Feather in the cap: India home to 12% of world’s bird species

First definitive checklist compiled for journal published by ornithologists says country has 1,263 different types

Updated - July 24, 2016 02:43 am IST

Published - July 24, 2016 01:33 am IST - KOLKATA:

A stork-billed kingfisher. Photo: Manoj V. Nair

A stork-billed kingfisher. Photo: Manoj V. Nair

A group of ornithologists have come up with the first definitive checklist of Indian birds, putting the number of species across the country at 1,263. With that figure, India accounts for 12 per cent of the total number of bird species in the world, amounting to 10,135.

“A Checklist of the birds of India”, authored by Praveen J, Rajah Jayapal and Aasheesh Pittie and published this month by the journal Indian BIRDS , has painstakingly compiled the list of all avian fauna and categorised and standardised them by their English names, scientific names and modern taxonomy. Among the 1,263 species, Himalayan Forest Thrush (Zoothera salimalii) is the newest species discovered to science, while White-browed Crake Amaurornis cinerea is the latest entry to the country’s bird list.

Taxonomically, the bird population in the country is divided into 23 orders, 107 families and 498 genera.

Among the bird families, Muscicapidae (comprising chats, robins and flycatchers) are the most diverse, having as many as 97 species.

Raptors or birds of prey, which include vultures, eagles, and kites, are represented by 57 species and typical babblers by 53 species. Of all the birds known to occur within the geographical boundaries of India, 61 species are endemic, found only in India, and another 134 species are near-endemic, meaning these are largely restricted to India with small populations found in neighbouring countries.

Reports of each and every bird species reported from India in the past have been thoroughly reviewed and only those species for which we have convincing evidences like specimen records in world museum collections, photographs, video clips, call-records, and detailed field notes have been included in the new Indian checklist. This has also been sent to over 25 ornithologists from around the world for peer- review.

“Though Indian ornithology is 300 years old, we still do not know how many species of birds are exactly known to occur in India. This paper, being the first definitive checklist of Indian birds, provides the answer,” Rajah Jayapal, Principal Scientist, Sálim Ali Centre of Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) and corresponding author of the paper, told The Hindu .

“As and when any new species is reported, we will update the checklist,” he said. “Without a definitive checklist, it is difficult to keep track of the number of threatened species for initiating conservation action plans”.

Among the other authors of the paper, Praveen J, is a software engineer by profession and Associate Editor of Indian BIRDS, and Aasheesh Pittie, a businessman and the editor of the journal. They are both India’s leading ornithologists.

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