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Vanishing birds: Habitat loss to blame

Poaching, loss of wetlands in Uran also responsible for dwindling number of birds, say naturalists.

mumbai Updated: Jan 31, 2012 01:51 IST
Snehal Rebello
Snehal Rebello
Hindustan Times

The findings from the Mumbai BirdRace over the last seven years have revealed a gradual but marked decline in some bird species since 2005 in and around Mumbai.

For four consecutive years from 2008, about 60 teams, which participated in the annual bird race, did not spot the white napped woodpecker. Also, none of the teams spotted the white stork in 2011. Likewise, while seven of the 18 teams sighted game birds such as grey jungle fowl in 2005, only six of the 61 teams spotted it last year.

The Mumbai BirdRace is an annual winter event in the city where bird lovers get together in teams to spot and record bird species in and around Mumbai on a chosen day from dawn to dusk. The winning team is one that records the maximum number of species. This year, the race will be held on February 26.

“While the drop in sightings of the grey jungle fowl could be a result of poaching and habitat destruction, the loss of wetlands in Uran over the last two to three years is responsible for a 91 per cent decline of the sightings of the pied avocet species,” said Ravi Vaidyanathan, a naturalist.

The findings have also indicated a 50 to 80 per cent decline in most of the lark species owing to loss of habitat and disappearance of open grassy areas. The oriental skylark was spotted by only three of the 61 teams in 2011, as compared to two of 18 teams in 2005.

Naturalist Sunjoy Monga said, “In recent years, a lot has been lost for the birds in the Mumbai region. An overall ecological deterioration is being witnessed which calls for a more mature look into planning of gargantuan developmental and infrastructure expansion. There are species that bounce back and some that don’t, which is part of the natural game plan.”

While there has been an overall decline in sightings of six woodpecker species, the dip has been significant in the case of two of the most widespread species – the Black-rumped Flameback and Rufous Woodpecker. After 2005, a quarter or less of the teams have come across Black-rumped Flameback, while there has been a 75% decline in sightings of the Rufous Woodpecker.

“Many breeding colonies that were home to aquatic birds such as egrets and herons have been lost in recent years due to development. We have documented at least 45 colonies that either no longer exist or are vastly diminished,” said Pravin Subramanian, a naturalist.

First Published: Jan 31, 2012 01:48 IST