Findings of fourth annual waterbird count indicate an increase in the number of resident birds

The findings of the fourth annual waterbird count for Ashtamudi Lake, conducted by the Travancore Natural History Society (TNHS) in association with Club Mahindra here recently, show a fall in the population of migratory birds and a swell in that of resident ones.

The lake in Kollam was known to hold a large numbers of waterbirds. The lake used to be a favourite destination for migratory birds due to its location along the flight paths of such birds. Encroachments on the waterbody and pollution were the major reasons for the fall in the arrival of migratory birds, those familiar with the region said.

H. Charan, who led the TNHS survey team, said close to 2,500 waterbirds from 23 species were sighted during the survey. One of the significant aspects of the survey was the sighting of 28 oriental darters ( Anhinga melanogaster ).

These are near-threatened waterbirds as per the classification of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). During last year’s survey, only one oriental darter was sighted in the lake region.

During this year’s survey, cattle egrets ( Bubulcus ibis ) was the most-sighted bird. Last year, 171 of these resident birds were sighted. The number was 360 this time. Compared to last year, sighting of the migratory birds, reef heron ( Egretta sacra ) and whiskered tern ( Chlidonias hybridus ) had increased by about five times. As many as 171 reef herons were sighted at the Neendakara course of the lake and 276 whiskered terns at Chavara Thekkumbhagam. As many as 7,920 Indian shags ( Phalacrocorax fuscicollis ) and 7,720 little cormorants ( Microcarbo niger ) were counted. Mr. Charan said habitats ideal for migratory birds should be conserved and this included the protection of mangrove forests.

Aims of survey

The survey aimed at providing data to help drive conservation of waterbird populations and wetland habitats.

Data use

The data collected would be used to assess the size of waterbird population, to determine any trends in numbers and distribution, and to assess the importance of individual sites for these birds.

Another objective of the survey was to provide a global overview of the status and trends of population of waterbirds, one of the most remarkable components of global biodiversity, Mr. Charan said.

Other members of the survey team were Ajith Kumar S., Kiran M.R., and M. Ramesh.

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