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23 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Birds of Bangladesh

By Bipul K Debnath
Birds of Bangladesh

Birds contribute largely to the beauty of nature in Bangladesh. The spring season here gets festive with the charming sight and sound of birds, especially in village settings. Different types of birds, from wild birds of the forest to waterbirds, can be seen all around the country. Besides local species, migratory birds from the Himalayas and Siberia come to our country for shelter and food during winter. These birds return home after spring.

As Bangladesh is a signatory to conventions to conserve migratory species (Bonn Convention) and wetlands (Ramsar Convention), our Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) has formulated Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012, and developed ecologically critical areas to protect migratory birds. But due to climatic changes and lack of conservation, the number of birds is reducing day by day. Once, wild peacocks could be seen in the northern part of our country. But the beautiful birds are extinct now from hunting.  

This week, The Weekend Independent talked to bird experts, conservationists and wildlife photographers regarding the present status wild birds in our country.

According to the latest Asian Waterbird Census (AWC), a total of 80 species of birds, including 57 species of water birds with 26,525 individuals, were counted in the south-central coastal areas of Bangladesh. Out of the 57 water bird species, six  are nationally and globally threatened, including the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, endangered great knot, and four near threatened species such as black-headed ibis, black-tailed godwit, curlew sandpiper and river tern.

The 2018 AWC took place between January 8 and 15 and 17 different sites on remote islands of Bhola and Noakhali districts were surveyed. The census was jointly organised by Bangladesh Bird Club (BBC), Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project (BSCP), IUCN Bangladesh, Prokriti O Jibon Foundation and Bangladesh Forest Department, and supported by Bird Conservation Fund and IUCN Bangladesh, said Sayam U Chowdhury, conservation biologist and assistant coordinator of BSCP.

On January 27 and 28, BBC and IUCN arranged a bird census at Tanguar Haor in northeast Sunamganj district where 59,542 birds of 36 species were counted, Enam Ul Haque, a bird specialist and founder of Bangladesh Bird Club said.

“The number of common teals, a migratory bird, has increased at Baikka Beel at Sreemangal upazila of Sylhet this year. Their number is 1,580 now. A waterbird census was held from January 24 to 26. The number of migratory birds was found to be 5,418 of 38 species. But last year, the number was 10,713 of 41 species, while it was 8,831 of 31 species in 2016,” Haque said after finishing survey activities at Hakaluki Haor.

About the reason for reduced numbers, Haque said, “Last year, a larger number of birds were seen than the previous year. There are fewer birds in the haors this year. The number fluctuates every year. So, we cannot say the number is decreasing. Baikka Beel has become an unsafe zone for birds due to unabated hunting. For that reason, the number has been reduced this year."

MA Mohit, a mountaineer and member of Bangladesh Bird Club, has been observing birds for 18 years in the coastal areas, including Noakhali, Laxmipur, Patuakhali and Bhola districts. When he first started birdwatching with the club in 2000, he saw many more migratory birds. But their numbers have been declining, he said.

“I have seen a noticeable reduction in numbers over the past four years. Mainly, migratory birds come to our country from the northern hemisphere, particularly Tibet and Siberia. They come here for food. Nowadays, we can see people living everywhere. For this reason, the environment is facing disturbances and is being threatened,” Mohit said, based on his long-time practical experience.

“When migratory birds face challenges of habitat and food supply, they stop coming. The widespread use of current nets for fishing in the wetlands and coastal areas destroys the food cycle. That is why migratory birds do not get adequate food. Then there are greedy people who hunt migratory birds. Some engage in selling the birds illegally. They also disturb the birds’ sheltering places. We have to protect migratory birds for our own sake. We have to be more aware. The government should declare protected areas for migratory birds as soon as possible,” Mohit said.

“We want to grab any newly surfacing land in the coastal areas. We do not see an instant outcome from polluting nature. So, we never think of the betterment of nature. It is important to keep the environment healthy for ensuring a better life for our future generations,” Mohit added.

To identify important biodiversity areas along the coast, Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project conducts regular surveys. “Our coastal mudflats still hold seven globally threatened and 12 other near-threatened resident and migratory birds. Most of these areas are still wild and unchanged,” said Sayam U Chowdhury.

Regarding wild birds of Bangladesh, Monirul H Khan, a professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University, said: “There are three types of wild birds in our country. There are forest birds, wetland birds and all types of widely distributed birds. The forest birds are highly endangered because the forests are decreasing rapidly. For example, we have not seen a forest bird named ‘white wing duck’ in Rangamati district since the 1980s. Hornbill is an endangered bird. Habitat loss, hunting and poaching of chicks are the main threats to these magnificent creatures.”

Hornbills build their nests in tree cavities or rock crevasses that are sealed shut, except for a narrow, vertical slit. “The female hornbill is very fussy about the nesting accommodation. The male brings lumps of soil moistened with his saliva, and sometimes reinforced with droppings, chewed wood and bark and other detritus. So, that is how a hornbill couple builds its nest,” Shahriar Caesar Rahman, chief executive officer of Creative Conservation Alliance, said about the interesting nesting behaviour of hornbills.

Birdwatching is a popular form of global tourism. But in our country, people do not have much idea about it.

Sourav Mahmud, a biologist and a member of Bangladesh Bird Club, said, “I am a man who simply loves birds, oceans, and of course, wild birds. At present, watching birds and wildlife photography have become popular among tourists. Besides birdwatching, people enjoy taking pictures of wild birds. It is very important that they have some basic ideas about wildlife and its conservation.”

About the best time for birdwatching in Bangladesh, Mahmud said, “The winter is the best time for watching birds in forest areas. Nowadays, people become alert through social networks and follow conservation activities while roaming around in nature.”   

This year marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act 1918, a US federal law enacted to implement a convention for the protection of migratory birds between the United States and Great Britain (on behalf of Canada). To honour the milestone bird-protection law, nature lovers around the world are joining forces to celebrate 2018 as ‘Year of the Bird’ to reaffirm their commitment to protecting birds, according to National Geographic.

“2018 has been declared the Year of the Bird. This year marks a century since the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was put into place, following a treaty between the USA and Great Britain to protect over 800 migratory bird species from hunting and capture. We will commemorate this great achievement for bird conservation. We will renew our commitment to protecting birds worldwide for the next 100 years. Over 1,300 bird species across the globe are threatened as a result of human activities,” said Enam Ul Haque of BBC.

The Year of the Bird puts bird conservation in the spotlight. Every month, organisers will announce a simple but effective way that we can all play a part in for bird conservation.

“We call you all to take the pledge to take action for bird conservation this year. One can click on https://goo.gl/NU4HAZ to join the 2018 Year of the Bird movement and pledge your commitment to conserving these beautiful creatures,” Haque added.

“We know 2018 has been declared as the ‘year of birds’ by several conservation organisations. We hope to arrange several activities, including bird fairs, in new locations, and take up new research and conservation projects,” said Sayam U Chowdhury of BSCP.

Meanwhile, Syed Abbas, a wildlife photographer and nature observer, believes nature can recover by itself from the damage done to it: “I was in Teknaf area of Cox's Bazar district in 2014. At the time, I saw a bird named grey octal that had lost its beautiful tail. I felt sad, but could do nothing. After 25 days of observation, I found the bird with a new tail. The bird got its tail back naturally. But nature should be kept undisturbed.”

Photos: Courtesy.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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