By Dhanush N. Reddy*

Today there are two main threats to birds in any specific region, habitat loss and deterioration. Of these, root causes of damage to and loss of habitats are complex and often controversial. So what exactly is habitat loss?

Well, a bulldozer pushing down trees for agriculture, water development, and also climate change disrupts the ecosystem and the environment and it may no longer be able to provide the food, water, cover, and places to raise young that birds need to survive. 

Did you know that birds are often considered to be distinguished indicators of the health of the overall environment?

Yes! A bird in a distinct habitat is affected by critical impacts on their ecosystems, whether these are caused by natural or man-made influences. 

For birds, habitat provides cover from predators, breeding, wintering, and migration stopover sites and places to forage and roost. If that is taken away from them then you might not be able to spot the birds like the Eurasian hoopoe casually chittering in your vicinity!

Eurasian hoopoe (Upupa epops) in the local vicinity

Combat habitat loss in your community by creating a suitable habitat for birds by planting native plants and very soon you will hear the birds chirping right outside your window!! 

Threats to forests:

Since nearly two-thirds of the bird species are found in forests, logging is a huge problem for birds. Forests have long been threatened by a variety of destructive agents. This may look to be simple, almost primitive, a little better than worse. It is a highly advanced one to both the extent and quality of forest resources are declining throughout much of the region.

One of the foremost reasons why forests have to be conserved is Climate change is one of the greatest challenges currently facing humankind. Increased severity and occurrence of natural disasters, changing weather patterns also affect the birds, while forests can help to combat climate change, they are also highly vulnerable to changing climatic conditions.

We will have to work hard to preserve this trend and plant more and more trees to compensate for this problem.

Peafowls(Pavo cristatus) in the forest

Ashy drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus) under the midday sun in a forest

Threats to wetlands: 

There are more places on Earth than the plains surrounding barren lands where there is abundant rainfall and is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail called the wetlands.

Here the bush grows to give shelter from the scouring wind and this desolate landscape has been a suitable habitat for many birds!!

Many wetlands are becoming polluted by sewage, industrial effluents, and agricultural waste which turn out to be toxic for the waterbirds to roost. 

Swamp forest, which was once extensively distributed in some parts of India, is now on the verge of disappearing.

Amidst this wetland crisis, new wetlands have been created. These include lakes, dams, and rivers, which provide a great habitat for waterbirds. Other wetlands have developed as a result of drainage overspill which also is home to few waterbirds like purple swamphen.

Purple swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) A waterbird

Purple heron (Ardea purpurea) A waterbird

Threats to grasslands: 

Characterized by their flat, open pastures and abundance of nutrient-rich soil, more than 70 percent of the land is covered by grasslands. Surviving on Earth’s grasslands is no walk in the park, upon it if they are greatly reduced, fragmented, and degraded by activities of man it can ruin soil and strip grasslands of life.

If the bird leaves or abandons a habitat in which it was roosting then it tends to weaken the biome and increases vulnerability to a natural disaster! 

Apart from grasslands located within protected areas, practically every grass growing tract in the region is grazed by domestic livestock which leaves behind diminished habitat for birds! Large increases in livestock have to lead to widespread overgrazing, and this problem has been exacerbated as more and more grazing of lands have been converted to other land uses.

Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Jerdon’s leafbird (Chloropsis jerdoni) found in a grassland

Other threats: 

The percussion of climate change on the native birds is anticipated to be significant but is poorly understood right now. So how does climate change actually affect birds?

As the climate changes, habitats in these areas may no longer be suitable for certain species. Notwithstanding, as the natural habitats for these birds have been changed and the rest of the land is used for agriculture and civilization, these birds have nowhere to go!

Until recently there was a large domestic trade of birds, but right now bird trade has been banned.

Hunting has also been a major threat to some species in India, It is on the increase as traditional values wane and is now significant for many species, notably threatened bustards, pheasants, and waterbirds!

Earnest threats are posed by few invasive alien weeds in the region. Water Hyacinth can quickly cover wetlands, thus changing the habitat for many waterbirds.


Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) on a misty morning

I was very fortunate to hear the vocal of this beautiful bird with iridescent colors on a misty morning!! and there are some astounding facts that when a peacock fans its ornamented train for a female during mating season, its feathers quiver, emitting a low-frequency sound inaudible to human ears.

These birds aren’t just nice to look at, they’re also clever, When they mate they give out a loud copulatory call. It was discovered that the birds can fake this call to attract more females!!

A Jerdon’s leafbird (Chloropsis jerdoni) feeding its juvenile one

On a sunny afternoon, I was headed back home from birding and in the nick of a time, I noticed activity on this tamarind tree, and was dazed to see this female (onto the left) feeding its young one! These species of lowland and foothill forests are found particularly in dry open wooded areas and forest edges.

Spotted owlet (Athene brama)

Birding is all about waiting for the right time!! Here a  pair of Spotted Owlets were continuously flying over a nesting hole. After a brief retreat, they were back in the hole. One of the pair occupied the hole while the other was on a branch and I’m glad that I was able to capture it!

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is home to a multitude of avian life with many migratory and native bird species, fortuitously I went birding when birds were at their most active and fly into the Park in their droves. Here the Little egret stands out spectacularly against the deep blue waters, with its long beak.

(Indian roller for the cover photo)


*Author is a mechanical engineering student residing at Bangalore. Interest in the nomenclature of birds made him an enthusiastic bird photographer and gave him all the patience in the world to wait for birds to show up. His birding life began at Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary where he got to interact with Ornithologists about migratory birds and a few fascinating facts. He has travelled to many states to capture the beauty of birds and his bird species count is 71… still counting!

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