There is an almost 50 per cent decline in the arrival of some of the species in the Capital this year

Despite an increase in its green cover, Delhi is fast losing its status as a preferred destination for migratory birds. There has been an almost 50 per cent decline in the arrival of some of these birds in the Capital this year.

“The winter this year has been late and so has been the arrival of these birds. But there is also a reduction in the waterfowl count and the number is even 50 per cent less in the case of some other species,” says T. K. Rao, State Coordinator (Delhi) of the Asian Waterfowl Census conducted by Wetlands International.

According to Mr. Rao, the reasons for the shifting preference of these birds are many.

“Earlier a lot of birds used to come to Bhalaswa Lake in North Delhi, but ever since a boating club was started there by the Delhi Government they have abandoned the place.”

Similarly, he says, the water being stored upstream of the Wazirabad barrage in North Delhi and the Okhla barrage in South Delhi has increased significantly this year. “Because of this, the waders -- birds that walk on water and feed -- have been left with no option but to go elsewhere as most of the small islands in the river have got submerged and these used to be the roosting place for these birds.”

Elsewhere in the Capital, another water body -- Sanjay Lake in East Delhi -- has also not been receiving many birds lately because of large-scale construction activity going on around it and the disturbance that is caused to the birds by intense human activity around.

‘Disconcerting’

Mr. Rao, who has been conducting the annual census in Delhi for years, says his six-member team has on its visits to the four main sites in Delhi found the situation disconcerting this time: “The four sites of the Okhla bird sanctuary, the Yamuna banks from Wazirabad to DND Expressway, the Najafgarh drain and the Yamuna biodiversity park have recorded fewer arrivals this time.”

In the case of migratory birds, he says, 15-odd species visit Delhi regularly but this time round the number of birds coming in has decreased. Most of these birds come over from as far as Siberia and North Asia. Of them the bar-headed geese are only found in the Okhla sanctuary.

The other migratory birds include the common pochard, tufted pochard and Eurasian wigeon.

There are also a large number of resident waterfowls. They include the spot-billed duck, little and large cormorant, common moorhen and white-breasted water-hen.

Of the other resident waterfowls, the Brahmini duck is now seen only in Okhla but its number has declined sharply in the past few years.

Then there is the painted stork that nests only in Delhi Zoo. It is a very sensitive bird and therefore likes the calm provided by the zoo.

The only bird which has returned to Delhi in large numbers in recent years is the greater flamingo that flies in from the Rann of Kutch and the Southern Indian States. The number of these birds this year has gone up to 180 from practically nil a few years ago.