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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Explained: Why fewer birds are migrating to Chandigarh

What are the probable reasons behind the decline number of birds in/around Chandigarh wetlands? What are the local reasons for disturbances at local water bodies? What steps have been taken in Chandigarh to help migratory birds?

Written by Saurabh Parashar | Chandigarh |
Updated: April 5, 2021 7:49:14 am
Migratory birds. File

As our avian guests from Siberia start leaving for their homeland far away, it is the time to think about several unanswered questions including why their number is decreasing each passing year. The Indian Express explains why this might be so.

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What are the findings of bird census conducted by Chandigarh Bird Club (CBC)?

CBC conducts bird count focusing on waterfowl twice in a year. First in February when the migratory birds were all set to leave for their homelands and second in November, when the arrival of migratory birds is considered to be completed. The November census carries more weightage. The November census suggested 98 species in 2018, 91 species in 2017, 86 species in 2019, and 77 species in 2020 respectively. In February, 2021, 27 bird species of waterfowl were spotted while the total count of birds was 368. In the 2020 bird race, 28 species were spotted and total bird count was 734. In the 2018 bird race, 31 waterfowl species were observed, with the total bird count being 850.

What are the probable reasons behind the decline number of birds in/around Chandigarh wetlands?

“Chandigarh hosts a large number of latitudinal migrants in the winter from Siberia. Some of the common species are Graylag Goose, Bar-headed Goose, Northern Shoveller, common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Black-tailed Godwit Ruddy Shell Ducks etc. Sadly, count of these birds decreasing. Migratory birds can be divided in two categories- Ducks and Waders (shorebirds). A majority of migratory birds prefer to stay around shallow water bodies for easy availability of food. Though this time we included waterbodies situated in Mohali assuming that birds can be shifted from Sukhna Lake to these bodies, the findings were not encouraging. Number of waders is decreasing largely,” said Rima Dhillon, Secretary, CBC, said.

“Increasing human footprints, disturbance, especially around the specific habitats for the migratory birds like regulatory ends of Sukhna Lake, along with increasing water level of water bodies are among major reasons for this trend,” said Amandeep Singh Channa, a CBC member.

What are the local reasons for disturbances at local water bodies?

Contractual fishing, cultivation of water chestnuts at certain water bodies, unregulated human activities are among other reasons behind the disturbance in the habitats of birds. “Villagers of Mote Majra allowed contractual fishing, cultivation of water chestnuts in Mote Majra water body. It causes a lot of disturbance for the birds including migratory/residentials,” said birder Tilakraj Sharma. The Mote Majra pond is spread in 32 acres land. It is one of the biggest ponds available in Punjab.

Sharma said the increasing water level in Sukhna Lake is also a matter of concern. A majority of waterfowl especially migratory birds prefer shallow water bodies for easy availability of food. Contractual fishermen do not allow Cormorants to settle, as waterfowl largely depend on fishes which affects their business.

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Is bird count declining globally?

Chandigarh based naturalist, Lt Gen Baljeet Singh (Rtd), said, “There are two aspects of this trend. First: We have been failing to provide adequate atmosphere to migratory birds every year. Second: The population of birds is falling everywhere including the native countries of these species.”

Rima Dhillon says, “The water bodies in our area, including Sukhna Lake, Mote Majra, Siswan Dam, host Siberian migratory birds. The change in the pattern of cropping around the breeding grounds of these birds is also one of the reasons why numbers are declining here. Birds prefer to shift from one place to another in the search of food. If food is available to them near their breeding grounds, they do not prefer to cover huge distance.”

What steps have been taken in Chandigarh to help migratory birds?

Sukhna Lake, Dhanas Lake, a small pond converted into a lake, falls in the Inter State Chandigarh Region (ISCR) involving certain parts of neighboring states Himachal, Haryana, and Punjab. The include Chapper Chiri, Motemajra, Saketri, Sukhna Lake forest area, Nagar Van, Regulatory Ends of Sukhna Lake, Kansal, Mirzapur Dam, Patiali Ki Rao and Siswan Dam.

Efforts are being made to make these water bodies a safe zone for migratory birds.

Recently, the local administration made small floating platforms, which will allow birds to find a safe place in the water. Two new shallow water bodies in the adjoining Nagar Van were also created. In December, 2014, Sukhna Lake was declared a Bird-Flu hit zone. Around 70 geese were culled after one duck tested with the H5N1virus. Since then, the Chandigarh Wildlife and Forest department stopped the practice of rearing domestic waterfowl at Sukhna Lake.

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