Migratory Bird: Decline in population; decline in ecology

India, the land of flora and fauna, sees a huge migration of birds every year due to its balanced season. However, this year, Chandigarh Bird Club (CBC) saw a decline in the number of species of migratory birds in its wetlands. The club records the number of birds that flock here twice a year, February and November.

According to its November survey, when the arrival of migratory birds is considered to be completed, there has been a steady decline in the species of birds. According to the census, only 98 species flocked in 2018, 91 species in 2017, 86 species in 2019, and 77 species in 2020 respectively.

In February 2021, only 368 Waterfowl birds were spotted. It was 734 in 2020 and 850 in 2018 with 31 species.

Let’s understand the details of it:-

What are migratory birds?

Birds fly from one region to another, one country to another, one hemisphere to another in search of favourable season, breeding, food, and mortality. Such birds that do this regularly are known as migratory birds. They navigate using celestial cues from the sun and stars, earth’s magnetic field, and mental maps.

Which birds migrate to India?

There are a number of foreign birds that find shelter in India. At least 229 species of birds have been arriving in the country for a long time. Asiatic Sparrow-Hawk, Harriers, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Pacific Golden Plover, Graylag Goose, Bar-headed Goose, Northern Shoveller, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, are some of the species that touch down various parts of the country.

Birds like Bar-headed Goose fly over the Himalayas to reach India, while Wagtails, the African bird, are one of the early arrivals in India during the winter season. Rock Thrush too, migrates from the south of the Himalayas after leaving Siberia to the Western Ghats and hilly areas in the country.

Why has the number of migratory birds in the country declined?

-Global decline in the population of birds: The population of migratory birds, even in their native country is on a decline. According to the State of India’s Birds 2020 report, the number of eagles, vultures, warblers, and migrating shorebirds has declined in the country. According to the same report, the population of migratory birds, both long-distance and within the subcontinent has also shown a “steep decline”.

Of the 261 species on which data is available, 52% had declined in numbers. The decline has been attributed to the loss of habitat and hunting.

-Hunting and poaching: One reason why birds migrate is predation. However, they meet the same fate in the late they migrate to. According to the thirteenth conference of parties (COP-13) report on conservation of migratory species (CMS) of wild animals in Gandhinagar, the biggest threat for migratory species at extinction are hunting, poaching, persecution, and control. 94% of birds face this fate.

  • Human footprints: Increased interference of human beings and disturbance around the habitats of birds can be a reason why bird’s numbers have declined. The same CMS report showed that over 70 % of the migratory species in Appendix 1 are declining along with habitat loss.
  • The declining condition of climate, ecology, and emission of greenhouse gases.

What does it mean for the ecosystem?

Birds perform a number of activities that are advantageous to the ecology, like controlling pests in farms, promoting pollination of flowers and fruits, seed dispersal, and forest regeneration. They also help in cleaning the environment by eating on the dead. Moreover, they help in striking a balance in the environment and also add to natural beauty in the world.

The decline of birds or migratory birds would mean disruption in all these activities and harm to the ecological balance.

What is the Government of India doing?

-The government of India has drafted a 10-year plan, Visionary perspective plan (2020-2030) that aims to protect birds and conserve their habitat, including those of the migratory birds coming to India. The draft proposes steps to protect migratory birds, conserve wetlands and focus on birds in urban areas.

-The National Wildlife Action Plan (2017-2031) also protects and conserves birds and their habitats.

-The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, MoEFCC’s India’s National Action Plan for Conservation of Migratory Birds and their Habitats along the Central Asian Flyway (2018-2023) aims to protect these birds.

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