THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The number of water birds in Kollam showed slight increase compared to previous years, according to a census report by the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC). The census was conducted covering the major wetlands in Kollam district by WWF-India with the support of Social Forestry Wing of Kerala Forests and the Wildlife Department.
The birds were found in abundance at Polachira and Neendakara–Shaktikulangara harbour area which pushed up the total count, ultimately giving a slight increase of 17 percentage than previous year’s tally of 5,697. The census covering eight different bird rich sites came out with a total count of 6,649 birds belonging to 65 species in place of previous year’s count of 5,697 from 61 species. The present count includes 33 migratory species, while in 2018 it was only 22.
Polachira, near Chathannoor, was covered by two separate teams as it is a vast wetland and is known as the waterbird hub of Kollam district. But unlike previous years, this time the scene was totally different as the wetland was totally drained off for agriculture and this resulted in a sharp fall in the population of wild ducks like migratory Garganey Ducks, Spot-billed Ducks and resident Lesser Whistling Ducks.
“There were only two Pygmy Cotton Goose, which are resident, and absolutely no ducks were seen anywhere in the wetland. On the brighter side, birders have reported 20 Woolly-necked Storks, 164 Indian Pond Herons, 369 Cattle Egrets, 76 Black Kites, and 68 Barn Swallows. The count of Little Egrets was just 48, a horrific fall from the last year’s 435, and so also the population of Grey-headed Swamphen, from 65 to 40. Oriental Darter, which are designated as ‘Endangered’ by IUCN, the count was just 1, whereas in 2018 it was 4 and 2017 it was 55. The physical change in the habitat, from being totally waterlogged like that of a lake, to being converted into fallow land, can be attributed as the major reason for this drastic fall in the number of swimmers,” said Ranjan Mathew Varghese, state director, WWF-India, in a statement.
He said birds, especially water birds, is a direct indicator of the health of the wetland ecosystem.
“So, any change in the water bird population, be it numbers or species, should definitely be a matter of concern and we should immediately act on any such notable observations. The local self-government institutions, the district administration and departments concerned should monitor the extent and health of our wetlands and take necessary steps to protect them,” Ranjan said.