The Asian Waterbird Census, an annual count of waterbirds that is underway in parts of Delhi-NCR has revealed a sharp decrease, about 29-35%, in species at Okhla Bird Sanctuary in comparison to previous years. The census carried out on January 7 2022 was compared to the count from the past three years.
The census that was conducted on January 7 recorded 47 species which is 34.3 % down in comparison to 2021, 29.14% down in comparison with 2020, and 29.61% down in comparison with 2019. Out of 47 species, 21 are resident birds which include local migratory species, while 26 were long-distance migratory species.
The number of birds has partially increased from 8,068 in 2021 and 8,776 in 2020 to 9,243 in 2022. It, however, is smaller than the 12,212 birds counted in 2019. The Census has also revealed that the number has increased by only one common migratory species larger flocks that is Northern Shoveler in comparison to the previous year. The census further added that some species of migratory waterbirds have not arrived this year at all.
TK Roy, Ecologist and AWC Delhi coordinator, Wetlands International South Asia says, "This Sanctuary usually attracts a good number of migratory species diversity as NCR Delhi including the sanctuary falls under Asian Central Flyway. However, delayed winter, and most importantly pollution is disturbing the habitat and has further lead to decrease in species diversity”.
Among the winter migratory waterbirds, various species were recorded in larger numbers such as Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Coot, and Black-headed Gull. Some IUCN Red-listed threatened species also recorded on this wetland such as Black-headed ibis (Indian resident), Common Pochard (Migrates from Central Asia), Ferruginous Duck (Migrates from Central Asia), and River Lapwing (Resident species).
The drastic drop in species is a matter of concern for environmentalists, officials and the community of Delhi NCR.