India makes a mark in global bird count event

Indian bird enthusiasts upload the second-highest number of checklists and the third-highest species of any country

GN Bureau | March 5, 2024

#Birds   #Environment   #Nature   #Wildlife  
Campus bird count at a school in Mysuru. (Photo Credit: Vijaya Lakshmi, courtesy
Campus bird count at a school in Mysuru. (Photo Credit: Vijaya Lakshmi, courtesy

In the recently held Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), India has done well, uploading the second-highest number of checklists and the third-highest species of any country. Over the four days of GBBC, Indian birdwatchers uploaded over 61,000 checklists and 1,036 bird species to eBird-an online platform to record bird observations.

The GBBC is an annual event that brings bird enthusiasts, students, and nature enthusiasts together to watch and count birds they see around the places where they live, work or study. It is open to everyone, regardless of age or experience. For Indian birdwatchers, it was the 12th year of participation in the GBBC, and it was held from February 16 to February 19.

This is the first GBBC whereby birders from all states and union territories participated. Many states were able to cover all their districts – Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal. This year the Campus Bird Count (CBC), a sub-event of GBBC, had a record-breaking turnout. More than 200 bird walks took place in various kinds of campuses across the country. This included educational institutions, government establishments, research centres, zoos, lodges, corporate compounds, and more.

While Kerala recorded the highest number of checklists (14,023 lists), West Bengal reported the highest number of species (538 bird species). Kudos to birders from Northeastern states of India for their enthusiastic participation in this year's GBBC.

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Dr. Ishita Chauhan, assistant professor at Rajkiya Kanya Mahavidyalaya, Shimla, said, “Being a psychology professor, I always talk about the importance of mindfulness. Learning about the Great backyard Bird Count was such an eye opener and has now turned me into someone who is listening to little birds chirping around which is such an integral form of being mindful. We often hear but never listen.”

“We’ve had very enthusiastic participation from birders in Meghalaya during this GBBC/ CBC. It was particularly heartening to see how students who had just learnt about the activity took it up with such a passion,” said Ezra Rynzah, an avid birder and nature enthusiast from Shillong, Meghalaya. He added, “To me, this was a very hopeful sign for the future, not just of GBBC but also of birds and wildlife. Experienced birders were also very forthcoming with their support and helped cover many different places with their counts. Together, we managed to cover 9 districts in the state and achieved a record count for Meghalaya of over 200 species during the weekend”.

“At first, many students were confused about the importance of birding. However, after taking part in the GBBC, their curiosity about the names, food habits, and habitats of various birds grew. Observing birds is enjoyable, and recognizing the distinct nature of each creature fills us with even greater appreciation for the beauty of wildlife,” said Lesemew M., founder of Eco-Warriors, Nagaland.

Events like GBBC provide impetus to civil society to study bird populations, distribution, and migration patterns as well as their local status. The data contributed by citizen scientists are also used by scientists and conservationists to better understand and protect bird species. India's strong participation in the event reflects the growing interest in birdwatching and conservation in the country, and highlights the rich biodiversity of the Indian subcontinent.

The Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual citizen science event that engages bird enthusiasts of all skill levels in counting birds and contributing to bird conservation, is usually held over a four-day period in February, and participants can count birds in any location, from their own backyards to local parks and nature reserves.

It was first launched in 1998 as a way to gather information on bird populations and distribution. Since then, it has grown into a global event, with participants from over 100 countries counting millions of birds. Participants in the GBBC are asked to watch and count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the event and report their observations online. It is designed to be a fun and accessible way for people to get involved in birdwatching and bird documentation. The results generated from this event also provide important data on bird populations that can help inform conservation efforts. In India, the GBBC is organised by Bird Count India.




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