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Population of over 100 species of Indian birds on decline, claims first-of-its-kind report

The study, titled State of India’s Birds 2020, states raptors, migratory seabirds & habitat specialist birds were most affected in past decades.

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Bengaluru: A first-of-its-kind report on Indian birds claims that over a hundred species of birds exhibit a decline in the long term and short-term, raising their threat of extinction.

The research titled ‘State of India’s Birds 2020’ (SoIB), put together by over ten institutions and numerous citizen scientists, was released Monday at the ongoing United Nations 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

According to the study, the populations of raptors (eagles, hawks, kites, etc.), migratory seabirds and birds that live in specialised habitats were the most affected in the past decades.

The number of birds in the Western Ghats, which is considered one of the world’s foremost biodiversity hotspots, also declined by almost 75 per cent since 2000.

However, the study did have some good news. Indian Peafowl, the national bird, has shown a dramatic increase in both abundance and distribution across the country. The number of house sparrows has also stabilised nationwide, although there is still a marked decline in their population in cities.  

Also read: Illegal salt mining under scanner for mass death of birds at Rajasthan’s Sambhar Lake

Ten million data entries

The data for these birds was collected through the citizen science app ‘eBird’, which received a record ten million entries by approximately 15,500 citizen scientists. Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology hosts the app, while its India-specific portal is curated and customised by Bird Count India, an informal group of birdwatching enthusiasts, ornithologists, naturalists and conservationists dedicated to documenting Indian birds.

The data was compiled, categorised, and studied by ten research and conservation organisations within the country, spanning both governmental and non-governmental institutions.

“We hope that this information translates into many voices being raised for bird conservation, both among conservation bodies, and the general public,” said Dr Mousumi Ghosh of National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), who was part of the research team, in a statement.

“This assessment of nearly 867 Indian species makes it very clear that our birds are in overall decline, in some cases catastrophically so,” states the report. For the long-term, over 25 years, the data found that 52 per cent of 261 species were projected to decline, while for the short-term, almost 80 per cent of 146 species were on a decline.

It categorises 101 species as ‘High Conservation Concern for India’ and suggests many urgent policy measures to be adopted immediately. For these species, “Conservation action must be taken immediately to identify causes of decline and implement measures to halt and reverse the trend for these species,” the report adds.

319 species are classified under the ‘Moderate Conservation Concern’ category. “These species must be carefully monitored to rapidly detect and act upon signs of continuing decline,” highlights the report.

On the other hand, 126 species, including the peafowl, house sparrow, Asian Koel, rose-ringed parakeet and the common tailorbird, are expected to increase in numbers, primarily due to their ability to survive in human habitats.

Dhananjai Mohan of Wildlife Institute of India said, “Earlier, many conservation decisions pertaining to birds were not based on much evidence; this report helps to bring much-needed data to bear on these issues.”

The institutions that worked on the report are Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Wetlands International South Asia (WI-SA), Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and World Wide Fund for Nature India (WWF-India).

Also read: Human noises create havoc for birds, even prevent them from reproducing, says new study


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