Biodiversity crisis: India’s bird populations ‘declining sharply’, research shows

Harry Cockburn
Numbers of glossy ibis have risen in India, but other species have seen worrying declines: Getty

Hundreds of bird populations in India are collapsing, according to a major new report.

Researchers using data collected by more than 15,000 birdwatchers examined trends over a 25-year period, and also over the last five years, and in both cases found numbers had declined overall.

Over the last quarter of a century there is data available for 261 species – 52 per cent of which were found to be decreasing in number.

And over the past five years, data available for 146 species revealed almost 80 per cent of them were declining.

Overall there are 101 species now classified as of “high conservation concern”, according to the State of India’s Birds 2020 report.

The groups showing the greatest decline are birds of prey, migratory shorebirds, and highly-adapted habitat specialists which live in specific ecosystems, the report said.

“The report highlights common species that are declining sharply. These need conservation attention before their numbers reduce further,” said Dr R Jayapal of Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History.

This overall decline in species demands research into the causes, and action to protect those most at risk, the authors said.

They have called for renewed focus on India’s conservation policy, management and funding models in order to protect remaining populations.

Dr Dhananjai Mohan of the Wildlife Institute of India said: “Earlier, many conservation decisions pertaining to birds were not based on much evidence. This report helps to bring much-needed data to bear on these issues.”

As well as in India, bird populations are also declining across Europe, and ecologists warned of an “ecological Armageddon” when a 2017 study revealed flying insect numbers had plummeted by 75 per cent in Germany.

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