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Home > Smart Living > Environment > How India soared high in the Great Backyard Bird Count

How India soared high in the Great Backyard Bird Count

India stood second for its diversity of species, with participation from 400 districts in the four-day global event

The Ruff, a migratory species, was spotted in large numbers in Visakhapatnam during Great Backyard Bird Count. Close to 3,000 birdwatchers, from amateur to experienced, participated across India for the event.
The Ruff, a migratory species, was spotted in large numbers in Visakhapatnam during Great Backyard Bird Count. Close to 3,000 birdwatchers, from amateur to experienced, participated across India for the event. (WCTRE)

The Common Myna continues to be the most commonly spotted bird in India (except for the western region), with the Red-vented Bulbul upending the House Crow to move to second position in the list of common birds sighted in India. The presence of the Rose-ringed Parakeet has also increased, with the species being reported across the country now, instead of being reported from north and western India. These and many other interesting trends were gleaned from the India data of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), which took place in February.

The four-day event, which usually takes place in February simultaneously across the world, was organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society in the US. The event helps scientists learn about global bird populations and track migration patterns. In India, Bird Count India has been coordinating the event since 2013.

The latest data highlighted some other interesting changes from last year. In the Himalayas, there was little change in terms of species spotted, which is a good sign. The Black Kite, which featured in top five most common species in the north in 2020, didn’t make it to the list this year. Instead, the Red-vented Bulbul took its place. Asian Pied Starling and Oriental Magpie-Robin were the two new entrants in the top 5 commonly seen species in the eastern region. They replaced the ubiquitous (not anymore, it seems) House Crow and Black Drongo.

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The southern region also saw two new entrants -- the Rose-ringed Parakeet and Red-vented Bulbul -- to the top 5 common birds, replacing the feral pigeon and Large-billed crow. In central India, feral pigeon was the one which replaced the Purple Sunbird to secure a position in commonly sighted birds, while in the western parts, the Red-wattled Lapwing, also known as the Did-he-do-it bird, were spotted much more in the past one year.

The top 5 list nearly underwent a change with four new entrants in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Asian Glossy Starling, Plume-toed Swiftlet, Olive backed Sunbird and Pied Imperial-Pigeon replaced the Red-whiskered Bulbul, Brown Shrike, Asian Koel and House Crow. According to Bird Count India, the increase in birders and checklists may have contributed to this change.

Interest in birding soars

This year’s GBBC, held in February, had a few firsts. To start with, it was the first time GBBC happened in the middle of a pandemic, which meant people couldn’t travel a lot due to health risks. In spite of covid-19 restrictions, nearly 3,000 birding enthusiasts participated from across the country, helping India climb two positions to the second spot globally, in the species count for the first time. India reported 965 species, where 28 additional species were identified compared to last year. The country also secured third place for checklists (a list of the number and species of birds seen in a specific time frame) by submitting 31,355 lists -- over 6,000 checklists more than last year.

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What’s interesting, however, is the district-wise data that came out in the GBBC results put out by Bird Count India. Of the 400 districts which participated this year, Salem in Tamil Nadu uploaded the highest number of checklists at 9,290 lists. That’s over 8,500 lists more than Kerala’s Idukki district, which stood second with 1,328 lists.

The translucent circles are the checklists submitted during GBBC. The intensity of yellow indicates the volume of checklist from that location.
The translucent circles are the checklists submitted during GBBC. The intensity of yellow indicates the volume of checklist from that location. (Birdcount.in)

Salem seems to have carried the bulk of the weight to put Tamil Nadu at the top of the top 15 states that submitted over 100 checklists to the eBird portal (a global portal and app, which collects data fed about birds and avian activity by bird watchers, ornithologist, etc). Kerala (6,267) trailed second, although seven out of the 15 stop districts to upload the lists were from the southern state alone. In terms of diversity of species, Uttarakhand (426), West Bengal (401) and Karnataka (366) secured the top three positions.

Interestingly, there was an increase in participation from Jammu & Kashmir (1,095 checklists were uploaded compared to 84, last year), Ladakh (nearly 100% increase from last year in list upload), Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Bihar and Manipur. Sikkim, which didn’t see any participation last year, contributed with 56 checklists. Mizoram continues to be the only state with no submissions till now.

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Also read: Counting birds together: Can you guess these avian species?

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