Karnataka

Bird numbers see drastic fall in Mysuru region

According to experts, heavy rains extending beyond the normal cycle of monsoon filled up waterbodies across the region and disrupted the distribution pattern of birds.

According to experts, heavy rains extending beyond the normal cycle of monsoon filled up waterbodies across the region and disrupted the distribution pattern of birds.   | Photo Credit: M.A. SRIRAM

The just-concluded single-day winter bird monitoring exercise across Mysuru, Mandya and Chamarajanagar districts indicates a drastic fall in bird count. This is being attributed to continuing habitat losses and excessive rains this year.

Heavy rains extending beyond the normal cycle of monsoon filled up waterbodies across the region and disrupted the distribution pattern of birds.

The bird monitoring exercise was completed on February 12. Sixteen teams, comprising 45 birders representing Mysore Nature group, took part in it, covering different routes simultaneously, according to A. Shivaprakash, who has been studying the birds of the region for three decades.

The Mysore Nature teams covered 114 locations across the three districts and identified 202 bird species, including 45 non-resident birds. But what came as a shock to the group was that their numbers were down to 25,107, as against 45,986 birds representing 209 species counted last year.

Mr. Shivaprakash told The Hindu that this was not a one-off figure, but part of a downward trend that has been perceptible for many years now.

He said the voluntary effort to study and monitor birds, which was started in 1987, has helped generate robust data on birds in and around Mysuru and presents a scientific baseline data not only on the status of various bird species, but also on their habitats.

Habitat loss

Habitat loss has been a continuous process for decades because of rapid urbanisation abetted by anthropogenic factors that have led to lake encroachment and erosion of forest and vegetation cover. This has contributed to the decline of the bird population in the Mysuru area.

But heavy rains have also wreaked havoc on migratory birds and their distribution this year. Contrary to popular perception, a full waterbody supports only a limited number and species of birds. “Shallow areas coupled with vegetation enable even waders to roost, but they do not prefer an overflowing lake as the foraging ground is lost,” Mr. Shivaprakash said.

Waders do not venture into deep waters, and if the lake is full then they will fly and scout for a more suitable habitat. Also, not all birds feed on fish; many species depend on insects that thrive when there is growth of hydrophytes, Mr. Shivaprakash explained.

A study of the 30-year data generated through annual monitoring highlights the gradual decline of bird numbers in the region. The bird count was in excess of 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh 15 years ago, but is now down to a few thousands, Mr. Shivaprakash said. There have been local extinctions, and seven of the nine species of birds that were recorded by Salim Ali in the 1940s in the Mysuru belt are no longer sighted in the region, he said.

Some sightings

Mysuru region plays host to exotic birds from distant lands during winter migration. Some of the migratory birds, such as the bar-headed geese, fly in from as far as Mongolia, soaring over the Himalayan mountains, and roost in the Kabini backwaters. Hadinaru lake, near Suttur, is another favoured spot of these birds. As many as 2,108 bar-headed geese were counted on the day of the bird counting exercise, and their winter sojourn is expected to end in the next few weeks.

Mr. Shivaprakash said a significant aspect of this year’s exercise was the first-ever recording of the white-rumped shama in the Mysuru area by S. Nisarga, S. Shylajesha and Sudhanshu Hegde, who were part of the bird-watching team.

The maximum number of bird species was recorded in the KRS backwaters (99), followed by Rayanakere (78) and Kalale (65). The maximum number of birds were sighted in Kabini (1,640), followed by Kikkeri (1,414) and Lingambudhi lake (741). The brahminy kite was sighted at 86 of the 114 locations surveyed. Cattle egret was sighted at 78 sites, while little egret which found at 77 sites, Mr. Shivaprakash said.

Other interesting sightings during the bird-counting exercise were the Malabar lark, Eurasian wryneck, thick-billed warbler, red spurfowl, common quail, baillon’s crake, yellow-throated bulbul, Indian scops owl, and yellow-throated sparrow.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 3:52:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/bird-numbers-see-drastic-fall-in-mysuru-region/article30846199.ece

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