Citizen science initiative helps save hornbills

Rufous­necked Hornbill

Rufous­necked Hornbill  

Data on hornbill to be used to learn about its habitat

A citizen science initiative of documenting Indian hornbills is providing valuable inputs for the conservation of the unique bird. The data on hornbill presence outside protected areas would be be crucial in identifying and protecting their habitats from possible threats and development projects, scientists said.

The Hornbill Watch initiative (www.hornbills.in) is an interactive web interface that allows a person to report on hornbills anywhere in India. People can record the observation of a live hornbill, note its call or report a dead, hunted or captive bird.

Lack of information

There are nine hornbill species in India, but experts say that information on hornbill distribution in the country is not very clear.

Launched by scientists Aparajita Datta and Rohit Naniwadekar from Nature Conservation Foundation and Ramki Sreenivasan and Vikram Hiresavi from Conservation India, Hornbill Watch was aimed at bridging this gap. A recent paper in the journal Indian BIRDS elaborates on the work done by volunteers documenting hornbills in different parts of the country in three years.

Between June 2014 and February 2017, the website, Hornbill Watch, had received 938 records from 430 contributors across 26 States including the national capital and two Union Territories.

“States from where the most sightings were recorded are Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh,” the paper states. Hornbills were reported from across 70 protected areas in the country. While 41% of the observations were made within protected areas, 59% were made outside.

Contributors to Hornbill Watch described 57 sites where the birds were reported to nest and 36 sites where the birds were reported to roost. The reports included notes on the endangered Narcondam hornbill, restricted to an area of 6 sq.km. of the Narcondam Island in the Andamans. Vulnerable or near threatened species such as the rufous-necked hornbill, the Austen’s brown hornbill and the great hornbill were observed in several States in northeastern India.

Scientist Rohit Naniwadekar said that involving people in observation of hornbills was relatively easy because the birds are identifiable even to an untrained eye.

“While Karnataka had the highest number of records, a significant number of sighting records were from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Information on hornbill presence was recorded from Sikkim and Chhattisgarh, where there were no earlier records,” Mr. Naniwadekar said. According to the scientist, sightings the oriental pied hornbill and the Indian grey hornbill in green spaces within cities like New Delhi and Chandigarh highlighted the important role of urban tree cover.

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Printable version | Jun 26, 2020 8:16:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/citizen-science-initiative-helps-save-hornbills/article25022022.ece

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