Bird News India

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Seychelles Magpie-robin success

A team from Nature Seychelles (BirdLife in the Seychelles) and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust visited Fre´gate Island from the 28 June to 6 July 2006 to conduct a full population survey of the globally threatened Seychelles Magpie-robin Copsychus sechellarum, and to ring un-ringed robins in order to maintain identification of all individual on the island.

A minimum population of 82 individuals was recorded—ten more than the previous census in April 2005 and the highest number of robins ever recorded on Fre´gate.

The Seychelles Magpie-robin population is now at an all-time high of 178 birds with 82 on Fre´gate, 46 on Cousin, 32 on Cousine and 18 on Aride. There are also future plans to translocate birds to Denis Island. The species was downlisted by BirdLife to Endangered in the 2005 IUCN Red List.

Pelicans bounce back


A decade ago, things looked bleak for the Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis in South India. Excellent community-based conservation work by NGOs in the region, coupled with improved protection of breeding sites, has turned the pelican’s fortunes around.

In the 1920s, more than a million Spot-billed Pelicans were believed to exist in South and South-East Asia. But by the 1990s the number had dropped to fewer than 12,000 birds, and the species was listed as Vulnerable. The decline was largely caused by conversion of wetlands and loss of nesting sites.

In South India, a slow recovery of the pelican population is taking place. Between them, the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu support 21 breeding colonies, and numbers are on the increase.

The pelicanry at Kokkare Bellur, Karnataka, has doubled in size to 400 pairs in recent years, and two new small breeding colonies have been established in the state. In Tamil Nadu the number of nesting colonies has increased from six to 14 in recent years, several of them with more than 250 nests. In Andhra Pradesh, pelicanries at Nelapattu and Uppalapadu each support more than 300 nests.

This recent increase is largely due to better levels of protection for the species. In Tamil Nadu most colonies are found on partially submerged stands of Acacia nilotica grown in village irrigation tanks under the Social Forestry Programme. Eight of them enjoy State protection.

Coupled with this has been community-based conservation work at several pelicanries, like those at Kokkare Bellur (Mysore Amateur Naturalists, Mysore, Karnataka, headed by K. Manu) and Uppalapadu (Care for Nature’s Creatures, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, headed by K. Mrutyumjaya Rao). Overall, pelican numbers in South India have risen from fewer than 4,000 individuals, to perhaps 6,000 birds—a welcome success story.

Decision brings hope for India's rarest bird


The future for one of Asia’s most threatened and enigmatic birds today looks brighter, thanks to a decision by the Andhra Pradesh State Government’s Irrigation Department that should safeguard the future of the species’ last known site.

Jerdon’s Courser Rhinoptilus bitorquatus is a small, nocturnal ground-dwelling wading bird that was discovered in central India around 1848 by Dr T C Jerdon, a British Army Medical Officer. A few sporadic sightings followed until the turn of the 20th century, but then the species was seemingly lost. Eighty-six years passed before its remarkable rediscovery in the State of Andhra Pradesh by Bharat Bhushan from the Bombay Natural History Society (BirdLife in India).

Today only between 25-200 birds remain and the species is classified by BirdLife International as Critically Endangered, meaning it faces the very real prospect of extinction within the next few years.

At the time of its exciting rediscovery in 1986, the courser’s scrub-jungle habitat was threatened by the construction of the Telugu-Ganga canal, an agricultural irrigation project. However, prompt action by the authorities led to the creation of the Sri Lankamalleswara Wildlife Sanctuary to protect the species.

In October 2005, unauthorised work on the canal commenced once again, around the border of the wildlife sanctuary. This led to the destruction of a newly discovered site for the species, as forest was cleared and channels excavated. Once forest officials became aware of this construction, work was stopped and today the Irrigation Department announced they will re-route the canal to avoid the birds' habitat.

"The Irrigation Department are to be warmly congratulated for taking this decisive action in re-routing the canal. Thanks to them, the future for India’s rarest bird looks brighter." —Dr Asad Rahmani, Director, BNHS

On 14 February, the Central Empowerment Committee will rule on the route the canal can take, so as to avoid the courser’s habitat entirely.

"We are very pleased about the implications this decision has for the future of one of the world’s most threatened birds. Jerdon’s Courser is a fascinating, little known species, and through dedicated research work over the past decade, we are beginning to learn much more about it. It seemed a tragedy that all this hard work and research could have been lost due to this development," commented Dr Asad Rahmani, Director of the BNHS.

As well as wiping out the birds’ scrub jungle habitat, it is likely that the canal would also have led to increased human activity in and near the sanctuary, which would have caused further disturbance to the birds and their remaining habitat. Other unauthorised uses of the sanctuary, including bird trapping (which is likely to have led to direct killing of Jerdon's Coursers), could also have become more common. Now scientists can continue their efforts to learn more about species and how to maximise its conservation.

"The international conservation community applauds the decision to safeguard the future of one of India’s most precious birds—already far rarer than India’s wildlife emblem, the tiger. It would indeed have been tragic if the Jerdon’s Courser were to be driven to extinction only 20 years after its world famous rediscovery," commented Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Global Species Programme Co-ordinator.
Much of the conservation and research work carried out on Jerdon’s Courser since its rediscovery has been funded by two grants from the UK Government's Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species. These projects have gone very well and have involved a very productive and positive collaboration between the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department, Reading and Cambridge Universities, BNHS (BirdLife in India) and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | World Bird News | World News archive. | Bird News archive for Asia |  Bird News India

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