“Wetland protection is a must for bird conservation, for their survival, their food and shelter,” says Krishna Prasad Bhusal of the Bird Conservation Nepal. “Waterfowls are an indicator species, they show us the condition of the habitat.”
In January’s bird census, over 300 enumerators fanned out across 60 wetland spots across Nepal over a two week period. They did not just count birds and their species, but also collected information about illegal hunting and habitat destruction.
The good news this year were sightings of new species: the Mandarin Duck in Pokhara, Yellow-billed Duck in Kosi and the Baikal Gairi in Barju Lake and Thopla Chuche Nadun Duck in Jagdishpur.
Nepal’s annual bird count started in 1987 simultaneously with other parts of Asia under a Wetlands International initiative, which tries to tally the total number of waterfowls in Asia at the same time.
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, the Nepal Bird Conservation Association, and community groups took part in the census.
Says ornithologist Hem Sagar Baral of Wetlands International: “With this census we aim to increase public awareness about bird conservation by engaging local communities.”
Nepal’s great ecological diversity, a terrain that soars from 70m above sea level to 8,848m within a horizontal distance of less than 100km means that it has more than 886 bird species, more than continental United States.
Of these, more than 150 are migratory in nature, 60 of them in summer, when migration is relatively shorter in distance.
Every winter, birds from as far as Siberia, Europe, South Africa, Central Asia and East Asia travel to Nepal in search of favourable weather and habitat.
They spend most of their time in Kosi Tappu, Bishajari Lake in Chitwan, Jagdishpur, Ghodaghodi Lake in Kailali, Shuklaphanta Lake area and Kosi, Gandaki, Narayani and their tributaries.