Fourteen bird species in Maharashtra are at ‘high conservation risk’ while 12 unique to the Western Ghats have shown a steep long-term decline, says the State of India’s Bird 2020 report, which was released on Monday in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
The report assesses the status of 867 Indian birds using a massive database of information contributed by at least 15,500 birdwatchers from across the country and has used ‘citizen science data’ to assess the distribution and trends in abundance of birds that regularly occur in the country. It has flagged 101 bird species across the country to be at high risk.
The analysis indicates that 48 per cent of species across the country have remained stable or are increasing in the long term, while 79 per cent have declined in the last five years. Of these, 14 bird species — the broad-tailed grassbird, forest owlet, Tytler’s leaf warbler, great knot, Nilgiri wood pigeon, green munia, yellow-fronted pied woodpecker, common pochard, woolly-necked stork, short-toed snake eagle, small minivet, rufous-fronted prinia, common woodshrike and crested treeswift — all in Maharashtra, were identified as key species of the most conservation concern.
According to the report, 12 species unique to the Western Ghats are 75 per cent lower in their abundance index today than 20 years ago. Abundance index is the average number of birds one would see in a series of randomly chosen areas at random times.
“This is worrying because these long-term declines are shown even by many common species like Crimson-backed Sunbird and Yellow-browed Bulbul,” read the report. The 12 bird species unique to the Western Ghats are Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Barbet, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Woodshrike, White-bellied Treepie, Nilgiri Flowerpecker, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Flame-throated Bulbul, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Dark-fronted Babbler, Yellow-browed Bulbul and Square-tailed Bulbul
The report also highlights the threat to habitat, ecosystems and its impact on bird species and identifies species that are high in conservation concern and ones that are doing relatively well.
The report says that sky island ecosystems face a number of threats, placing many of these charismatic endemic species at risk. For instance, over the past century, shola grasslands in the central and southern Western Ghats have been extensively replaced by tea plantations and stands of exotic species like Eucalyptus and wattle (now naturally expanding further into grasslands), leaving very little habitat for grassland specialist species. The Nilgiri Pipit, Broad-tailed Grassbird and an endemic subspecies of Golden-headed Cisticola are almost entirely restricted to shola grasslands.
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