Documenting Goa's birds with the 'Goa Bird Atlas'
In Goa, around 480 bird species have been listed — that’s around 37 per cent of all bird species found in India. That’s a commendable number since Goa, even though it is a small state, is rich in biodiversity and has some ideal habitats for many species of birds.
There is a need for better understanding and documentation of these birds. Thus, on June 12, 2023 a consortium of 22 organisations from the state, country and internationally, announced a unique effort to initiate the Goa Bird Atlas.
This is an ornithological work that provides information about the distribution, abundance, long-term change and seasonal patterns of bird occurrence. Goa will be the second state after Kerala, to initiate the preparation of a bird atlas in India.
The announcement was facilitated by Dr S Subramanya, a well-known ornithologist and student of Dr Salim Ali, Dr Asad Rahmani ex-Director of Bombay Natural History Society, well known for his work on Important Bird Areas of India, and Praveen J who coordinated the Kerala Bird Atlas from Bird Count India.
While the process is scientific in nature, the method is designed in a way that it is based on the nuances of citizen science, which will be dependent on contributions of students from schools, colleges, teachers, birdwatchers, ornithologists and anyone in the state who would want to contribute towards conservation of birds in Goa.
The objective of the Goa bird atlas is to survey roughly 370 km2 of the state within one calendar year 2023-‘24: twice, during dry (mid-December to mid-February) and wet (mid-August to mid-October) seasons, exactly for 60 days in each season. It will cover all 12 talukas, six protected areas, one Ramsar site, all wetlands of importance and all habitats.
Dr Pronoy Baidya, of Goa-based Arannya Environment Research Organisation states that a bird atlas helps in mapping out the distribution of birds at high resolution.
He says, “This helps in understanding what species are where and whether there are population clusters of certain species, especially species that need conservation focus. Species that may not be of conservation priority at the global level, but may be of high concern locally. An atlas will tell us which those species are. We will know the habits under stress which would need immediate intervention for conservation prioritisation.”
This project will also help in knowing about seasonality. “Right now, we think many birds like egrets are resident breeders in Goa, but the atlas will hopefully establish the fact that they are not,” notes Dr Pronoy.
He further adds that this atlas will be a people’s project and will bring in environmentally conscious people together to work for Goa’s ecology. The logo of the Goa Bird Atlas Initiative features the threatened Malabar Grey Hornbill, whose populations have declined steeply in the state since 2012, and will act as the mascot for protection and conservation of bird habitats for Goa.
It is expected that data produced from the efforts of the Goa bird atlas would help the scientific and conservation community of Goa to understand critical information about birds — like temporal patterns of species responses to seasons, high resolution distribution maps of key species, identification of species that have conservation implications locally and identifying critical habitats that need conservation.
It will also lay the framework for evaluating long-term changes in the light of climate change and changing land use patterns.
The atlas project is being led by Dr Pronoy Baidya, Jalmesh Karapurkar from Arannya Environment Research Organisation, and Sujeetkumar Dongre from the Centre for Environment Education in collaboration with the Goa Forest Department, Goa University, Goa State Biodiversity Board, Goa State Wetland Authority and Bird Count India, while it is supported by Wipro Foundation and Integrated Biopharma and Pharma Solution.
Technical partners include Wetlands International, Bombay Natural History Society, Goa Bird Conservation Network and SAWE, while several other NGOs and responsible tourism operators have pledged their support for the initiative. The consortium will carry out four intense training workshops in both the districts of Goa in July for all participants who are interested, and the actual surveys shall kick off on August 15, 2023.
For details on how to contribute and participate, please visit:
Alternatively, you can Dr Pronoy Baidya (+91 99529 80432) or Jalmesh Karapurkar (+91 88067 72756)