“Birds are an ecological litmus paper”
These eminent words by Late American Naturalist Roger Tory Peterson, couldn’t resonate more among nature enthusiasts and birders. There’s an ethereal feeling when one navigates ecosystems sprawling with the flight and songs of birds. When one sets foot on a given area brimming with an astounding diversity of birds, it is safe to say that such spectacles are a well-defined indicator of a healthy and pristine habitat. India is well known for a host of such ecosystems – encapsulating wetlands, farmlands, forests, rivers, lagoons etc. Each habitat has its own set of distinctive birds.
Below is broad spectrum of the many habitats India possesses –
Lakes, marshes, lagoons, watersheds and village ponds are prominent areas that come to mind when one thinks of wetlands. India boasts a plethora of wetlands of different types. Some are temporary as they emerge post monsoons and disappear during the drier spells. These areas offer a wealth of abundance for migratory birds that travel in from the temperate parts of Asia and Europe. Waders, ducks and geese are the characteristic birds one can see in such habitats, as they gracefully feed in these shallow waters. Keladeo National Park and Sultanpur National Park are two hotspots birders should consider to experience the beauty such havens.
There are ample locations in the country that serve as scrublands. One can find them interspersed and fragmented close to the fringe of forest tracts, wetlands and agricultural land. This habitat also occurs in places where deforestation has taken place. The states of Gujrat and Rajasthan are ideal to seek birds that thrive in such habitats. The list entails birds such as Short Eared Owl, Painted and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Desert Wheatear, Coursers such as Jerdon’s and Indian, Montagu’s Harrier and Black Shouldered Kite, and species of francolins such as Grey and Black.
India is known for its peninsular coastline which harbours one of the largest mangrove forests in the world, The Sundarbans. The vast mangrove forests along our coastlines are under peril. These mangrove forests including Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary in Orissa are few of the best places in India to spot kingfishers such as the Collard and the Brown Winged along with other rarities such as the Mangrove Whistler and Pitta. The area is also known for the Masked Finfoot, although there haven’t been recent records of the same.
India is blessed with a wide array of forest types ranging from coastal mangroves moist deciduous, dry deciduous, to evergreen and montane forests which harbour broadleaf, oak and. Woodland birds are abit of a challenge to see, but they exhibit one of the finest behaviours and colours, whether it’s the Raquet Tailed Drongo or the Indian Paradise Flycatcher, they mesmerize viewers with their song and plumage. Even Owls, Woodpeckers, Leafbirds, Bee-eaters, Hornbills, Thrushes and Babblers apart from a host of others, form an integral part of a medley of birds. It is one of the best places to observe mixed flock hunting parties where birds of different species move together in flock as they partake in a feeding frenzy. Getting glimpses of these waves can serve as a highly enriching experience.
With nearly 60% of India falling under this category, birds are abundant in these parts. Doves, sparrows, buntings, prinias, quails, francolins, parakeets, rollers, kestrels, apart from many can be seen thriving here. However, with an excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers, a majority of farmland Is devoid of birdlife
Probably one of the best places to spot a plethora of bird diversity. This habitat is conducive for an array of endemic species especially in the Terai belt, situated at the base of the Himalayas along with as well as several other pockets of predominantly in Central, Western and peninsular India. The Great Indian Bustard and the Bengal Florican are both unique species to this particular ecosystem that are highly endangered. With the need for cultivation on the rise, most of these grasslands are under threat as human beings begin to encroach and such habitats for their own use. Even grazing and real estate development pose a serious risk to the survival of species that are a part of such ecological regions.