Decline in migratory birds coming to India: Govt

New Delhi: There has been a decline in the number of migratory birds arriving in India due to habitat loss and wetland pollution, the government today informed Lok Sabha.

“…Except Nordmann’s Greenshank, all other species have been observed to be declining in Asia including in India. The decline in the number of migratory birds is mainly due to hunting, trapping in the migratory routes, habitat destruction, pollution of wetland through domestic sewage, pesticides and fertilizers,” it said in a written reply.

In her reply, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said about 370 species of migratory birds have been reported in India.

“Of these, 175 species undertake long distance migration using the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) area, which includes central Siberia, Mangolia, the Central Asian Republics, Iran, Afghanistan, the Gulf states and Oman and the Indian sub-continent,” she said.

The Minister said select scientific institutions funded by the Central and state governments, state forest departments and NGOs working for wetlands and migratory birds have been monitoring the status of these long distance migratory birds in India.

Quoting the latest ‘Asian Water bird census’ coordinated by the ‘Wetlands International’, Natarajan said, “The populations of threatened migratory birds in the region are either decreasing or stable”.

She said the CAF Action Plan covers 175 species including divers, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, herons, storks, ibises, flamingoes, anatids, cranes, rails, sungrebes, jacanas, crab plovers, oystercatchers, ibis bills, stilts and avocets, pratincoes, plovers, scolopacids, and gulls and terns.

Migratory birds visit most part of the country and are not confined to a few areas.

sources : Zee News

Sparrow shelters bring cheer to bird lovers

MUMBAI: Once a ubiquitous bird, the house sparrow, is gradually disappearing from the city for loss of habitat and nesting sites. On World Sparrow Day last month, various conservationists and bird lovers lamented the drop in the number of sparrows compared to more resilient birds like pigeons and crows. However, there are many Mumbaikars who refuse to let go of the bird so easily. In a bid to ensure that sparrows do not fly out of their neighbourhood, many houses have put have sparrowshelters and feeders. For some it is a way of preserving the disappearing bird in the city, for others it’s sheer joy of having birds for neighbours.

K Munshi, a retired army officer, brought a sparrowshelterin his Kandivali house about eight months ago. It was his love for birds which prompted him to purchase the wooden box for sparrowhomes. As many sparrowcouples made it their home, the shelterbecame part of the family. “I did not want my children to grow up without birds around. It was an attempt to bring birds closer home,” said Munshi. His daughter Tanya said she learnt her lessons in parenting from the sparrowcouples who raised their young ones in shelter. “It was a learning experience to just watch the birds take care of their baby. I was expecting a baby myself and it was inspiring to watch these birds take care of their babies,” she said. “It like having another family around,” she added.

An engineer working and living in the eastern suburbs said that the sparrow shelteradds, in a small way, to nature. “Since I got the sparrow shelter, many of my neighbours also got inspired and put up feeders. Some of them even leave sparrowfood out on the window sill. This has increased the number of sparrowsin the area,” he said. “”Its a small thing, but it keeps the chirruping of the birds alive,”” he added.

Though massive destruction of green patches and new-age urban housing has send sparrowsin search of new habitats, many Mumbaikars are still working to create nesting space for the birds in various neighbourhoods. Sunish Subramanian, a resident of Bhandup, started keeping small water containers for sparrowsnear his window sill. When the birds started flocking the area, he also made a container and kept grains for them.

“Sparrowsneed the right food and a place to nest. If these things are available, they will flourish,” said Subramanian, who also founded the Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS). He has, along with volunteers from schools, has given sparrow shelters to more than 2,000 homes in the area in the last two years.

“You create nests for them, they will come. In Mumbai, there are very few places for sparrowsto make nest,” he said. “Once the birds take up the wooden nest, most people develop an attachment towards them. Only then do they realise what they were missing out on,” he added.

source:timesofindia.indiantimes.com

Colour-banding may help save forest owlets

PUNE: As many as 25 pairs of the critically endangered forest owlet , which is endemic to India, will be colour-banded to study their distribution, population, demography and ecology. City-based Wildlife Research and Conservation Society (WRCS) plans to carry out the project in Melghat and Tadoba tiger reserves, and in Toranmal in Nandurbar district of the state.

The forest owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti)

The forest owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti)

The society would make recommendations to help save the species listed in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act of India, 2002.

Asad Rahmani, director of the Bombay Natural History Society, said the the nesting sites and habitats of the forest owlets must be protected. “This species, of which very few birds are left, is only found in India. With this research, we will be able to understand their ecology better which will help in their conservation.” Rahmani, who has provided the society with guidance in trapping the bird, said individual identification of any species in the wild is always useful for collecting information.

The forest owlet (scientific name Heteroglaux blewitti) is a small-sized (25cm) typical owl, with an almost unspotted crown and heavily banded wings and tail. The bird was considered to be extinct due to lack of authentic records from 1884 till 1997 when it was re-discovered by Pamela Rasmussen and Ben King of the Smithsonian Institute.

“Forest owlets don’t have a roosting habitat. They nest in cavities of trees which makes spotting difficult. Moreover, they don’t have any distinct features to differentiate one from the other,” said executive director Prachi Mehta of WRCS, who will lead the team along with Jayant Kulkarni and field researcher S K Sajan.

One advantage, she added, is that these birds are active during the day. Banding would make it easier to spot and follow them.

In the first phase of the project, a team will capture and mark the birds with differently-coloured bands to ascertain their population and demographic (male: female) size and to study patterns of nesting, breeding and ecological requirements (prey and feeding).

The research has got a thumbs-up from ornithologist Satish Pandey. “Conservation is not possible without scientific observation. More such studies need to be undertaken if we have to understand the dynamics of movement, longevity, pairing patterns and behaviour of fledglings.”

The project, supported by the union department of science and technology and MBZ Species Conservation Fund, follows a survey by the society which reported a heightened risk of loss of the birds’ traditional habitat because of rampant tree-felling and fires.

“Forest Owlets are typically found in teak-dominant forests. However, they were not detected in their historical and natural habitats of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and even eastern Madhya Pradesh, possibly because of an increase in biotic influences and rapid deforestation, which is why it is critical to find and understand the factors for their survival,” said Mehta.

“While tourists and bird-watchers have reported sighting the Forest Owlet, this is the first time that a scientific research is being done on their population. It continues to be on the critically endangered list as, not only are they very few in number, but also because they live in fragmented areas,” said Mehta, adding that the largest chunk was believed to be in the protected Melghat Tiger Reserve in the state.

The society, which has already banded a few of the birds in Madhya Pradesh, hopes to begin the process in Maharashtra by September. “We have got permission from the union ministry of environment and forests and also the state,” Mehta said.

“This kind of work is being done all over the world and should be promoted in India too. For the Forest Owlets, it is all the more important since they are critically endangered. If we have to save them, we need more information about them,” he said.

Pandey has suggested fixing of satellite transmitters on the birds. “The birds have been around, even though they were believed to be extinct. Now that they have been spotted, their study will give a boost to their conservation.”

Pandey is also hopeful that the research will clarify the risk of genetic dilution based on theories of cross breeding of forest owlets with other similar breeds around the Melghat Tiger reserve because very few of them were remaining.

The society works on issues related to conservation of wildlife, forests and biodiversity. Their areas of interest include ecological studies, wildlife population monitoring, human-wildlife interactions, community-oriented conservation initiatives and habitat conservation and restoration.

source : timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Jatinga: Where Birds Commit Suicide

The tranquillity of Jatinga, a scenic village nestling among the Borail Hills range, is shattered every night by a disturbing occurrence – the ‘mass suicide’ of hundreds of birds. Locals have been witnessing the eerie phenomenon from September to November for the last couple of years. As the sun sets, hundreds of birds descend on the village and fly full speed towards buildings and trees, crashing to their deaths. The repeated episodes are confined to a 1.5 km strip of the village.

Image courtesy:Travelatus

Image courtesy:Travelatus

With lush greenery and plentiful freshwater, Jatinga, the headquarters of the Dima Hasao district, some eight kilometres from here, is a resting place for many migratory birds. Haflong is 350 km from Guwahati.

Birds that have been sighted here over the years include the kingfisher, Indian pitta, green breasted pitta, green pigeon, black drongo, racket tailed drongo, whistling ducks, spotted doves, emerald doves, and grey heron. But come September, and the locals brace for the ghastly sight.

Is it really suicide, or something else? “It is not a suicide, to be precise. But the fact remains that birds are attracted by light and fly towards any object with a light source. This phenomenon still puzzles bird specialists,” said Anwaruddin Choudhury, a well-known ornithologist in Assam, on the sidelines of the First International Jatinga Festival.

The ‘suicide’, however, is just a part of the mystery. The more baffling question is why birds fly after sunset at all, as reserach shows that most birds are diurnal, that is, active only during the day.

The late Salim Ali, the country’s pre-eminent ornithologist, too was struck by this oddity. “The most puzzling thing to me about this phenomenon is that so many species of diurnal resident birds should be on the move when, by definition, they should be fast asleep. The problem deserves a deeper scientific study from various angels,” he had written.

Jatinga was originally inhabited by the Zeme Nagas, who came across the bird phenomenon while guarding their paddy fields on a moonless, dark night. Frightened, the Nagas sold the land to Jaintias and left the place way back in 1905.

Jaintias, the new inhabitants of Jatinga, also witnessed the phenomenon but interpreted it as a gift from the gods. “The phenomenon has generated tremendous interest in wildlife circles across the world and has made Jatinga world famous,” Brahma said.

The earliest reference to this phenomenon was made by E.P. Gee, a British tea planter in his book “Wild Life of India” in 1957. The Zoological Survey of India had sent a team to visit the place in 1977. Later, leading ornithologists from Europe, the US and Japan too studied the mystery. However, no case of migratory birds plunging to their deaths has been recorded yet.

Some bird specialists attribute the phenomenon to the electro-magnetic forces of Jatinga, which is surrounded by geographical faultlines all round. But no conclusive evidence has emerged till now. The deaths, though perplexing, are not mourned. Locals are quick to trap the birds using bamboo sticks, which are then consumed with relish.

Those desiring a first-hand experience of the phenomenon can visit Haflong – with Silchar (110 km) and Guwahati (350 km) being the two nearest airports. If travelling by train, board a broad gauge train from Guwahati till Lumding, from where another meter-gauge train will take you to Haflong. The route from Lumding to Haflong passes through many tunnels and it is an exciting journey somewhat resembling the Kalka-Shimla track. By road, it takes around 10-11 hours as you have to negotiate bumpy roads.

source : indiatimes.com

Survey confirms sparrow decline in cities

Indian sparrow

Indian sparrow

A survey has confirmed for the first time the widely believed theory that rapid urbanisation has taken a toll on the population of tiny sparrows in the cities all over the country.

The Bombay Natural History Society with support from the Ministry of Environment and Forests had launched an online survey last year inviting inputs from bird lovers to document the decline in population and distribution of sparrows.

Titled “Citizen Sparrow”, the survey found that the once-ubiquitous sparrows are now seen in fewer places than in 2005.

“Where they are still found, the numbers are lower than earlier observed and fewer nests are seen as well. This suggests sparrows have indeed declined and the low number of nests might mean that they are continuing to decline,” said the report.

Sparrows are the most widely-distributed birds in the world. They nest in urban or rural settings wherever they find human habitation.

Stating that factors such as types of human dwellings, eating and living habits of the people and land-use could be impacting the availability of shelter and food for the sparrows, the report indicates that the lifestyles of people of rural and semi-urban areas seem to be more conducive for the survival of the birds.

More people reported sparrows in towns and villages than in big cities.

Moreover, there were twice as many reports of large flocks of sparrows being seen in towns and villages as in cities.

Among the cities, Mumbai came out on top of the sparrow charts, with many more people reporting sparrow presence than they did from Bengaluru and Chennai, where a much larger percentage of participants said that the bird was not found at all in their localities.

Coimbatore and Pune were next after Mumbai. Hyderabad and Delhi were intermediate in reports of sparrow sighting.

According to the report, sparrows seem to be doing comparatively better in the northeastern states such as Assam and central India including Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

More than 5,700 bird lovers from across the country had participated in the online survey on http://www.citizensparrow.in.

Interestingly, the oldest participant was a 91-year-old and the youngest a seven, both from Pune.

source : dnaindia.com

‘Shift focus on endangered birds on World Sparrow Day’

Three Tamil books on birds that were released recently

Three Tamil books on birds that were released recently

Over the past few years, there has been this perception that house sparrows are in the verge of extinction due to various reasons, more importantly radiation from mobile phone towers. Even ‘tailor-made nests’ were sold as part of efforts to conserve sparrows. However, this resulted in shift of focus bird species that are actually endangered.

At this juncture, three books, Chittu – Kuruvigalin Vaazhvum Veezhchiyum, Paravaigal and Adho Andha Paravai Pola, that speak about bird-watching, ornithology and the myths surrounding World Sparrow Day.

The book Chittu – Kuruvigalin Vaazhvum Veezhchiyum, authored by well-known environment writer Adhi Valliappan and published by Thadaagam publishers, contains complete information about house sparrows. ‘Only adult sparrows take cereals as food; sparrows build nest only for laying eggs; sparrows come under Schedule 4 of the Wildlife Protection Act,’ these are some of the interesting facts mentioned in the book.

Speaking to City Express, Adhi Valliappan said, “It was at a young age that I developed a bond with sparrows. Today, we are not able to see sparrows in the city because urban environment is deteriorating. There is no scientific evidence for the allegation that sparrows are becoming extinct because of radiation from cellphone towers.”

The book Paravaigal by P Jeganathan, a scientist with Nature Conservation Foundation, along with Asaithambi, published by Cre-A Pathippagam, is the first-of-its-kind pocket-sized field guide with pictures and information about birds.

The authors have given details of 88 species of birds, commonly seen in Tamil Nadu, in the book that serves as a basic field guide for the beginners of bird-watching. The book says that the Swiftlet bird builds its nest using saliva, while the Asian Koel doesn’t build its own nest. It also has the information that the Common Emerald Dove is the State bird.

“If an individual is unable to see a bird anywhere in his surroundings, it doesn’t mean that the particular bird species has gone extinct,” claims P Jeganathan, who is also behind the creation of the ‘citizen sparrow’ website to record the presence or absence of sparrows in a locality.

He says, “Without long term research, we cannot conclude that the particular bird species is extinct. Through our website, it is made clear that sparrows still exist in different parts of the country and that too in large numbers. So, we need not to worry about sparrows. It is important to shift our focus to other bird species like Vulture and the Great Indian Bustard, which are really in the red list. If one really wants to conserve birds, then bird-watching will be the first step one can undertake. In Tamil Nadu, there is no proper literature to deal with this subject and hence we published this pocket-sized field guide.”

The third book Adho Andha Paravai Pola deals with Ornithology. It has been penned by S Mohammed Ali, a renowned naturalist, and published by Thadaagam.

The book contains information such as how there are eight sky routes used by migratory birds. Bar Headed Goose, the migratory bird of the Indian sub-continent is the only bird which flies at an altitude of 25,000 ft, is among other interesting details found in the book.

S Mohammed Ali said, “Due to change in our lifestyle, not only sparrows, every other bird species are affected. For instance, Great Indian Bustard can be seen commonly in grasslands. But there are no grasslands now as we have turned them all into concrete structures. Yellow-throated Bulbul is an endemic species, which can be seen only in southern parts of India, and its count will be anywhere close to 100 or 120. It is in the verge of extinction. There are around 1,400 bird species in India and around 60 per cent of them are endangered. In this context, observing World Sparrow Day must be observed symbolically and the focus should be on saving other species.”

When asked why there are limited number of books on Ornithology in Tamil, he said it was due to lack of scientific temper.

sources : newindianexpress.com