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Over 100 bird species under threat

Kathmandu, March 4, 2016: As many as 167 bird species are likely to go the way of the dodo, as they face a host of challenges for survival ranging from habitat loss and degradation to climate change, according to a new study on national status of bird species from Nepal.

The first ever assessment of the national conservation status of Nepal’s birds released on Thursday, said that loss of forests, wetlands and grasslands due to human encroachment for settlements, agriculture and unsustainable resource extraction such as logging for local and commercial use and sand and gravel mining along the river beds are driving nearly 20 percent of the total 878 bird species recorded in the country towards extinction.

Large birds such as birds of prey, storks and pheasants that are found in lowland grassland are the most threatened species followed by wetland birds and tropical and subtropical forest birds. Similarly, habitats in the Tarai, Kathmandu and Pokhara Valleys are under huge pressure as these are the most densely populated areas.

The National Red List of Nepal’s birds under the ongoing National Red Lists of Nepal launched in 2009, a collaborative project between the government of Nepal and various conservation organisations including Zoological Society of London and BirdLife International, has assessed the national status of threatened bird species in Nepal.

The study is led by three renowned bird experts—Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp and Hem Sagar Baral.

Habitat loss and deterioration are considered major threats. Besides, over-exploitation, including over-fishing and illegal hunting and trapping, are threatening the bird population. “Climate change is a long-term threat,” the study says. Nepal’s protected areas which cover over 23 percent of the country were found to be of very high importance for the conservation of the country’s birds.

The National Red List of Birds provides baseline against which progress can be measured and Nepal’s birds can be monitored over the longer term, Richard Grimmett, head of conservation, BirdLife International, has been quoted as saying in the report. “This review therefore provides an excellent basis for putting in place the necessary strategies and action plans, so that this commitment might be met and continued beyond 2020,” he added.

The study further highlights the possible impact of climate change on behaviour and distribution of bird species in the country, including the sightings of a significant number of species at higher altitudes than previously in the recent years.

For instance, Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) was found breeding in the Pokhara Valley of Kaski district in June and July 2015 for the first time while previously it was only recorded up to 250 meters above the sea level.

The researchers also found that several species from lower altitudes which have previously not been recorded in the Kathmandu Valley or only recorded very rarely, are now resident or are regular summer visitors like Pale Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis unicolor) and Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis).