Fewer sightings, locales mark Bird Day this year in Delhi
At 253, last year’s count was higher than this year’s, while the highest tally of 268 bird species was recorded in 2017
A total of 234 species of birds were spotted across Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) as part of this year’s Big Bird Day (BBD) count on February 4, the organisers said on Saturday as they released the official results, which showed at least 15 rare species to have been sighted.
At 253, last year’s count was higher than this year’s. The highest tally --- of 268 bird species --- was recorded in 2017.
“A total of 40 locations were covered this year. There was an overall drop in bird density. However, there was no dearth in diversity,” said Nikhil Devasar, one of the organisers of the annual bird count, which is organised in February every year. Last year, birders covered 97 locations during the event.
Devasar added, “One of the major reasons for the lower density of migratory birds can be attributed to climate change. The migration patterns are changing with the birds starting to migrate much later, while leaving much earlier.”
Veteran birder Surya Prakash, who covered the Dhanauri wetlands, said that the rare species of birds can be defined as those that are threatened or are declining in number for various environmental factors, leading to fewer sightings.
According to birders, at least 15 rare species were observed at various locations in Delhi-NCR this year. These included the greater white-fronted goose at Daulatabad, jungle bush quail at Sakatpur; tawny eagle and great crested grebe at Budhera; rock eagle-owl and black bittern at Najafgarh, osprey at Candu; pallid harrier and short-eared owl at Jhajjar. Other notable species also included sirkeer malkoha that was observed at Sanjay Van as well as marshall’s iora, white-browed fantail and white-bellied drongo spotted at Mangar Bani.
Prakash said that another reason for fewer sightings this was that smaller number of locations covered owing to overcast skies and rain in various pockets of Delhi on that day. His team was able to spot 115 species of birds in total.
“The duration of counting was also pretty less. We could not see much raptors because it was mostly raining in the morning. But nonetheless, the erratic climatic changes have also contributed to the lower density of migratory birds,” said Prakash.
In 2022, a total of 214 species were recorded on BBD, 244 in 2021, 253 in 2020, 247 in 2019 and 237 in 2018.
Delhi’s seven biodiversity parks — Aravalli, Neela Hauz, Tilpath Valley, Neela Hauz, Kalindi Kunj, Yamuna and Kamla Nehru Ridge — also witnessed a considerable bird diversity. At the Yamuna Biodiversity Park, the interesting sightings included the red-crested pochard and Eurasian wigeon. A wide number of northern shovelers and northern pintails were also observed.
“The density of migratory birds was significantly lesser this year. For example, the number of red-crested pochards sighted was one-fourth of last year’s count. This change in migratory patterns of birds, triggered by climate change, is highly dangerous as migration has a significant connection to breeding and maintenance of resources,” said Faiyaz Khudsar, scientist in-charge at the Yamuna Biodiversity Park.
This year, some of the locations covered by birders included Okhla bird sanctuary, Sakatpur Aravali scrub, Sanjay Van, Mangar Bani, Surajpur wetland, Sungarpur, Yamuna Khadar, Faridabad, Dhanauri, Budhera water treatment plant, Gurugram, Sultanpur, Basai, Mundakhera flat and surrounding areas. There were a total of 14 teams, each covering multiple locations. The highest count recorded by a single team stood at 189.