Rejecting the celebration of World Migratory Bird Day at a time when no migrant birds could be spotted in India, a section of ornithologists is pitching for an exclusive Indian version of the occasion.

The theme of the 2012 celebrations, organised between May 12 and 13, was “migratory birds and people — together through time.”

The day is celebrated during the second week of May with “public events such as bird festivals, education programmes, and bird-watching excursions to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day and to help raise awareness around a specific theme,” say the organisers of the day.

United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) two international treaties — Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement — are the organisers.

Asad Rahmani, Director, Bombay Natural History Society, has questioned the rationale of organising the event in the country at a time when most of the migratory birds might have left India and other tropical countries.

“During this time of the year, almost all of the migratory birds would have completed their annual migration and none would be travelling. How can the celebrations be held when none of the species would be in the tropical countries, including India,” wonders Mr. Rahmani.

“The programme is all about creating awareness on migratory species and it won't be possible to sensitise people when no long-distance migratory species is present in the country. Ideally, a neutral date between October end and early November should be selected for hosting the events when the birds would be really migrating,” he says.

Mr. Rahmani says he will take up the issue with BirdLife International, a global collective of conservation organisations.

Migratory season

The migratory season in India begins in September and extends up to April and nearly 600 species of birds can be spotted at various locations in the country. Most of these come from the north of Himalayas from countries namely Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Magnolia, and the Siberian region. The major wintering grounds are Chilka Lake, Bharatpur, East Calcutta Wetlands, Harike Lake, Kolleru Lake, Loktak Lake, Point Calimere, and Sambhar Lake. Some of the important long distance-migrants that reach the country during the eight-month-long season are White Stork, Bar headed Goose, Northern Pintail, and Eurasian Wigeon, experts say.

P.O. Nameer, South Asian coordinator, in situ, Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Species Survival Commission, International Union for Conservation of Nature, has suggested that a national day could be dedicated for the migratory species.

“Celebrating the day when one cannot spot a migrant species does not make any sense. If the message has to really go down to the masses, organising a migratory bird week can also be considered with programmes like field trips, seminars, and film shows,” he says.

“The migratory bird season in Kerala coincides with the national scene and birds start arriving in the State by early September. They will also leave the State by April,” Dr. Nameer, who is also the Kerala coordinator of the Indian Bird Conservation network, says.

Some experts have also suggested celebrating the day on November 12, the birthday of Salim Ali, the ‘bird man' of India.

The caption for the photograph accompanying this report has been corrected for a typographical error.