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Telling Numbers: Many birds on decline in India, a few species found thriving

The report has underlined concerns about some bird species and good news about a few other.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: March 3, 2020 8:43:06 am
Telling Numbers: Many birds on decline in India, a few species found thriving The tawny eagle. (Source: Rahul Singh/State of India’s Birds 2020)

The State of India’s Birds 2020 report, the first comprehensive assessment of range, abundance and conservation status of birds in India, has underlined concerns about some bird species and good news about a few others.

Released during CMS COP13, the international conference held recently in Gandhinagar, the report was prepared as a partnership among 10 organisations including the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Institute of India and Nature Biodiversity Authority-India. Much of its data is based on citizen science — information provided by birdwatchers through various platforms.

*5 of the 867 species have been combined

* 867 The number of bird species whose status was assessed. This assessment is based on three indices: long-term trend in abundance (over 25+ years); current annual trend in abundance (last 5 years); and distribution range size.

* 261 The number of species for which long-term trends could be determined. Of these, 52% species have declined since 2000 (with 22% declining strongly), 43% showed a long-term stable trend, and 5% showed an increasing trend.

* 146 The number of species for which current annual trends could be estimated. Nearly 80% are declining (almost 50% declining strongly), 6% are stable and 14% are increasing.

Range: For all but 6 species, range size estimated — moderate sizes for 46% species, large/very large for 33%, restricted/very restricted for 21%.

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Species on long-term decline

Small minivet; common woodshrike; short-toed snake eagle; cotton teal; large cuckooshrike; common greenshank; Rufous-tailed lark, oriental skylark, yellow-fronted pied woodpecker; Indian thick-knee; little pratincole; little stint, Sirkeer malkoha; blue rock thrush, crested treeswift, etc.


House Sparrow

While the house sparrow has been in the news due to concerns about declining populations, with many people reporting seeing fewer sparrows than before, the report cites new analysis to show that the house sparrow has been fairly stable overall during the past 25+ years.

While data do indicate a gradual decline in their abundance in urban centres, the species has an extremely large range across the country. Due to lack of evidence for countrywide decline, it is classified as of low conservation concern, the report says.

Indian peafowl

The national bird since 1963, the species finds itself under the highest level of legal protection, placed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and further amendments. Peafowl are spread across plains and hills of India, except in extremely dry or wet regions. The abundance trend is that of a general increase, both long term and currently.

This trend appears to result from a combination of range expansion (eg into Kerala, where it was formerly absent), and a population increase virtually throughout its distribution.

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