November 11, 2009
In writing this brief article, we have kept 3 important things in mind.
First, to speak to young school kids and students who have requested us to update them on bird biodiversity and post pictures of avian fauna that we have clicked inside the Western Ghats.
Second, to address the constructive criticism of our earlier articles and pictures so as to make the present article more enjoyable and presentable.
And lastly to educate and inform the global community on the avian wealth that Karnataka forests embrace.
We have increasingly realized that more and more school children initiated into conservation at a young age become guardians of nature for life. This aspect is of critical importance when it comes to bird conservation, simply because, in the absence of birds, all other conservation efforts fail.
David Orr, an environmental educationalist has this to say regarding Planet earth. “If today is a typical day on planet Earth, we will lose 116 square miles of rainforest, or about an acre a second. We will lose another 72 square miles to encroaching deserts, as a result of human mismanagement and overpopulation. We will lose 40 to 100 species, and no one knows whether the number is 40 or 100. Today the human population will increase by 250,000. And today we will add 2,700 tons of chlorofluorocarbons to the atmosphere and 15 million tons of carbon. Tonight the Earth will be a little hotter, its waters more acidic, and the fabric of life more threadbare.
The truth is that many things on which your future health and prosperity depend are in dire jeopardy: climate stability, the resilience and productivity of natural systems, the beauty of the natural world, and biological diversity “.
The earth’s biodiversity currently faces an extinction crisis that is unprecedented. Now is the time to take action. The fact of the matter is that in spite of observing bird species in terms of communities to individuals, one in eight faces extinction. Both resident and migratory bird populations are in sharp decline due to the accelerated decline of forests and wild life habitats such as wetlands and grasslands. Despite this, India is home to 14 % of the world’s bird species.
India is home to as many as 2000 species of birds, out of which 141 are endemic to this region. What's even more astonishing is that of the 27 Orders and 155 Families that bird life has been classified into, India has 20 Orders and 77 Families. The reason for this richness of species is the climate, the diversity of vegetation as well as its wide altitudinal range, which extends from sea level to the Himalayas.
Less than 5 % of the earth’s land area holds almost 75 % of the worlds threatened bird species.
In Indian mythology, birds assumed a sense of sacredness and this tradition was carried forward by our forefathers by providing nesting grounds as well as providing a safe haven for birds. Some bird species are often linked to the Sun, a sign of life and purity.
Birds inside the Western Ghats have certainly developed a way of life, unique to the topographies of the mountain chains. The same species of birds exhibit one particular color at a particular altitude and a different color at a higher altitude to blend, camouflage and regulate their metabolism. The senses of sight and hearing are most highly developed in birds; that of taste is comparatively poor, while smell is practically absent. In rapid accommodation of the eye, the bird surpasses all other creatures. The focus can be altered from a distant object to a near one almost instantaneously; as an American Naturalist puts it “in a fraction of time the eye can change itself from a telescope to a microscope “.
During the course of evolution, birds have adapted to extremes of climate and have survived in extreme temperatures. Each bird species has developed a migratory compass to nest and breed in a particular place. The bird’s innate sensory compass acts as a passport in determining its flight path in reaching new destinations. Some theories point out that birds navigate in the right direction because of the profound influence of the earth’s magnetic field. Another theory doing the rounds is the one that believes birds navigate by means of light, or rather by the position of the sun, as the position of the moon and stars.
Birds that migrate from the same geographic region often follow broadly well-defined routes known as migratory flyways. There are eight recognized shorebird flyways around the world. The Asia-Pacific region, as defined by the main migratory routes of water birds, is made up of three shorebird flyways - the Central Asian-South Asian Flyway, the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and the Western (or Central) Pacific Flyway crossing 57 countries and territories in the region. The East Asian-Australasian Flyway is the best studied and stretches from Siberia and Alaska southwards through east and south-east Asia to Australia and New Zealand, and supports over five million migratory shorebirds. The Central Asian flyway spans about 30 countries from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean. But these flyways are just generalizations and bird populations have been known not to strictly follow it. During migration, birds depend on strategically located staging areas where they stop to rest and "refuel", by building up fat deposits, before continuing their migration.
THE FUTURE OF BIRDS:
The future of wild birds is closely linked to the behavior of man. The rightful ownership of vast tracts of lands belonging to birds has been annexed by man, eliminating the bird habitat. Wetlands have been drained out to support housing and urban infrastructure. Chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides have wiped out most of the insect population which was a precious source of food during migration. In highly developed countries the guns have wiped out scores of duck and geese populations.
Protected bird habitats are small, scattered and fragmented covering less than 5 % area
Time is running out. We need to be proactive in stepping up our conservation efforts in protecting not only birds, but also their dwindling habitat.
Dr Anand & Geeta Pereira - Archives