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Biodiversity & Environment

State of India’s Birds 2023 Report

  • 29 Aug 2023
  • 9 min read

For Prelims: State of India’s Birds 2023 Report, IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), Western Ghats, Asian Koel, Migratory Birds, Climate Change.

For Mains: State of India’s Birds 2023 Report.

Source: IE

Why in News?

Recently, the State of India’s Birds (SoIB) 2023 was released, which highlighted that despite thriving a few bird species, there is a substantial decline in numerous bird species.

What are the Methodologies Used in the Report?

  • This report is based on data collected from approximately 30,000 birdwatchers.
  • The report relies on three primary indices to assess bird populations,
    • Long-term trend (change over 30 years)
    • Current annual trend (change over the past seven years)
    • Distribution range size within India
      • Among the 942 bird species assessed, the report indicates that many could not have their long-term or current trends accurately established.

What are the Key Highlights of the Report?

  • Status:
    • For the 338 species with identified long-term trends, 60% have experienced declines, 29% are stable, and 11% have shown increases.
    • Among the 359 species with determined current annual trends, 39% are declining, 18% are rapidly declining, 53% are stable, and 8% are increasing.
  • Positive Trends: Increasing Bird Species:
    • Despite the general decline, there are some positive trends among certain bird species.
      • The Indian Peafowl, for instance, the national bird of India, is showing a remarkable increase in both abundance and distribution.
        • This species has expanded its range into new habitats, including high-altitude Himalayan regions and rainforests in the Western Ghats.
      • The Asian Koel, House Crow, Rock Pigeon, and Alexandrine Parakeet are also highlighted as species that have demonstrated a notable increase in abundance since the year 2000.
  • Specialist Birds:
    • Bird species that are “specialists’’ – restricted to narrow habitats like wetlands, rainforests, and grasslands, as opposed to species that can inhabit a wide range of habitats such as plantations and agricultural fields – are rapidly declining.
    • The “generalist’’ birds that can live in multiple habitat types are doing well as a group.
      • “Specialists, however, are more threatened than generalists.
      • Grassland specialists have declined by more than 50%.
    • Birds that are woodland specialists (forests or plantations) have also declined more than generalists, indicating a need to conserve natural forest habitats so that they provide habitat to specialists.
  • Migrant and Resident Birds:
    • Migratory Birds, especially long-distance migrants from Eurasia and the Arctic, have experienced significant declines by more than 50% – followed by short-distance migrants.
    • Shorebirds that breed in the Arctic have been particularly affected, declining by close to 80%.
    • By contrast, resident species as a group have remained much more stable..
  • Diet and Decline Patterns:
    • Dietary requirements of birds have also shown up in abundance trends. Birds that feed on vertebrates and carrion have declined the most.
      • Vultures were nearly driven to extinction by consuming carcasses contaminated with diclofenac.
    • White-rumped Vultures, Indian Vultures, and Red-headed Vultures have suffered the maximum long-term declines (98%, 95%, and 91%, respectively).
  • Endemic and Waterbird Declines:
    • Endemic species, unique to the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot, have experienced rapid declines.
      • Of India's 232 endemic species, many are inhabitants of rainforests, and their decline raises concerns about habitat preservation.
    • Ducks, both resident and migratory, are declining, with certain species like the Baer’s Pochard, Common Pochard, and Andaman Teal being particularly vulnerable.
    • Riverine sandbar-nesting birds are also declining due to multiple pressures on rivers.
  • Major Threats:
    • The report highlighted several major threats – including Forest Degradation, urbanization, and energy infrastructure – that bird species face across the country.
    • Environmental pollutants including veterinary drugs such as nimesulide still threaten vulture populations in India.
    • Impacts of Climate Change (such as on migratory species), avian disease, and illegal hunting and trade are also among the major threats.
  • Other Species:
    • Sarus Crane has rapidly declined over the long term and continues to do so.
    • Of the 11 species of woodpeckers for which clear long-term trends could be obtained, seven appear stable, two are declining, and two are in rapid decline.
      • The Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, inhabiting widespread thorn and scrub forests, has declined by more than 70% in the past three decades.
    • While half of all bustards worldwide are threatened, the three species that breed in India – the Great Indian Bustard, the Lesser Florican, and the Bengal Florican – have been found to be most vulnerable.

What are the Recommendations?

  • There is a need to conserve specific groups of birds. For instance, the report found that grassland specialists have declined by more than 50% – indicating the importance of protecting and maintaining grassland ecosystems.
  • Systematic monitoring of bird populations over long periods of time is critical to understanding small-scale changes in bird populations.
  • It is becoming clearer the need for more research to understand the reasons behind the declines or increases.
  • The report's findings emphasize the importance of habitat preservation, addressing pollution, and understanding the dietary requirements of birds in order to reverse the decline of bird populations and ensure a healthier ecosystem.

What Can be done to Ensure the Viable Population of the Birds in the Ecosystem?

  • Habitat Conservation and Restoration:
    • Protect and preserve natural habitats, such as forests, wetlands, grasslands, and coastal areas, that are essential for birds' nesting, feeding, and breeding.
    • Restore degraded habitats by planting native vegetation and removing invasive species that can threaten bird populations.
  • Protected Areas and Reserves:
    • Establish and manage protected areas and wildlife reserves where birds can thrive without human disturbances.
    • Implement regulations and guidelines to prevent habitat destruction and disturbances in these areas.
  • Reducing Pollution:
    • Control pollution sources, including air and water pollution, that can harm bird populations directly or through the contamination of their food sources.
    • Promote sustainable practices to minimize pollution in urban and industrial areas.
  • Mitigating Climate Change:
    • Address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable energy sources.
    • Support habitat corridors that allow birds to move and adapt to changing climatic conditions.
  • Limiting Human Disturbances:
    • Educate the public about the importance of minimizing disturbances to nesting and feeding sites, particularly during breeding seasons.
    • Establish buffer zones around sensitive bird habitats to reduce human interference.

What Measures Have Been Taken to Safeguard Different Bird Species?

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