144 species spotted in Goa's maiden wetland bird census

The first-ever bird census has recorded 144 bird species and 9,992 birds across Goa's 23 wetlands which includes four vulnerable and five near-threatened species, according to experts.

Panaji: The first-ever bird census has recorded 144 bird species and 9,992 birds across Goa's 23 wetlands which includes four vulnerable and five near-threatened species, according to experts.

A first of its kind wetland bird census called the All Goa Waterfowl Count (AGWC) was conducted by the Goa Bird Conservation Network (GBCN) in association with BirdCount India (BCI) in two phases, on January 18, 2015 covering North Goa district and January 25, 2015 covering South Goa district.

The aim of the AGWC- 2015 was to conduct census of wetland birds at all wetlands of major importance in the state simultaneously, a press release said here.

Teams comprising of expert birders and volunteers covered important wetlands in the two districts of the state conducting total bird counts on both the days.

This exercise resulted in a total of 36 birders making 22 hours of observations throughout the state (15.5 hours in North Goa and 6.5 hours in South Goa).

All the data generated during the census has been uploaded on eBird, an international bird data repository platform and is available for wider community to access.

A total of 144 species of birds were reported from the wetlands and 9922 individual birds were counted.

Total 16 wetlands in North Goa district and seven in South Goa district were covered on both the days.

During the census, nine threatened species (4 vulnerable and 5 near-threatened) of birds have been reported from the state.

The Carambolim-Dhado Wetland complex was found to have good species diversity with the team lead by Pronoy Baidya reporting 85 species, while Navelim Wetland in Bicholim Taluka was found to hold a good population of birds with the team lead by Harshada Gauns recording 2238 individuals, the release said.

The Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii) and Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) were found to be the most common resident birds of?wetlands across the state, with these species being reported from 19 of the 23 wetlands surveyed.

Among the migratory birds, the raptor Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) was recorded from 12 of the 23 wetlands surveyed while the Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) seems to have a good population with more than 1000 individuals reported just from Navelim Wetland and their population was found distributed in all major wetlands in Goa.

The most interesting records from the AGWC 2015 are the sightings of the Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) at Carambolim-Dhado Wetland Complex and the Eurasian Wigeon (Anas Penelope) at Batim Lake reported by Ronit Dutta and his team.

The Pied Avocet was reported for the first time by GBCN member, Paresh Gosavii in 2012 from Carambolim- Dhado Wetland Complex and was a new record for Goa then.

After a year's (2013) gap, the Pied Avocet has visited the state again.

The Eurasian Wigeon on the other hand was once a very regular winter visitor to the state but in recent years their sightings have reduced.

This census has helped in better understanding the distribution and species composition of birds in the wetlands of Goa, the release said.

Wetlands are highly productive areas and especially in Goa are intricately associated with agriculture.

Monitoring of health and status of wetlands is an important exercise and the best way to do this is by monitoring wetland birds since birds are scientifically known to be indicators of species richness and endemism patterns.

Changes in the population of birds can be a very good indication of broad environmental changes, it adds.

Subsequent surveys in coming years will help us in identifying wetlands which are under stress and will help in making suitable recommendations to government agencies, it said.

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