Birds: India

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Birds and the economy

2008-10 study at Vedanthangal, Koonthankulam, Vettangudi

U Tejonmayam, Feb 27, 2020: The Times of India

Farming can prove toxic for the migratory birds that nest on the lake and enrich its waters with their droppings
From: U Tejonmayam, Feb 27, 2020: The Times of India

The significant rain of last year has left the Vedanthangal lake full and assured farmers who use its nutrient-rich waters of a bountiful harvest. But farming can prove toxic for the migratory birds that nest on the lake and enrich its waters with their droppings.

A study conducted at three bird sanctuaries — Vedanthangal , Koonthankulam and Vettangudi – showed high concentrations of chemicals used in pesticides in the tissues of migratory birds that nest there. Researchers found that the birds were exposed to the chemicals while feeding on fish, frogs and insects in the lakes that are contaminated by runoff from nearby farms during the monsoon. Farming can prove toxic for the migratory birds that nest on the lake and enrich its waters with their droppings.

The study that examined carcasses of 76 birds of 14 different species that died between March 2008 and March 2010 found high concentrations of HCH or hexachlorocyclohexane, a widely used pesticide. Other chemical compounds detected were endosulfan, DDT, heptachlor epoxide and dieldrin, which are banned in India. The chemicals were found in higher concentration in birds samples taken at Vedanthangal than at Koonthankulam and Vettagudi.

According to the researchers from the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural (SACON), Coimbatore, and ICMR-Regional Occupational Health Centre, Bangalore, the birds are also exposed to pesticides when they feed in adjoining agricultural fields. While the researchers may not directly link the death of birds to their exposure to pesticides, a prolonged intake could prove fatal.

“Vedanthangal and Koonthankulam still do not have any system to stop the agricultural runoff from entering the sanctuaries,” said Samidurai Jayakumar, division of ecotoxicology, SACON.

The study analysed brain, liver and muscle tissue of 14 species including Asian openbill, spot-billed pelican, little cormorant, Indian cormorant, black-crowned night heron, grey heron, intermediate egret, Indian pond heron, little egret, cattle egret, painted stork, glossy ibis, black-headed ibis and Eurasian spoonbill.

Jayakumar said the levels found in the birds were compared to previous published studies as there are no limits set for chemical exposure in birds. For instance, the concentrations of HCH and its isomers or molecules, which were found to be the highest in the birds studied, were similar to levels reported in Gujarat and elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, but much lower than reported elsewhere in India and Vietnam. But their concentrations were higher than those reported in a study in Greece.

“Banned DDT is still used to kill mosquito larve in agricultural fields,” said Jayakumar. The researchers have given a number of suggestion to the TN forest department to keep the sanctuaries protected including putting up earthen dykes to keep out agricultural runoff and curbing use of chemicals in fields in a 30km radius of the sanctuaries.

Farmers to cash in big from nutrients in bird droppings

The farmers around Vedanthangal bird sanctuary are a happy lot this year. The lake is brimming and that means they can grow a second paddy crop and also nearly double the area under cultivation. And, they don’t need to spend much on fertilisers as the water from the Vedanthangal lake is rich in nitrogen and phosphates, courtesy the bird droppings or guano.

Agriculture department officials said that the poor monsoon in 2018-19 resulted in a single paddy crop on 107.5 acres. This year, with more than 12 feet of water in the lake, paddy is set to be raised on 208 acres and there will be two crops, officials said.

Farmers around Vedanthangal bird sanctuary are happy as water from lake is rich in nutrients thanks to bird droppings

A Baskaran, one of the farmers from Vedanthangal, said he had sown paddy on five acres taken on lease, banking on the nutrient-rich water to give him a good yield.

Another farmer from the village, M Manoharan, said the four shutters of the lake are opened for irrigation from morning till evening. They are closed before nightfall. Manoharan was hopeful that use of chemical fertilisers will come down this year as there is plenty of nutrient-rich water. Most of the 380 farmers in the area have small holdings and can’t afford to buy a lot of chemical fertilisers.

Former conservator of forests S Paulraj said that way back in 1988 he took up a study on guano deposits in Vedanthangal sanctuary and how they enriched the soil. His study showed the water in the lake contained large quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus, which helped increase crop yield.


The Study

Carcasses of 76 birds belonging to 14 species were collected from Vedanthangal sanctuary in Chengalpet district, Koonkthankulam sanctuary in Tirunelveli district and Vettangudi sanctuary in Sivaganga district

What the researchers found in the sanctuaries

  • During monsoon, runoff floods sanctuaries, bringing in residues of pesticides and fertilisers from the cultivated areas nearby

The birds feed on the fish, frogs, insects, molluscs and worms found in the water contaminated with pesticides and fertilisers

  • Sanctuaries at Vedanthangal and Koonthankulam, though they have official boundaries, do not have physical demarcation and proper earthen dykes to stop the runoff till date

India and the world

An overview, 2022

Birds in India and the world, an overview, 2022
From: May 17, 2022: The Times of India

See graphic:

Birds in India and the world, an overview, 2022

Caging birds and the law

Birds have fundamental right to free sky, HC

The Times of India, Nov 21 2015

Birds have fundamental right to free sky, HC had ruled

Does caging birds amount to violation of their fundamental right to fly? The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take up an issue that evokes the theme of author Richard Bach's top selling fable `Jonathan Livingston Sea gull' about a young gull who broke from the humdrum of feeding and nesting to fully explore his love of flight. A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justices Shiva Kirti Singh and Amitava Roy agreed to examine the validity of a Gujarat high court order holding that birds have a fundamental right to fly free ly in the sky and this must be respected by not caging them.

The order came in a case in which 494 birds were seized from hawkers. Their wings and tails were cut, sellotape stuck to what remained of the wings and rings were slipped into their legs to prevent them from flying away .

Challenging the HC order, Pet Lovers' Association, an NGO, told the Supreme Court that the order was illegal as it was contrary to provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Wildlife Protection Act and that keeping birds in the house and trading in them was legal. The Gujarat HC had said keeping birds in cages would be tantamount to illegal confinement that violates the rights of birds to live in their natural environment, that is the free sky, and that it is the duty of every citizen to see that no unnecessary pain or suffering is caused to them.

While the letter and spirit of the law will be argued before the SC, the confinement of birds does not seem on a par with that of common household pets like dogs and cats. A cage, even a sizable one, is no substitute for what birds are used to and even those bred in captivity do not attempt to return once they escape from a cage, unlike dogs and cats.

Appearing for the NGO, senior advocate Salman Khurshid told the bench that the HC order was being misused by government authorities and NGOs in various states, causing pet traders to be targeted and restrained from carrying out their business. He said there were sufficient safeguards under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Wildlife Protection Act to protect the rights of animals and birds and prevent cruelty against them.

“Research has demonstrated that birds and animals can play a positive role in the improvement of health problems and can be psychologically comforting to human beings. Therefore, it becomes imperative to have a mecha nism in place for their proper treatment and custody ,“ the petition said.

“The order passed by the HC is liable to be set aside by this court for being contrary to the safeguards provided under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Wildlife Protection Act... There are no requirements for any kind of licence or permission to deal in or keep exotic birds,“ it added.

The petitioner claimed that it had made representations to state governments and even the Prime Minister seeking steps to “protect the interest of pet traders“. They alleged that animal rights NGOs, in connivance with police officials, had seized the traders' birds and animals and filed false cases against them.

The petitioner also pleaded for guidelines on the seizure of birds and animals.

The court, after a brief hearing, issued notice to Centre, state governments, Animal Welfare Board and animal rights NGOs People for Animals and Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre.

The Delhi high court too, in May 2015, held that birds have fundamental rights, including the right to live with dignity, and cannot be subjected to cruelty . “I am clear that all the birds have fundamental rights to fly in the sky and no one has any right to keep them in small cages for the purposes of their business or otherwise,“ Justice Manmohan Singh had said in the order.

Feeding birds

SC: Can’t feed birds on flat’s balcony

March 20, 2019: The Times of India

A person cannot feed birds from a flat’s balcony if dropping and filth cause a nuisance for other occupants of the building, the Supreme Court has said while refusing to interfere with an order restraining a woman from feeding birds from her balcony in a Mumbai high-rise.

“If you are living in a residential society, you have to conduct yourself according to the norms,” said a bench of Justices U U Lalit and Indu Malhotra.

Counsel appearing for petitioner Jigeesha Thakore, resident of a 14th-floor Worli apartment, said it was not a case of nuisance but of strained business relations between the parties due to which a civil suit was filed against her in the lower court.

The bench said that in an order on September 27, 2013, the Bombay city civil court on had granted an interim injunction restraining the woman from feeding birds from the balcony of her flat. It noted that when the civil court order was challenged by the woman before the Bombay high court, it had refused to interfere, and made the interim injunction absolute by dismissing the appeal on July 12, 2016. PTI

Statistics, birds in India

2016: India home to 12% of world’s bird species

The Hindu, July 24, 2016

Shiv Sahay Singh

First definitive checklist compiled for journal published by ornithologists says country has 1,263 different types A group of ornithologists have come up with the first definitive checklist of Indian birds, putting the number of species across the country at 1,263. With that figure, India accounts for 12 per cent of the total number of bird species in the world, amounting to 10,135.

“A Checklist of the birds of India”, authored by Praveen J, Rajah Jayapal and Aasheesh Pittie and published this month by the journal Indian BIRDS, has painstakingly compiled the list of all avian fauna and categorised and standardised them by their English names, scientific names and modern taxonomy. Among the 1,263 species, Himalayan Forest Thrush (Zoothera salimalii) is the newest species discovered to science, while White-browed Crake Amaurornis cinerea is the latest entry to the country’s bird list.

Taxonomically, the bird population in the country is divided into 23 orders, 107 families and 498 genera.

Among the bird families, Muscicapidae (comprising chats, robins and flycatchers) are the most diverse, having as many as 97 species.

Raptors or birds of prey, which include vultures, eagles, and kites, are represented by 57 species and typical babblers by 53 species. Of all the birds known to occur within the geographical boundaries of India, 61 species are endemic, found only in India, and another 134 species are near-endemic, meaning these are largely restricted to India with small populations found in neighbouring countries.

Reports of each and every bird species reported from India in the past have been thoroughly reviewed and only those species for which we have convincing evidences like specimen records in world museum collections, photographs, video clips, call-records, and detailed field notes have been included in the new Indian checklist. This has also been sent to over 25 ornithologists from around the world for peer- review.

“Though Indian ornithology is 300 years old, we still do not know how many species of birds are exactly known to occur in India. This paper, being the first definitive checklist of Indian birds, provides the answer,” Rajah Jayapal, Principal Scientist, Sálim Ali Centre of Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) and corresponding author of the paper, told The Hindu.

“As and when any new species is reported, we will update the checklist,” he said. “Without a definitive checklist, it is difficult to keep track of the number of threatened species for initiating conservation action plans”.

Among the other authors of the paper, Praveen J, is a software engineer by profession and Associate Editor of Indian BIRDS, and Aasheesh Pittie, a businessman and the editor of the journal. They are both India’s leading ornithologists.

Statistics, state-wise


2017: 151 species spotted in Konni

Radhakrishnan Kuttoor, 151 bird species spotted in Konni reserve forests, March 14, 2017: The Hindu

Survey was done by Alappuzha Natural History Society

A comprehensive survey of birds carried out by the Alappuzha Natural History Society (ANHS), in association with the Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department, has spotted a total of 151 species in Konni reserve forests, according to society president V. Krishnakumar.

Talking to The Hindu here on Monday, Mr. Krishnakumar said the first-ever comprehensive survey of birds held in Konni turned out to be a big success in mapping the avian fauna as well as the data on waterbodies in the reserve forests.

Grey-headed bulbul, an endemic species to the Western Ghats; Black Baza M, Banded bay Cuckoo R, and Black bittern R were the rare spottings during the three-day survey that came to a close on Sunday.

Dr. Krishnakumar said the 28-member ANHS teams that had carried out the survey from seven base stations had spotted a total of 2,378 birds in the reserve forests in three days.

Of the 151 bird species spotted in Konni, 114 were resident species and 18 were migrant species. A total of 13 species were endemic to Western Ghats, besides six local migrant species, he said.

Dr Krishnakumar said the survey teams had noticed the marked absence of the Nilgiri wood Pegeon (Marapravu), a species endemic to the Western Ghats, in the Konni reserve forests and this has to be subjected to serious scientific probing, as it may portend imminent climatic and environmental changes.

The ANHS survey teams also reported presence of a few peafowls at Karippanthodu, Mannarappara and Thura. This might be indicative of their habitat extension from Shenkotta region or increase in dry areas, which warranted more scientific studies, he said.

Dr Krishnakumar said most of the damp areas in all the seven transects of the survey was found moderately infested with Michenia (Dhrutharashtra Pacha), a fast spreading invasive weed detrimental to the floral diversity of the region.

Tamil Nadu

October 2017/ Common Stonechat sighted in Tirupur

October 20, 2017: The Hindu

Common Stonechat sighted in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu in October 2017
From: October 20, 2017: The Hindu

Two migratory bird species, Eurasian Marsh Harrier (also called Western Marsh Harrier), and Common Stonechat, were sighted by a group of bird watchers, reportedly for the first time, near S. Periyapalayam irrigation tank.

“Common Stonechat is sighted for the first time in Tamil Nadu if one goes by records compiled by ornithologists,” said K. Ravindran, a regular bird watcher at S. Periyapalayam tank for a decade.

He is the president of Nature Society of Tirupur too.

Mr. Ravindran, added that though Eurasian Marsh Harrier had been sighted for the first time in S. Periyapalayam tank, it is seen elsewhere in Tamil Nadu.

Common Stonechat comes from central Asia, and Europe, and Western Marsh Harrier comes from western Eurasia and Africa.

The Nature Society of Tirupur attributes a few possible reasons for the sudden appearance of these two birds here.

“Either they may have lost their way to places they usually visit, or because of the disturbances happened to their earlier habitats,” said Mr. Ravindran.

See also

Birds: India A-F

Birds: India G-L

Birds: India M-Z

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