An Indian ornithologist has called for effective steps to conserve the winged animals as migratory bird populations are declining in the country more than resident birds.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency coinciding the World Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, Ashwin Viswanathan, working with Bird Count India -- an informal partnership of organizations and groups working to monitor and better understand India's birds --- said due to multiple levels of threats, migratory bird populations may have declined in the country.
India is home to around 500 species of migratory birds from across the globe, according to officials.
According to the State of India’s Birds report released in 2020, more than 50% of the 867 bird species analyzed have registered a decline over the last few decades and that overall, migratory species showed steeper declines than residents.
"Unlike resident birds that only face threats in one area, migratory birds are affected by threats in their breeding areas, during migration, and in their wintering areas,” said Viswanathan.
He said while climate change in the Arctic may have a large part to play because birds are unable to adapt fast to changes like dates of ice melting, but India, which hosts them temporarily also has an important role to play in their conservation.
"Birds of prey that spend the winter in grasslands seem to be particularly affected such as Montagu's and Pallid Harrier. We do not know exactly why these declines have occurred but one reason may be that grassland areas have reduced in the country and many grasslands have been converted to plantations and forests over the years," he said.
Matinder Singh Sekhon, the president of the Chandigarh Bird Club -- a group of birdwatchers in northern India -- told Anadolu Agency that habitat destruction is the greatest cause of decreasing bird populations.
"When their breeding ground is affected, the incidence of nesting goes down leading to population decline. If the basic population decreases, it is obvious that the number of migrants will be decreased," he said.
Sekhon said that human encroachment on the migration areas and uncontrolled hunting is adding to the plight of the bird population.
"Climate change is affecting every habitat, so it has a role to play. Water scarcity is the greatest issue," he said.
According to the experts, some credible steps are needed to address the decline in the migratory species.
"For shorebirds, we must prioritize and protect coastal mudflats, their wintering habitat so that birds go back stronger and can adapt better. We must also conserve mangroves to support Black-capped Kingfisher, another rapidly declining migratory species," said Viswanathan.
He said the grasslands and coastal mudflats should receive particular conservation attention, and steps are needed to investigate "raptor declines across the country".
India is also a signatory of the Convention on Migratory Species that provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of habitats necessary for migratory animals.
But experts believe that a joint action plan is required that involved other countries as well.
"Migratory species face threats in many countries during their long journeys. Only when multiple countries work together can we generate the knowledge required to implement a joint action plan," said Viswanathan.
Sekhon said while there are enough laws and policies, their effective implantation is required. He further urged for increasing public awareness about the threats the migratory birds are facing and about their habitat destruction. He said that bird and animal surveys as well as mapping of their population, as well as movement, is another essential element to conserve the species.
"Educational institutes and researchers need to work in tandem with environmentalists to study the behaviors, breeding patterns, threat vulnerabilities to find solutions to problems," he said./aa