New report finds India's birds are in decline


A first-of-its-kind nationwide study of India's birds has found that, among the species for which long-term trends could be established, some 80% are declining, with close to half doing so at a strong rate.

Among the 146 species for which annual trends could be estimated, over half have declined since 2000, of which 22% were declining strongly. The State of India's Birds 2020 report, which assessed of nearly 867 species, concludes that 'birds are in overall decline, in some cases catastrophically so'.

The iconic Indian Peafowl is one species that is increasing in India (Jaz Hughes).

Using data from more than 10 million records uploaded by some 15,500 birders, the report is a pioneering effort in marshalling citizen science resources in India. The birders uploaded the data to the eBird India platform. The report also involved collaboration among 10 research and conservation organisations, such as National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF).

"In a huge country like India, without the participation of birders, it's impossible to really understand birds," said Ashwin Viswanathan, research associate at NCF who worked on the report.

The study found that groups that show the greatest decline are raptors, migratory shorebirds and habitat specialists. The findings were combined with the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and 101 species were categorised as high concern, 319 as moderate concern and 442 into low concern. Out of the species categorised as high concern, 26% are classified globally by IUCN as Least Concern.

Among the species that have shown an upward trend is Indian Peafowl, numbers of which has risen sharply in the last decade. The increase is attributed to a combination of the expansion of its range and a population increase throughout its distribution. The State of India's Birds 2020 also found that, contrary to assumptions, House Sparrow has stabilised, though it is declining in major cities.

"We hope that this information translates into many voices being raised for bird conservation, both among conservation bodies, and the general public," Dr Mousumi Ghosh of NCBS, who was part of the team who worked on the report, said in a statement.