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Waterbirds flocking to city despite adverse conditions

This winter, Delhi's wetlands saw an unusually high number of migratory birds from far-off continents.

delhi Updated: Feb 14, 2011 01:44 IST
Avishek G Dastidar

This winter, Delhi's wetlands saw an unusually high number of migratory birds from far-off continents.

The Delhi chapter of the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) found that the number of these long-distance migratory birds has increased and in many cased trebled, compared to the last couple of years, even while the conditions of the city's prime wetlands has constantly gone down the hill.

Bird watchers this winter sighted the leucistic Coot for the first time in India—and the third time in the world—and a host of other rare birds like the Little Blue Kingfisher and Blacktail Godwit after many years.

“Overall, the waterbird population is in distress because of what pollution and human interference has done to the Yamuna and the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. However, many of these long-distance migrants have flocked in hundreds this year,” said birdwatcher TK Roy, who is the Delhi coordinator of the AWC.

Exotic birds like the Greylag Geese have risen to 476 from last year’s number of 411 while the Common Teals have increased to 387 from 184.

The numbers of both the Blackheaded and Brownheaded Gulls too have grown to 752 from just 345 last winter, while the Northern Shovelers have seen a nearly seven times increase. Common Coots have increased about 10 times in number, from 231 to 1,838, this year. Birds like the Black Tailed Godwit, not sighted last year, were a healthy 142 even though only 54 Eurasian Spoon Bills arrived in Delhi.

Even though the poor condition of the Capital's wetlands has taken a toll on the number of their resident bird species over the years, the census found that some of the local species have had a marginal, though increased, count. The population of birds like the Great Cormorant, Intermediate Egret, Grey Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Common Moorhen and Purple Swamphen, migratory birds that made Delhi their home years ago, has increased.

According to the AWC analysis, as the climatic conditions in other continents witness change, however marginal, these sensitive winged visitors will flock more to other countries in search of a habitat.

“Many of Delhi's wetlands have not been able to host these birds due to an increase in their water content as most of these birds like to walk in marshes,” Roy said.

And that is why, some of the prominent exotic birds like the Great White pelican, Comb Duck, Mallard, Asian Open-Billed Stork, Black Stork, and Black Neck Stork have not been visiting Delhi in the past two years, the census noted.