Census 2017: Bird population rises in Delhi stretch of Yamuna despite ‘degraded habitat’

Around 590 birds belonging to 23 species were spotted in 2016, while in 2015, 641 birds belonging to 19 species were seen, it says.
Around 590 birds belonging to 23 species were spotted in 2016, while in 2015, 641 birds belonging to 19 species were seen, it says.(HT Photo)
Around 590 birds belonging to 23 species were spotted in 2016, while in 2015, 641 birds belonging to 19 species were seen, it says.(HT Photo)
Updated on Feb 12, 2017 04:03 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

The findings from Asian Waterbird Census 2017 have revealed an increase in bird population in the Delhi stretch of Yamuna. Around 2,641 birds belonging to 24 species have been spotted this year.

Around 590 birds belonging to 23 species were spotted in 2016, while in 2015, 641 birds belonging to 19 species were seen, it says.

“Yamuna in Delhi passes through the most polluted, shrinking and degraded habitat for aquatic wildlife, including waterbirds. Therefore, the increase in numbers has come as a surprise,” said ecologist TK Roy, Asian Waterbird Census Delhi state coordinator, Wetlands International South Asia.

Read | Good rain brings winter migratory birds early to Delhi’s Okhla bird sanctuary

The census on the part of Yamuna between Wazirabad Barrage and Nizamuddin Bridge was carried out by a team led by Roy. Out of 2,641 birds spotted this year, the largest (2,010) has been that of mixed flock of brown-headed and black-headed gulls. Even red lapwing, which falls under the IUCN red-list of threatened species, was sighted. Out of the 24 species, nine are resident waterbirds, while 15 are winter migratory water birds. They migrate from Central and North Asian region.

According to Roy, the spurt in the numbers this year has been despite declining habitats. “The number at Yamuna has increased due to shortage of wetland habitats in Delhi region. Many wetlands have already vanished due to rapid urbanisation and global climate change impact. The Yamuna also provides feeding ground for these birds,” he said.

According to the ecologist, the presence of black-winged stilt shows the foul quality of the river in the city. “Black-winged stilt is known to be a wetland quality indicator as it resides mostly on the polluted wetlands,” he said.

Read | Migratory birds this year: More in number, less in diversity

However, not all think the number of birds spotted is too big. According to birdwatcher Vijay Sethi, if one leaves out the gulls, the number of birds is not too much.

“Out of the birds spotted, over 2,000 are gulls. The number of the rest is not too much. Now these gulls can be found at the Wazirabad stretch, where the Yamuna is much cleaner with no sewage going in. Lot of people feed the birds here. There is also a lot of fish in this stretch,” Sethi said.

The Asian Waterbird Census earlier had also revealed that bird population has doubled in Okhla in the past one year. Nearly 53 species with a total of 6,183 birds were counted at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary compared to last year’s 3,113 with 46 species.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ritam Halder has been a journalist for nearly a decade and has worked in multiple roles across organisations. He has been a features writer, a digital journalist as well as a desk hand. He now covers environment, water and urban issues in Delhi.

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