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| Last Updated:: 23/03/2015

Head east to catch sight of endangered birds

 It's always the Western Ghats that are in the spotlight and few know that its eastern counterpart has a rich biodiversity. A team from Chennai recently completed a three-year study on birds of the Eastern Ghats and recorded 270 species of birds, of which 15 are rare, endangered or threatened.

In Tamil s Nadu, the East l ern Ghats stretch from Sirumalai and Karanthamalai Hills in the south to Kalrayan Palamalai and Mettur Hills in the north. The study, led by R J Ranjit Daniels of CareEarth, a Chennai-based biodiversity organisation, focused on hills and forests of northern Tamil Nadu across nine districts-Trichy , Salem, Namakkal, Erode, Dhar mapuri, Krishnagiri, Tiruvannama lai, Vellore and Villupuram. 

"Most research on birds is done in the Western Ghats and very little is recorded or published about bird life in the Eastern Ghats," said Daniels, who began the study , funded by the ministry of environment, forests and climate change, in May 2012.

Birds were counted on short transects (particular paths along which animals or birds are observed) in the morning and evening to identify crepuscular (active at twilight) and nocturnal birds. The major habitat types in the region are dense forests of the deciduous and semi-evergreen types, open thorn forests, riparian forests, plantations, rocky hillocks with scrub and wetlands. The highest eleva tion in the study area was around 1,500m above sea level and most of the study locations were above 500m. 


The research team made 8,455 observations in which 270 species of birds were recorded. Of these, 40 species are be considered common species of birds in the study area.The red-vented bulbul topped the list as the most common bird with 429 observations followed by the redwhiskered bulbul (300). 

Other frequently observed birds were the white-browed bulbul, common iora, purple-rumped sunbird, Indian robin, spotted dove, common tailorbird, purple sunbird, rufous treepie and rose-ringed parakeet.Each of these species was observed not less than 140 times during the study, Daniels said.


Birds such as the grey-headed bulbul, lesser fish eagle, white naped tit, spangled drongo and 35 other species were observed only once during the study. "Presumably these are some of the rarest birds recorded in the study area, especially the white-naped tit, a species found in very few parts of the country," he said. 

Fifteen species of birds have been recorded as rare, endangered and threatened. None of these species were observed in Trichy , Vellore and Villupuram. Erode had the maximum number of rare species at 11, while Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and Namakkal had three each, Salem two and Tiruvannamalai one. 

Of the major terrestrial habitats, dense forests supported maximum number of bird species (152). 

Open forests and riparian vegetation came in next with 141 spe cies. The agricultural areas had species richness of 100 while plantations and rocky scrub had 82 and 54 respectively , the study revealed. 

The study also recommended the establishment of forest bird sanctuaries in Namakkal, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem districts.Bird tourism could be explored as means of creating sustainable livelihoods for tribal communities, Daniels said.