A long due categorisation of India’s birds

‘To date we did not know how many species of birds are exactly known to occur in India. But that’s not the case anymore,’ Arun Bhatia writes.

I was pleased to receive my subscriber copy of vol. 11 nos 5 & 6 of Indian Birds, a quarterly ornithology journal. It has in this issue, the very first definitive check list of India’s birds across the country. In fact, Praveen J., Rajah Jayapal and Aasheesh Pittie’s article occupies all 170 pages of this volume. They say that Indian ornithology is 300 years old, but to date we did not know how many species of birds are exactly known to occur in India.

They now give the answer: India has 1263 species, which means that we have fully 12 percent of the world’s 10,135 species. This painstaking work of compilation by India’s leading ornithologists has been done with a scientific approach. They reviewed every bird species reported from India in the past.

“Only those for which we have convincing evidence, e.g. specimen record in world museum collections, photographs, video clips, call records and detailed field notes have been included in the check list. We have sent it to 25 experts over the world, to get a peer review”.

They categorised and standardised India’s avian fauna by their English names, scientific names and modern taxonomy.

I learnt that of the 1263 species, the Himalayan Forest Thrush (Zoothera salimalii) is the newest species discovered to science. The White-browed Crake (Amaurornis cinera) is the latest entry to India’s list of birds. I was intrigued that among the bird families, Muscicapida (flycatchers, robins, chats) is the most diverse with 97 species. And we have 57 species of raptors (birds of prey including vultures, eagles and kites). With this definitive check list, it will be possible to be aware of the number of threatened species for initiating conservation action plan.

Rajah Jayapal is the principal scientist at the Salim Ali Centre of Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), while Praveen J is a software engineer and Assistant Editor of Indian Birds. Aasheesh Pittie a Hyderabad businessman is the editor of the journal. Each issue of this quarterly is brought out with superb photographs on art paper, stunning front and back cover, and in depth information on our avifauna.

Indian Birds’ predecessors were a humble cyclostyled rag named Newsletter for Birdwatchers, brought out from Bombay Natural History Society decades ago by naturalist and conservationist Zafar Futehally. It transformed into a more slick one with the same name when Futehally moved to Bangalore, and then had a new avatar with the name Indian Birds. He edited it till he passed away five years ago, and the journal is in good hands.

Annual subscription fee for the Indian Birds journal is Rs. 300. For more information contact aasheesh.pittie@gmail.com.

Arun Bhatia is a resident of Bengaluru and an avid reader, writer, and photographer. He has also modeled in TV commercials.


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