While the number of bird species in the city has only marginally declined this year, the quality of the bird habitats has got ornithologists worried. According to them, birds are now inhabiting extremely polluted and filthy areas in the financial capital. Data obtained from the Mumbai Bird Race conducted on Sunday across an almost 6,000 sqkm area, extending through the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and up to Malshej Ghat, reveals that the number of bird species in the region reduced from 239 in 2017 to 236 this year.
“Rather than the decline in the bird species what is more disturbing is the qualitative decline of the bird habitats. The birds today inhabit such areas where we will not expect to see them. The birds are being disturbed in their habitat and development activities are further polluting them,” said Sunjoy Monga, naturalist writer and the founder of the Bird Race. Bird watchers travelled up to the northern ends of Vasai-Virar, to the Phansad Sanctuary in the south and even to Matheran and adjoining tracts.
According to him, the grasslands and wetlands are the most impacted and troubled landscapes. “We have concentrated all our conservation efforts on the forest land as we know it is in danger. But the wetlands also need equal efforts as it is getting destroyed for many development projects. At the same time the conservation work for the forests is also not showing great results as many of the bird species found in forests are also declining,” he added.
The data shows that no quail species were sighted for the second year in a row. Also the bird watchers did not sight any Red Spurfowl or Peafowl this year and also sighted two Grey Junglefowl. Among the wetland species, there was very low sightings of the wagtails, a once widespread group of animated birds.
“The government needs to reserve some areas where the bird population can live completely undisturbed. With development works coming up everywhere their habitats are most impacted,” added Monga.
Among the rare species which were spotted during this Bird Race were Black Stork, Caspian Tern, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Spotted Crake and Vernal Hanging-parakeet. The most sighted birds were the House Crow, Little Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Common Tailorbird, Black Kite, Blue Rock Pigeon and House Sparrow.