Where are the Birds: Searching the Sahyadris for the Forest Birds

The Western Ghats of Maharashtra, locally known as Sahyadri lie roughly between 15° 60' and 20° 75' N and between 72° 60' and 74° 40' E, covering about 52,000 km² area. The Sahyadri Hills are the forefront of Western Ghats in the country and therefore play a vital role in the zoogeography of India. Of the sixteen restricted range (endemic) bird species reported from the entire Western Ghats, six species namely the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon(Columba elphinstonii) Crimson backed Sunbird (Nectarinia minima), Malabar Parakeet(Pisttacula columboides), Rufous Babbler(Turdoidessubrufus), Malabar Grey Hornbill(Ocycerosgriseus) and White-bellied Blue Flycatcher(Ocycerosgriseus) are reported from Maharashtra Western Ghats also.

The study aimed at assessing the distributional status of the endemic species and the forest-dependent birds in Protected Areas and Reserved Forests in Western Ghats of Maharashtra. The project sites included 8 protected Areas and 11 Reserved Forests namely, Sanjay Gandhi national Park, (SGNP) and wildlife sanctuaries of Bhimashakar, Tungareshwar, Harishchandragad-Kalsubai  Phansad, Chandoli, Koyna and Radhanagri.  The Reserved Forests of Tamhini, Chandgad, Amba, Amboli, Sawantwadi, Sinhagad, Lonavala, Mulshi, Raireshwar, and Kasarsada were also surveyed. Totally 224 species of birds belonging to 48 families were reported from the surveyed areas.  The findings of the survey indicate the presence of endemic, threatened and forest-dependent bird species to be associated with forest type, biotic pressures, size of the forest patch and availability of contiguous forests areas. Among the endemic species, the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher and Rufous Babbler were encountered from fewer areas and their status needs to be monitored.

The Great hornbill and the Malabar pied hornbill are both in the near-threatened category and schedule I species.  Although both the species of hornbills are nomadic, their future in Northern Western Ghats is uncertain as many Private Forest Owners in Sawantwadi region have converted the natural forests for coconut, areca nut and oil palm cultivation thus destroying the original forest of the region. The Protected Areas of Chandoli, Koyna and Radhanagri support highest numbers of endemic, threatened and forest bird species while Bhimashankar had high number of forest-dependent birds. The Reserved Forests of Amboli, Sawantwadi, Amba, Chandgad and Mulshi were identified as areas supporting high number of endemic, threatened and forest bird species.

The high tourism pressure in SGNP, Harishchandragad and Bhimashankar WLS is causing substantial disturbance in the area. The Reserved Forests of Lonavala, Amboli, Sawantwadi, Amba and Mulshi are under severe threat from commercial development projects, biotic pressure and uncontrolled tourism. In many areas, regular hunting of birds by local people is posing a serious threat to the birds of these areas .The study reports the presence of Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotusmelanicterusgularis and Grey Headed Fish EagleIchthyophagaichthyaetus from Western Ghats of Maharashtra which has so far been reported from Goa southwards. A few uncommon species such as Jerdon’s Nightjar, Japanese Buzzard, Fairy Blue Bird, Blue-bearded Bee-Eater and Brown-breasted Flycatcher were also recorded from the surveyed areas.

Supported by : Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi