240 bird species spotted in MMR this year; no sign of vultures yet again
Several of the key Western Ghats species were sighted at a few key sites including Phansad in the extreme southern region of Maharashtra, Murbad hills around Malshej, and Matheran.
Mumbai: The annual Mumbai bird race on Sunday saw a 4% drop from the previous year. A total of 240 species were seen in and around the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), compared to 250 in February 2022, which marked the highest tally in seven years. Though the sightings improved in these two years compared to 2020 and 2021, however, there was no sign of a vulture.
In 2020 and 2021, the tally had sunk to below 200 species for the first time.
There were 295 species spotted across Maharashtra, with more than 300 bird-watchers participating in the event. There were teams from Amravati, Nagpur, Yavatmal, Bhandardara, and some sites along the Maharashtra-Karnataka border in the Western Ghats.
“The story of Mumbai’s birds has continued to be one of surprise, joy, and also a concern,” Sunjoy Monga, naturalist and writer, and one of the organisers of the race said. “It is a surprise because several regional rarities have continued to be sighted on some of the filthiest sites. There is also a rise of several species even as their key habitat indicator species show a downward trend.”
Many crucial birding sites have or are being lost to development at an alarming pace, especially wetlands and open lands, he said, adding, “We are extremely concerned at the continually declining numbers of birds of these landscapes.”
“This year too we have noticed a very low number of ground birds such as quail, francolins, spurfowl, junglefowl and peafowl. Collective sightings of these are under 20 which continues to be an indication of how our grass/scrub terrain has been affected,” Monga added.
The numbers of larks and pipits also continue to be very low for many years in succession. There were a total of 20 reports, with only six of these from areas around Dombivli-Barvi, and the others from the pan-Maharashtra teams in Vidarbha.
Meanwhile, waders and other aquatic birds were seen in more scattered numbers. The total number of aquatic species (waders, herons, cormorants, waterfowl, as well as gulls and terns) was just under 100, including a regional rarity – the Oriental Darter – that was sighted at two separate locations in MMR. Most of the sandpipers, herons, gulls and terns were sighted across the region but in low numbers.
Several of the key Western Ghats species were sighted at a few key sites including Phansad in the extreme southern region of Maharashtra, Murbad hills around Malshej, and Matheran. These include specimens such as the Green imperial pigeon, the Frogmouth, the Malabar hornbill, the White-cheeked barbet, the Nilgiri wood- pigeon and others.
“While some 19 species of birds of prey were sighted, again not a single report of any vulture sighting by any of the teams, including none from other sites in Maharashtra. Also, it is observed that overall the number of sightings of birds of prey was on the rather lower side in MMR but better off in the Vidarbha and other sites pan-Maharashtra. The same holds for waterfowl (ducks and geese),” Monga said.