A two-day synchronised wetland bird survey conducted by the Forest Department of Kanniyakumari division has revealed severe dwindling of birds and species diversity.
However, the usual birds like Greater Flamingo were not recorded along with coot, spot billed duck, gargeny, shoveller, raptors, common moorhen and about half a dozen species of terns. It was down to record a low number of spot billed pelican and painted stork, which could be normally seen in hundreds, according to Davidson Sargunam, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) member for Ecosystem Management in South Asia.
Migratory species such as pin tail, little stint, Kentish plover, Pacific golden plover, common sandpiper, green sandpiper, green shank, red shank, marsh sandpiper were spotted though with a reduced population.
Kanniyakumari experienced mini-storms of low intensity from November to January that may be a plausible reason for the decline in arrival of birds. Flamingos and some species of terns had been spotted by ornithologists in September and the birds would have quit the place consequent to the impact of storms as they would have sought safer places, Davidson told DT Next.
Many of the bird habitats were filled with silt, lotus flowers, invasive alien species of water hyacinth and other aquatic weeds that leave little space for the swimmers, waders and marsh birds to forage and take rest. In some water sources, drainages were directly piped into the ponds and tanks that pollute the water quality, which are not favored by the birds.
The heavy encroachments along the banks of ponds and tanks posed constant threat to the birds as human intervention, habitat destruction and habitat threat.
Even in some habitats, bus routes were introduced creating a lot of sound pollution that often disturbs the birds. Some areas of habitats have also been encroached by government buildings where human intervention is more, potentially threatening the birds. Apart from these factors, fishing was carried out in salt pans which is illegal, while the pans were leased by the government for salt production and not for any subsidiary activity.
In the recent survey, the participants were able to record 12,800 birds with 116 species, which may be a 30 per cent reduction this year, he pointed out. Therefore, a concerted wetland management ecosystem is the need of the hour to protect the birds and if not, birds may not prefer these places for wintering in future and have them as habitats, he added.