Ornithologists are trained to study the bird physiology, bird anatomy, patterns of bird migration, bird ecology and come up with ways to save birds.
Apart from conducting routine research activities to ensure survival of birds and detect possible threats of environmental changes to their lives, ornithologists also work with windmill farms, airport authorities and wildlife departments to examine the impact of windmills, airplanes and diseases in birds, respectively.
The growing level of air pollution in the country calls for a thorough study of threats it poses to the life of birds. “Air pollution would have a lot of impact on birds. But it is just one of the environmental problems that affect birds. Any ecological change can have a direct impact on the birds,” says Dr PA Azeez, director, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, (SACON), Coimbatore.
“As several birds start moving away from highly polluted areas, the nature of flight of birds is an indicator of level of air pollution going up. Ornithologists can play a key role in detecting the level of air pollution by studying the movement of birds,” Azeez adds.
At windmill farms, for instance, there is a huge demand for ornithologists. Risks for birds exist over there as there is a high possibility of birds colliding with the blades. Ornithologists perform an environment impact assessment on birds before the setting up any windmill farm.
“Windmills work through the day and night. We need to visit the place several times during the day during each season for a year to study bird activity. We make a complete statistical analysis of anything which affects birds due to the wind farms. At times 24 hours are spent studying bird activity in the area,” says Ruta Bandiwadekar, a practicing ornithologist and a wildlife veterinarian.
Birds collide with airplanes and the growth of the private airline industry in India has meant an increased number of flights. This brings in more intruders in the stratospheric layer, the zone for birds.
“Ornithologists can advise airport authorities on means to prevent bird collision and prevent wildlife hazard management,” says Dr Satish Pande, ornithologist and director Ela Foundation,a non-governmental organisation focussed on education and conservation of nature. Ornithologists also have a big role to play in detection of flu in birds.
There is no masters degree available in ornithology, in India as of now. SACON is mulling the launch of an MSc in ornithology.