Why birdwatchers are looking forward to May 13

Endemic Bird Day and Himalayan Bird Count Day will celebrate the wonder of winged creatures found in India and South Asia

GN Bureau | May 10, 2023

#Himalaya   #South Asia   #Birds   #Environment   #Nature  
Spot-winged starling (Photo: Subhadra Devi)
Spot-winged starling (Photo: Subhadra Devi)

On Saturday, May 13, birdwatchers and enthusiasts have organised two important events: on Endemic Bird day, those in India will document the 232 species of birds that are endemic or near-endemic to the subcontinent. Also on the same day, birdwatchers in the Himalayan regions of India, Bhutan, and Nepal will have Himalayan Bird Count Day, to document birds of the region.

Both events coincide with the Global Big Day, in which birdwatchers all over the world try to document as many species as they can in a period of 24 hours.

Endemic Bird Day is an annual event that takes place on the second Saturday of May every year.

On last year's Endemic Bird Day, a total of 1,078 birders went out to look for endemic (and other) species and uploaded 4,139 bird lists. In all, 835 species were recorded on that single day, of which 151 are endemic to South Asia.

This event is unique to India, and experienced as well as novice birdwatchers can take part in it. One needs to create an account on eBird.org/india, a site that millions use to keep track of the birds they see around the world.

One can take part from one’s own home too. They can report their bird sightings to the eBird website (ebird.org/india) or through the free eBird Mobile app. Those with more time on hand can watch birds as often as they can and upload more than one list of birds from more than one location.

Endemic birds are species of birds that are restricted to specific geographic regions, and can be found nowhere else in the world. Endemic birds play a crucial role in maintaining the biodiversity of their respective regions, and are often indicators of the health of local ecosystems. Here is the list (MS Excel): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1U2PHvNlb0TJ8B-7r5Ft-IZVVq6xW6Ake/edit?rtpof=true&sd=true (as listed on eBird). Unfortunately, many of these birds are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, and other human activities.

The Himalayan Bird Count (HBC) aims to celebrate the incredible bird diversity and bring attention to the threatened habitats of the Himalaya, from the westernmost Ladakh to the easternmost Arunachal Pradesh.

This is the second year of the HBC. Last year, this event saw remarkable enthusiasm, with over 400 birdwatchers participating from Nepal, Bhutan, and India, uploading 1,150 bird lists and reporting 626 species!

The event is organized by Bird Count India, Bird Conservation Nepal, and the Royal Society for Protection of Nature, Bhutan working together to bring the Himalayan birding fraternity together for a common good. The organizations have collectively decided to do this event on Endemic Bird Day and Global Big Day (also celebrated on 13 May 2023) to spread awareness about Himalaya’s bird biodiversity.

The Himalaya, the tallest mountain range in the world, has fascinated millions by its sheer might and beauty. The snow-capped mountains, the cold deserts, the lush green forests and grasslands, and the white waters of the rivers are home to several unique birds. But these fragile ecosystems and their inhabitants are threatened by rapid warming at a rate estimated to be three times faster than the global average.

“The Himalayan Bird Count is an excellent endeavor that not only gathers data on birds in the ecologically fragile Himalayan region, but also presents us with another opportunity to engage with the public to create awareness on the importance of birds and their role in nature” says Sanjay Sondhi, naturalist and founder trustee, Titli Trust, Dehradun, Uttarakhand.

“The Himalayan Bird Count is a great event that brings together scientists and citizens to study bird distribution in the fragile Himalayan mountains and assess the health of many bird species threatened by climate change and other anthropogenic factors! I think such events help people learn about bird ecology and their habitat!” says Sunitha Kathiwara, Project Officer at Forest & Environment Department, Government of Sikkim.

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