Covid impact: No migratory bird census at Harike wetland for first time in 11 years

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For the first time in 11 years, the annual census of migratory birds descending upon the Harike wetland was not conducted. Reason:The raging third wave of the pandemic.

Every year, thousands of winged visitors from low-temperature regions across the world, including different parts of Europe and North Asia, arrive at Harike wetland in the first week of November and stay here till March.

The department of forest and wildlife preservation of Punjab, with the help of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and various bird clubs, including the Avian Habitat and Wetland Conservation Society, the Chandigarh Bird Club, the Bombay Natural History Society and experts from various universities of Punjab, conduct the census.

“This year’s census could not be conducted due to the third wave of Covid pandemic,” said Ferozepur divisional forest officer, wildlife, Nalin Yadav.

“Every year, we start the census in the third week of January. The wetland is divided into 12 to 14 parts and as many teams are dispatched for the survey. But this year, the situation was not conducive. Some participants had even tested positive for the virus. This is for the first time since 2011 that the census could not be conducted,” said Gitanjali Kanwar, coordinator, aquatic biodiversity, WWF India.

Yadav, however, said the department managed to conduct the species count survey. “As per the latest survey, around 80 species of migratory birds visited the wetland this year,” Yadav added.

The species which made a beeline to Harike this year include Northern Shoveler, Ferruginous Duck, Marsh Sandpiper, Northern Pintail, Tufted Duck, Gadwall among others.

Last year, 90 species were recorded, including three unidentified.

In 2020, only 74,869 migratory birds had arrived at the wetland, which was the lowest in over six years. Officials attributed the dip to “some undescribed” issues in low temperature regions. In 2019, the count of migratory birds was 1,23,000; 94,771 in 2018; 93,385 in 2017; 1,05890 in 2016.


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