The Forest Department on Sunday launched its first ever synchronised bird census in all 12 bird sanctuaries in the State.

As many as 1500 bird watchers, ornithologists, forest officials, nature lovers and students have been involved in the two-day programme. They have been camping in different locations of the State for sighting as well as recording the species of winged visitors from different continents who have come here for breeding and nestling.

The Chief Wildlife Warden and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, R. Sundararaju, who personally monitored the process of bird census at the Mela Selvanur–Keela Selvanur bird sanctuary near Kadaladi told The Hindu that the synchronised bird population estimate had been undertaken in the State for the first time in the country. It was aimed at estimating the total number of birds, which had visited the State in the season, as correct as possible. The department had attempted the synchronised estimation as the earlier census conducted in different dates in different sanctuaries did not give the correct picture of birds.

He said that the simultaneous estimation had been conducted in all sanctuaries including Vedanthangal, the oldest bird sanctuary in the State, Point Calimere in Nagapattinam district, Kunthankulam in Tirunelveli district, Vettangudi in Sivaganga district and all major tanks and water bodies. A few teams of officials had been sent to the 21 islands of Gulf of Mannar, which was one of the ideal centres for migratory birds, for estimation.

Mr. Sundararaju added that officials were asked to compile the reports within a few days and send them to the headquarters as quickly as possible. Though the State wide figure would be known in a week, the preliminary information revealed that the bird population including migratory and inland was satisfactory. Several rare species including pelicans, darters, cormorant, flamingos, white ibis and others were sighted in large numbers.

He said that a comprehensive analytical study would be undertaken based on reports of bird population in different sanctuaries. Follow up actions including provision of waterholes, planting of perching trees favourable for breeding and nestling and others would be undertaken.

H. Mallesappa, Conservator of Forests, Virudhunagar range and M. Sundarakumar, Wildlife Warden, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, said direct sighting method had been followed for counting the population of birds. Sighting of a large number of birds had indicated that the areas in and around Gulf of Mannar and sanctuaries were among the ideal destinations for water as well as migratory birds.