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Salem soars high in 2022 Great Backyard Bird Count

Tamil Nadu's Salem topped India and the world by recording the highest number of checklists in the recently completed global bird challenge

Bird watchers during a bird count in Mumbai. The Great Backyard Bird Count is held in February annually. About 1,022 species were observed in India this year. (Ramesh Shenai)

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Five Indian districts made it to the top 10 global list of districts or counties that submitted the highest number of checklists in the recently concluded Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) 2022. Salem took first position with over 8,000 checklists, followed by San Diego (in the US), Thrissur (2,100) and Alappuzha (2,087, both in Kerala) and Bhilwara, Rajasthan (1,887), which took the other three spots to make it to the top five. Bengaluru (1,580) was eighth on the list.

Also read: How India soared high in the Great Backyard Bird Count

In fact, Salem alone contributed to over 80% of the 10,709 checklists submitted by Tamil Nadu over a period of four days (from February 18-21) when birders observed and recorded the number and frequency of birds over a span of 15 minutes. Interestingly, five birders from the district – all of them part of the Salem Ornithological Foundation – also made it to the top 10 global rankings for the highest number of checklists by an individual.

Overall, India overtook Canada to take second place, with over 39,000 checklists, this year. The US continued to maintain top position with nearly 1.96 lakh checklists. South American countries Colombia and Ecuador maintained their lead positions for recording the highest numbers in species, with India taking third place. About 1,022 species were observed in India this year. That’s 75% of the total number of species recorded in the country, according to Bird Count India.

The annual event, held in February every year, is 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 10th edition witnessed participation from around 3,800 birders – a 28% increase from last year – across 449 districts. Except Lakshwadeep and Daman and Diu, all other states put up at least single-digit checklists, which is a marked improvement from previous years.

The Purple Heron was featured in this year's announcement for the Great Backyard Bird Count. 
The Purple Heron was featured in this year's announcement for the Great Backyard Bird Count.  (Abhishek Das/Macaulay Library)

In fact, Bird Count India, which coordinates and oversees the GBBC in the country, made a concerted effort to increase participation from north eastern states in 2022. The efforts clearly paid off as Mizoram posted its first ever GBBC checklist (66), this year. Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland also witnessed more number of checklists. Among other states, Gujarat and Rajasthan saw a massive increase in checklist figures with 3,011 (compared to 699 last year) and 2,419 (from 349 last year), respectively.

Also read: Mandarin duck sighting raises awareness on lesser-known wetlands

Let's talk species

Although the House Crow and Feral Pigeon are the mostly commonly seen birds in many India cities, these two made it to the top 5 frequently sighted birds in only two and three regions this time out. The Red-vented Bulbul made its way into being the most common top five species in five of the seven regions in the country. Meanwhile, the Himalayan region saw the same three bird species –  the Himalayan bulbul, large-billed crow and Blue Whistling-Thrush – continuing to top the list. In the north, the Black Kite made its presence felt in the top five list along with the Rose-ringed Parakeet and House Crow.

In the western region, the Purple Sunbird replaced the Black Drongo this year, while the Rose-ringed Parakeet took over the place of the Green Bee-eater in central India region. In the southern region, the Rose-ringed Parakeet and Red-vented Bulbul were pushed out of the list by the White-throated Kingfisher and Indian Pond Heron. In the east of India, the Black Drongo nudged out the Asian Pied Starling to reclaim its position in the top five list this year.

Unlike other regions, the Andaman and Nicobar area saw a completely new list of common birds this year, which included the Andaman Coucal, Red-whiskered Bulbul, White-throated Kingfisher, Plume-towed Swiftlet and the Brown Shrike.

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

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