State of India’s Birds Report 2020: Jerdon’s Babbler identified as ‘species of most conservation concern’ for Punjab

Divya Goyal
State of India’s Birds Report 2020, Jerdon’s Babbler, chandigarh news, punjab news, indian express news

The report is the first such assessment of long-term trend, current trend, distribution range size and overall conservation status of 867 bird species.

Jerdon’s Babbler, a songbird, has been identified as the “species of the most conservation concern” for Punjab, according to the State of India’s Birds Report 2020, released recently.

The report is the first such assessment of long-term trend, current trend, distribution range size and overall conservation status of 867 bird species. The report has been prepared on the basis of more than 10 million observations contributed by more than 15,000 birdwatchers on eBird platform.

As per the “Key Species for States” identified for conservation at sub-national level, the Jerdon’s Babbler has been listed as “species of most conservation’ for Punjab. It signifies that the government of Punjab needs to conserve this songbird, which is often sighted at Harike Wetland in Punjab - a Ramsar site recognized by the United Nations.

As per the report, Jerdon’s Babbler (Chrysomma altirostre) has distribution range size of approximately 21,000 square kilometers in India. A Schedule-IV bird under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, it is also listed in ‘vulnerable’ category in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list 2019.

It is one of the 101 species that have been placed under ‘High’ conservation concern. Its distribution status has been mentioned as “Restricted” signifying it is found in limited habitats.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Ashwin Viswanathan, research associate, National Conservation Foundation (NCF) and one of the experts involved in preparing the report, said, “For each state, we have identified some species, which are regularly sighted there and have decent population but need to be conserved because they aren’t found commonly in other states. Jerdon’s Babbler lives in isolated groups and its western population is mostly concentrated at Harike wetland in Punjab. It is mostly found near grasslands and wetlands.”

The bird’s eastern population is concentrated in two other states, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and there too it has been identified as species of most conservation concern.

“This is a species that don’t mix up with other groups of their species, which means eastern groups will not mix with those in Punjab. It is also a ‘resident’ bird, which doesn’t travel much so needs to be conserved where they are,” said Viswanathan.

This songbird was also found along Indus basins in Pakistan and on the eastern side in Myanmar and Bangladesh but of late, its numbers have been declining rapidly. “Currently, we do not have any data to substantiate the status of Jerdon’s Babbler in Pakistan or Myanmar. But it is a native species of Indian subcontinent and once was found across Indus basin in Pakistan. Even in Indian context, it is a ‘data deficient’ species meaning we do not have enough data to calculate long-term and current trends even for Punjab. So it is tough to say if its population at Harike wetland has been increasing or decreasing. For that we need many years of continuous monitoring,” he added.

How to identify Jerdon’s Babbler

According to eBird, India’s largest resource guide on birds: “Jerdon’s Babble is a warm brown babbler with a distinctive round-headed and short-billed profile. Extremely localized, restricted to disappearing patches of tall riverine grassland and reedbeds. Usually in pairs or small groups. Shy and skulking, typically best detected by its flute-like, melodic song, but if seen well, note its grey face, pale throat, and golden ‘spectacles’ around eyes”.