101 bird species need ‘high conservation concern’

Prajakta Joshi
Tuesday, 18 February 2020

“The report highlights common species that are declining sharply. These need conservation attention before their numbers reduce further,” said Dr R Jayapal

PUNE: In the first-ever ‘State of India’s Birds’ report that was released on Monday, 101 bird species have been classified in ‘high conservation concern’ category. 

However, peacocks and house sparrows that were observed to be facing decline for the past few years have been noticed to be doing well.

This pioneering report assessed the status of 867 Indian birds using a database of information contributed by 15,000 birdwatchers across the country to the online platform eBird. 

The report utilised citizen science data to assess distribution and trends in abundance of birds that regularly occur in India.

“The report highlights common species that are declining sharply. These need conservation attention before their numbers reduce further,” said Dr R Jayapal of Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON).

As per the ‘State of India’s Birds’ report, the groups of birds that show the greatest decline are raptors, migratory shorebirds, and habitat specialists, among others.

Speaking about how the report will help bring attention from conservation policy, management and funding, Dr Dhananjai Mohan of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) said, “Earlier, many conservation decisions pertaining to birds were not based on much evidence. Now, this report will help bring much-needed data to bear on these issues.”

The analysis indicates 48 per cent of species have remained stable or increasing in the long term, while 79 per cent show decline in the last five years. 

CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
“Worldwide, common and widespread species are declining; but in India, lack of information has meant that conservation attention has been focused on only a few species (usually large, charismatic and threatened),” stated the report. However, it added that citizen participation has played a huge role in filling the gap.

“One of the major takeaways of the report is the importance of citizen science and public participation in the conservation process. This is the first such report assessing the state of birds, which is purely based on data uploaded by birdwatchers,” Ashwin Vishwanathan of Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) said.

Dr Girish Jathar (BNHS) said, “Gathering such information in India is impossible without participation of birdwatchers.”

Vishwanathan said the organisations involved have planned to regularly update information on the State of Birds as that will help conservationists and policy makers to keep a watch if the situation is improving or not.

ORGANISATIONS INVOLVED IN RESEARCH
The report is a collaboration between 10 research and conservation organisations, both governmental and non-governmental: 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-TIFR), 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).

SOME FINDINGS OF THE REPORT
- India’s national bird, the Indian peafowl, has seen a 100 per cent increase over the past decades. 
- The house sparrow was found to be roughly stable across the country as a whole, although declining in the major cities.
- 101 species have been classified as of high conservation concern.
- 319 species are of moderate conservation concern.
- 126 species (out of 867 assessed) appear to be stable or increasing in the long term.

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