture, and non-conventional salt production and illegal killing.

Habitat loss and degradation is also one of the major problems that has been mentioned in the report for the key sites for shorebirds.

“Some crucial shorebird habitats like Pulicat Lake, Gulf of Khambhat and Gulf of Kachchh, Thane Creek and adjoining mudflats in Mumbai, and Pallikaranai Marsh in Chennai are under threat of encroachment,” it added

Threats to birds of prey

The report underlined that most raptors are at the top of the food chain, and their populations depend on the quality and quantity of their food.

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“Declines of harriers in their breeding range in Europe, for example, are attributed to lowered survival due to pesticide accumulation in their prey (among other reasons),” it noted.

The threats mentioned about vultures stated that diclofenac and other veterinary drugs remain a major threat to vultures even today.

“The ban reduced, but did not eliminate, the usage of diclofenac. A small percentage of livestock carcasses (1–5% depending on the State still contained traces of this deadly drug many years after the ban,” it mentioned.

“The hunting poses a substantial threat to Great Hornbill, Rufous Necked Hornbill, and Wreathed Hornbill in parts of the eastern Himalaya. These species are targeted for meat as well as their casque and feathers, which are used as adornments by indigenous communities,” the report added.

#environment #forest #habitats #birds 

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