Tirupati Bird Atlas, a first in Andhra, released- The New Indian Express

Tirupati Bird Atlas, a first in Andhra, released- The New Indian Express

VISAKHAPATNAM: The first-of-its-kind in Andhra Pradesh and only the third across India, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Tirupati unveiled the ‘Tirupati Bird Atlas.’ The project aims to conduct comprehensive research on bird distribution within the region, encompassing a range of critical factors, including bird numbers, species diversity, habitats, and behavioural patterns. The project was conceived by the state forest department. National Geographic Society and Duleep Matthai Nature Conservation Trust also extended their support.

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 an astonishing total of 27,230 birds, representing a diverse array of 219 different species. The data collection spanned two seasons, with surveys conducted during October and November (pre-monsoon) and January. These efforts involved more than 600 hours of combined dedication, spread across 530 kilometres, generating over 500 bird lists, and yielding insights into 219 different bird species.

The survey findings revealed that species richness is most pronounced in mixed habitats, with fewer species documented in core urban environments. The survey also revealed significant changes in abundance and distribution between seasons for various bird species.

During the survey, 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 in all Tirupati habitats, including Tirumala hills, while house sparrows appeared selectively in urban and semi-urban areas. Black drongos were common in all habitats except in Tirumala.

Greater coucals were less abundant in urban areas. 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 highlighted seasonal variations in bird species. Baya weavers showed significant shifts from breeding (pre-monsoon) to winter. Cattle egrets increased in abundance, with a wider winter distribution. Little cormorants had a consistent distribution around Tirupati but showed abundance changes. Indian pond herons varied in number in different seasons but exhibited stable distribution. 

Purple sunbirds had some abundance changes across habitats in both seasons. Common ioras had varying distributions, indicating the need for extended data in order to understand their behaviour and movement better. 

The ‘Tirupati Bird Atlas’ also shed light on species of conservation importance, 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 recorded only during winter in the open habitats of rural Tirupati, and the Oriental darter (IUCN Status: Near Threatened) was observed exclusively in wetlands in rural areas and the Kalyan dam reservoir.

“Each species has unique conservation requirements and production statuses. 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; it is equally vital to all creatures. Development is not opposed, but the contemporary global crisis demands responsible and sustainable approaches to progress,” said Raja Bandi, Citizen Science Coordinator at IISER Tirupati. 

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