With the season of migratory birds still on in India, a recent report has suggested a decline in the population of 79 percent of Indian species of birds as per the assessment of current trends, but there is also some good news as the number of Indian peafowls (national bird peacock) has shown a dramatic rise. The number of house sparrows has also remained remained “roughly stable” across the country. Its population has gone up in rural areas, although declining in metropolitan cities, according to the State of India’s Birds Report 2020.
The report was released in Gandhinagar on sidelines of the 13th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP 13) on Monday. It said that while assessing the status of 867 Indian birds, 79 percent, for which current trends could be assessed, and 50 percent, for which long-term trend could be assessed, have shown a decline.
In all, 101 species have been classified as of “high conservation concern”.
As for the Indian peafowl, the abundance trend is that of a general increase, both in the long-term and currently, the report said. “Some parts of the country report greater levels of crop damage by peafowl, a trend that calls for careful conflict assessment and management,” it mentioned.
As for the house sparrows, despite the widespread notion that it is declining in India, the analysis suggests that the species has been “fairly stable overall during the past 25 plus years,” it said.
However, data from the six largest metro cities (Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai) does indicate a “gradual decline” in their abundance in urban centres, it added.
Using data uploaded by birdwatchers on the online platform eBird, “the analysis indicates that 48 percent of species have remained stable or are increasing in the long-term (over 25 plus years), while 79 percent show a decline in the last five years,” the report said.
Of the 146 species for which current annual trends could be estimated, nearly 80 percent are declining, with almost 50 percent declining strongly, it said.
The groups that show the greatest decline are raptors, migratory shorebirds, and habitat specialists, among others. The report relies on over 10 million observations contributed by over 15,500 birdwatchers.
The assessment is based on three indices – two of change in abundance: long-term trend (over 25+ years) and current annual trend (over the past five years), and the third is a measure of distribution range size.
“Of the 261 species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52 percent have declined since the year 2000, with 22 percent declining strongly. In all, 43 percent of species showed a long-term trend that was stable and five percent showed an increasing trend,” the report said.
The current annual trends could be estimated for 146 species. Of these, nearly 80 percent are declining, with almost 50 percent declining strongly, it said.
“Just over six percent are stable and 14 percent increase. The range size of all but six species was estimated,” it added. Using these three indices together with the IUCN Red List (of threatened species), each species was classified into categories of conservation concern for India: 442 in low concern category, 319 in moderate concern category and 101 in high concern category.
The report is a result of a collaboration between 10 research and conservation organisations, including the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Bombay Natural History Society, Wildlife Institute of India, World Wide Fund for Nature India, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History and Wetlands International South Asia, among others.