Question- what is the importance of birds?

The data of the recently released State of India Birds 2020 report is extremely shocking.

Wherever you live in the country, from dense forest to desert or any other city to streets. Possibilities are you wake up in the morning and the very first thing you hear is birds’ chirping. There are a number of countries around the world where there is a vast population of birds like ours. Bird watchers have recorded 867 species of sightings so far, which includes locals as well as expatriates.

The truth is that for decades our subcontinent has welcomed migratory birds from places that are miles away like Siberia. In the Lakkundi village near Hampi, relief carvings of migratory birds can be found on the walls of the Chalukya temple which is thousands of years old. It includes goose, cranes and flamingos.

If seen, birds are remarkably acknowledged in our culture. Coming to mythology, we do not even need to be reminded which birds are the vehicle mount of the Gods or Goddesses, or which birds had impressions in the emblems of our royalty. Whether it is music or art, we can find its presence symbolically.
Every child remembers stories of birds, must remember the story of a clever crow, birds are in every story of Indians. Even India, itself was known as ‘The Golden Bird.’

However, the data of the recently released State of India Birds 2020 report is extremely shocking.  This is the detailed (first of its kind) assessment of the conservation status of birds in abundance in the country. Tens of organizations like NCF, NCBS and A Tree have come together to collect bird data in India. They have reposed great faith in the 1 crore observations of 15,500 common people who have recorded their data on the easy-to-use ‘e Bird’ platform.

According to the data, out of 867 species, 101 are highly in need of preservation, 319 in general and 442 the least. Long-term trends were considered for 261 species, of which 52 per cent, more than half, have declined since 2000 while 22 per cent of these numbers have fallen significantly. Annual trends were read for 146 species and 80 per cent of them are declining and 50 per cent are at alarming levels. This situation requires immediate attention.

We did not know the objective of our birds’ lives until the arrival of this report. We knew about selected species, such as peacock. Its situation is quite better and the number is increasing well and about Gauraiya (Sparrow), which environmentalists thought was coming to an end.

Simply because their presence in urban areas was decreasing, while in reality, their numbers are stable. This report has now revealed that migratory birds such as the Golden Plover, prey birds such as vultures and Habitat specialists such as Forest Wagtail are in great danger.
But why should we worry about them? What is the importance of these birds?

Birds play an important role in our ecosystem.  They are pollinators for other species, seed dispersers, scavengers and also sustenance for other organisms. Birds can become part of the local economy, as several people like to watch them. A growing number of bird watchers in the country have promoted ecotourism.

The truth is that human health is closely related to the well being of birds and their number is threatening. There is an English metaphor, ‘Canary in the Coal Mine’ i.e. a canary bird in a coal mine. In the old days, while going to the mine, labourers used to carry the canary bird in the mines. If the levels of methane or carbon dioxide in the mine were high and the gas reached a dangerous level, the bird would die and workers used to come out of the mine safely.

The State of India Birds Report 2020 can alert us just like this canary bird. What can we do to save our birds? We need to observe, understand and protect them. Many of you would be a bird lover or chances are that birds give you immense pleasure.  In a way, to pay their debts, you should allow a part of your garden to remain untouched so that birds can reach there and make their nest. Many species of Munia (Lonchura), Bulbul and Sunbird are flourishing around us. Try to keep water for birds in different corners at different altitudes of the garden.

Many communities in India are doing a lot for the conservation of birds, sometimes even at the cost of their livelihood. There is a special connection between the villagers in Kokrebellur, Karnataka, and the two types of bird species, the spot build pelican and the painted stork. Villagers in Pangati, Nagaland, have vowed not to kill Amur Phalkan in the past. These birds pass through that area in large numbers.

Recently, the Supreme Court has taken the initiative to direct the Government of Rajasthan to save the endangered Sarang (Herons). It’s lesser-known fact that Sarang was in the race to become our national bird while picking peacocks. Such examples can be found everywhere. Birds fill our sights with grandeur, lends peace to our souls. As a nation, we should think about what we can do to preserve India’s incredible diversity of birds. For them as well as for us.