Greet the birds this Pongal!

Birders to take part in mass bird counts across Tamil Nadu during the Pongal festival

How about spending this Pongal, observing birds in your neighbourhood? The annual Pongal Bird Count, held for the fourth consecutive year is an opportunity for everyone to observe, learn and appreciate bird life around. The event is part of a worldwide effort to document birds around the globe and to make bird watching popular and scientific. The event is coordinated by Tamil Birders Network and Bird Count India. The result of the count will be uploaded on (an online platform for bird watchers to register their observations in a systematic manner).

This year, the event will be held from January 13 to 17. Birders from all over Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will document bird species and count their numbers for at least 15minutes each day and upload the observations. “The participants can choose any site of their interest for the count. They can either travel to a nearby forest or lake or even do a count from their balcony or terrace,” says Kumaresan Chandrabose, a student of The American College. “The idea is to rope in common people to pay attention to birds. Through PBC, we will be able to assess growth and distribution of bird species, migratory and behaviour patterns, apart from spreading awareness towards conservation of avian species.”

Greet the birds this Pongal!

In the events so far, members of Madurai Nature Forum have identified a lot of migratory water birds like sandpipers, Northern Pintail, Garganey and Northern Shoveler, apart from common backyard birds Indian Koel, Tailor birds, Sparrow, bulbuls and babblers. “We have also had some discoveries in the previous counts – like Golden Oriole inside American College campus and Asian Paradise Flycatcher being a regular visitor to neighbourhoods near P and T Nagar,” says Chandrabose, who plans to take up the count in Avaniyapuram, Arittapatti, Kulamangalam and Alanganallur, this year.

“In the Madurai region, we have conducted the count in five districts engaging college and school students. This year, we have roped in students from Sermathaivasan college, Lady Doak College, Chandra school in Aruppukottai and B P V Sala school at Palayampatti for mass bird counts,”says Raveendran Natarajan. “ The checklists will be uploaded on ebird online portal which is like a bird atlas. It creates a database so that we can arrive at birding trends over the years. We have recorded over 110 species of birds in Madurai in the previous counts.”

Bird facts:

Pongal Bird Count (PBC) was started in 2015. Last year birders from all over Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, participated in PBC 2017. Out of 1741 lists submitted, most were from Coimbatore, Pudukkottai, Kancheepuram, Thanjavur and Tiruvannamalai (top five districts). In comparison, districts from central and southern Tamil Nadu submitted relatively lower number of check-lists. During the PBC 2016, more than 300 checklists were submitted daily.

Out of nearly 525 species likely to occur in Tamil Nadu region, 346 species were reported within four days of PBC 2016. During PBC 2017, each participant (totally 178) spent on an average five hours on birding. Coimbatore (53) and Kancheepuram (23) districts had highest number of participants.

House Crow was the most common resident bird appearing in 53.8% of all the checklists, followed by Common Myna (53%), Black Drongo (45%), Large-billed Crow (41%) and Indian Pond-Heron (39%). The most common migrant appearing in 31.2% of the check-lists was Barn Swallow followed by Blue-tailed Bee-eater (25%), Blyth’s Reed-Warbler (21%), Rosy Starling (13%) and Common Sandpiper (12%).

Various resource materials are available at on how to prepare bird checklists in eBird, online pictorial guide to some common birds of Tamil Nadu and Introduction to birds and birdwatching. These resources are available in both English and Tamil. For more details see

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 5:55:15 PM |

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