Officials said that the 'International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Birds-2013' shows that 15 bird species in India continue to be in the 'critically endangered' category. Of these, three bird species are now in greater danger than before.
The decline in the population of these species is because of the growing human interference in areas where bird nesting and colonies exist, said the officials. Studies by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and other organizations, including Wildlife Institute of India, of factors most responsible for the falling numbers of several bird species reveal that like wetlands, most other habitats such as grasslands and forests, also face severe threat due to developmental pressures. The drastic loss of grassland habitat over the past decades has severely threatened species such as the Great Indian Bustard, Siberian Cranes, Bengal Florican and Jerdon's Courser.
While the extensive use of diclofenac by farmers for treatment of their cattle, had led to the fall in the number of Indian vultures, the destruction of deciduous forests has lead to the decline in the number of Forest Owlets. The presence of chemicals in the carcass of animals on which scavenging birds feed has affected their population adversely.
BNHS-India Director, Dr Asad Rahmani, said that on the basis of insightful scientific field research, there is an urgent need to conserve the remaining habitats and the species dependent on them. "Policies that ensure this through sustainable development should be framed and implemented at the earliest," Rahmani said.
Critically endangered species: The species falling in the critically endangered category in India include migratory birds.
Wetland species: Baer's pochard, siberian crane and spoon-billed sandpiper.
Non-migratory wetland species: White-bellied heron.
Grassland species: Bengal florican, great Indian bustard, Jerdon's courser and sociable lapwing.
Forest species: Forest owlet.
Scavengers: Indian vulture, red-headed vulture, white-backed vulture and slender-billed vulture. Himalayan quail and pink-headed duck.
Great Indian Bustard: The great Indian bustard found mainly in Gujarat and Rajasthan in India is on the verge of extinction. In Gujarat, its population was not more than 50 birds. Officials said that the IUCN assessment blamed "ill-defined land distribution policies" and "encroachment" of its habitat as major threats to the bird. On its part, the forest department had last year sanctioned an increase in the size of the Bustard Sanctuary from 2 sq km to 37 sq km. The last survey in 2007 pegged its population in the Naliya grasslands of Kutch - its sole habitat in Gujarat - at 48, while an assessment by the Birdlife International for the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) red list of endangered species pegs the population in Kutch at less than 30.
Indian Vulture: The population of the Great Indian vulture has been declining sharply in the state. The headcount of long-billed vultures in Gujarat has gone up from 265 in 2010 to 361 in 2012, an official statement said.
However, the white-rumped vulture population has decreased from 793 in 2010 to 577 in 2012. Officials said that the 2012 census had put their total population in the state at 1,043. Even in the cities, there has been a sharp drop in the number of vultures. Recently the population of these scavengers has been found to be decreasing because of the use of diclofenac by farmers as medicine for cattle.
Scavenger birds feeding on the carcass of these animals tend to die. This is also affecting the environment adversely. Gujarat was the first state in 2004 to ban diclofenac but, despite the ban, the use of the medicine continues to be used.
Siberian cranes: Nowadays, the winged visitors are not spotted in larger flocks in Gujarat. These birds visit the Little Rann of Kutch, especially the Chari Dand area, and Nalsarovar and Thol. Many of these migratory birds did not only because of the high level of water in the wetlands but also because of the pesticides found in the food they eat. It was in December last year that at least 23 Siberian cranes were found dead in Bhudia village near Jakhau in Kutch. A postmortem of the dead birds had revealed the presence of pesticides in their blood and vital organs.