Kerala gets its first ever scientific bird atlas

It is arguably Asia’s largest bird atlas in terms of geographical extent, sampling effort and species coverage derived from the aggregation of 25,000 checklists.

January 22, 2022 04:02 pm | Updated January 23, 2022 08:04 pm IST - KOCHI

Photo: Special Arrangement

Photo: Special Arrangement

The Kerala Bird Atlas (KBA), the first-of-its-kind state-level bird atlas in India, has created solid baseline data about the distribution and abundance of various bird species across all major habitats giving an impetus for futuristic studies.

Conducted as a citizen science-driven exercise with the participation of over 1000 volunteers of the bird watching community, KBA was prepared based on systematic surveys held twice over 60 days a year during the wet (July to September) and dry (January to March) seasons between 2015 and 2020.

KBA accounted for nearly three lakh records of 361 species, including 94 very rare species, 103 rare species, 110 common species, 44 very common species, and 10 most abundant species. “KBA offers authentic, consistent and comparable data through random sampling from the geographical terrain split into nearly 4000 grids. We are in the process of bringing out papers on interesting trends based on a deep scientific analysis of solid data besides making futuristic predictions. It would be exciting to undertake a similar exercise between 2025 and 2030 giving an insight into the changes in the decade since the first KBA,” said P.O. Nameer, one of the State level coordinators of KBA.

It is arguably Asia’s largest bird atlas in terms of geographical extent, sampling effort and species coverage derived from the aggregation of 25,000 checklists. It was found that the species count was higher during the dry season than in the wet season while species richness and evenness were higher in the northern and central districts than in the southern districts.

Most of the endemics were concentrated in the Western Ghats while the threatened species were mostly along the coasts. The KBA is considered to be a valuable resource for testing various ecological hypotheses and suggesting science-backed conservation measures.

Volunteers were divided into survey teams of two to five members. They were deployed across all 14 districts armed with technological tools like Locus Free, an Android GPS application and eBird platform for seamless conduct of the survey and documentation.

Among the species, White-cheeked Barbet and House Crow with 13,855 records 12,380 occurrence records topped the chart compared to 20 other species, which had just single occurrence records.The survey, however, ignored the very short duration passage of migrant species like Eurasian Cuckoo, Amur Falcon etc.

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