First-of-its-kind Tirupati bird Atlas unveiled in AP- The New Indian Express

First-of-its-kind Tirupati bird Atlas unveiled in AP- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

VISAKHAPATNAM: The Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Tirupati recently released the State’s first-of-its-kind Bird Atlas, which elaborates on the distribution of birds within the region, encompasses a range of critical factors, including bird numbers, species diversity, habitats, and behavioural patterns, based on a survey. The Tirupati Bird Atlas is the third such project in the country after Mysuru and Kerala. The State Forest Department, National Geographic Society, and Duleep Matthai Nature Conservation Trust supported the project initiated by IISER-Tirupati.

The survey covered a broad spectrum of habitats, including major urban zones, industrial areas, agricultural regions, and forested areas in Tirupati. Over 60 volunteers meticulously counted a total of 27,230 birds, representing a diverse array of 219 different species. The data collection spanned over two seasons, with surveys being conducted in the pre-monsoon months of October and November and winter month of January.The study was conducted over a period of more than 600 hours of combined dedication, covering over 530 kilometres, generating over 500 bird checklists, and yielding insights into 219 different bird species.

Survey Findings

Findings of the survey revealed that richness of species richness is most pronounced in mixed habitats, with fewer species documented in core urban environments. It has also been learnt that there are significant changes in abundance and distribution between seasons for various bird species. According to the study, the Indian spot-billed duck was absent in urban water bodies, while the Indian pond heron was widespread in various habitats. The Asian koel was found in all habitat types, but the common myna was missing in the high-elevation Tirumala hills. White-throated kingfishers were frequently seen in most wetlands, while white-breasted waterhens were elusive in urban wetlands.

Red-vented bulbuls were found across habitats in Tirupati, including Tirumala hills, while house sparrows were spotted selectively in urban and semi-urban areas. Black drongos were common in all habitats, but absent in Tirumala. Greater coucals were less abundant in urban areas, while ashy prinias were widespread. Ashy-crowned sparrow larks were seen in open areas and farmlands, while yellow-browed bulbuls were exclusive to Tirumala’s moist habitats.

The survey also highlighted seasonal variations in bird species. While baya weavers showed significant shifts from breeding (pre-monsoon) to winter, abundance of cattle egrets increased with a wider winter distribution. Little cormorants had a consistent distribution around Tirupati, but showed changes in abundance.

Indian pond herons varied in numbers between seasons, with a stable distribution. However, purple sunbirds showed some changes in abundance across habitats in both seasons. Common ioras had varying distributions, indicating the need for extended data to understand their behaviour and movement better.The Tirupati Bird Atlas also shed light on the need to conserve species such as the yellow-throated bulbul (IUCN Status: Vulnerable), which was exclusively recorded from the slopes of the Tirumala hill and adjacent hillocks.

The red-necked falcon (IUCN Status: Near Threatened) was spotted only during winter in the open habitats of rural Tirupati, while the oriental darter (IUCN Status: Near Threatened) was observed exclusively in wetlands in rural areas and Kalyani dam reservoir.

Elaborating, citizen science coordinator at IISER-Tirupati Raja Bandi said, “Each species possesses unique conservation requirements and protection statuses. Smart cities are currently experiencing rapid urbanisation. To conduct urbanisation responsibly, this data is invaluable in guiding decisions and actions. Earth’s significance extends beyond humanity and it is equally vital to all creatures. Development is not opposed, but the contemporary world’s crisis demands responsible and sustainable approaches to progress.”

Pointing out that researchers in Kerala dedicated six years to amass substantial data about their local ecosystems, Raja added, “Such studies inspire responsible behaviour and heightened environmental consciousness among us. While sustainable development is much spoken about, it is equally vital to prioritise responsible development that benefits every living being on our planet. Also, such projects demand substantial resources and financial investment, making them ideal candidates for support from major corporations as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts.”

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