Not mobile towers, sparse nesting sites hit sparrow population in urban areas

The assessment has renounced the widespread notion that the population of house sparrows has greatly declined and has classified it as Low Conservation Concern.
Representational image. (Photo| P Jawahar, EPS)
Representational image. (Photo| P Jawahar, EPS)

THOOTHUKUDI: State of India’s Birds, 2020, a national-level assessment of birds has classified 101 species as “high conservation concern” including 34 species which were not considered threatened globally by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. 

The assessment was conducted by leading organisations like ATREE, BNHS, Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Nature conservation foundation, National Biodiversity Authority, National centre for biological sciences Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Sacon, Wetland international, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and WWF based on the data available with eBird, a global online notebook for birdwatchers. The eBird-India holds over 10 million records constituting a large database.

The report has compiled the status of 867 of the more than 1,400 bird species in India. The assessment is based on three indices - Long-term Trend which is over 25+ years and Current Annual Trend, the prevalence of the situation for the past 5 years and the Distribution Range Size.  Of the 261 species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since 2000, with 22% declining strongly. In all, 43% of species showed a long-term trend that was stable and 5% showed an increasing trend, the report found.

Whereas, of the 146 species for which Current Annual Trends could be estimated, nearly 80% are declining, with almost 50% declining strongly. Just over 6% are stable and 14% increasing, the report pointed out. The experts have managed to find the range size of all but estimated for 6 species. Over 46 % have Moderate range sizes, while 33% have Large or Very Large range sizes, and 21% have Restricted or Very Restricted range sizes. the report reveals.

House sparrows 

The assessment has renounced the widespread notion that the population of house sparrows has greatly declined and has classified it as Low Conservation Concern. The analysis suggested that the house sparrows have been fairly stable overall during the past 25+ years. However, data from six metro cities - Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai - indicated a gradual decline of their abundance in urban areas.

The experts believe decreasing insect populations and paucity of suitable nesting sites have contributed to the decline in the urban centres. They renounced the popular theory that radiation from cellular towers is a factor for its decline, stating it is not supported by current evidence. Due to lack of evidence for either long-term or current countrywide declining trend, the assessment classified house sparrows as Low Conservation Concern.

The experts, following an analysis, have categorised 101 species as High Conservation Concern which include 59 based on their range size and abundance trends, and 42 based on their IUCN Red List status. Also, 34 species which were not considered globally threatened by the IUCN Red List, have been classified under High Conservation Concern.

Among the species of high concern, 48 species including Indian Vulture, Nilgiris Sholakili, Great Indian Bustard, Narcondam Hornbill, Forest Owlet, Broad-tailed Grassbird, Andaman Green Pigeon, are endemics to the Indian sub continent. The report recommended an emphasis on the species of High Conservation Concern and to protect the habitats including grasslands, scrublands, wetlands and the western ghats., and support researchers and citizen scientists to conduct long-term monitoring of bird population and related studies.

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