Mandira Dootraj | Intern

Bhutan reported 329 species of birds during the four-day Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) from February 17 to 20 this year.

GBBC is a global annual event that involved some 45 Bhutanese birders this year. The Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) organises the event in the country.

Last year, during the GBBC, 54 birders reported 384 bird species.

Birders are required to spend at least 15 minutes in any birding place and submit the data through the e-bird platform.

GBBC report stated that the birders submitted 138 checklists, compared to 195 checklists submitted last year.

Of the total bird species reported, 14 bird species are globally threatened and 11 species are range-restricted species according to the GBBC report.

Indian Paradise Flycatcher


The report also stated that the majority of 153 water bird species that have been identified belong to a duck family which has more numbers of migratory members than the resident ones. “With this, the nation’s list is ranked among the top 30 globally for having a diverse avifauna.”

Officials said that the least sighted bird in Bhutan is Indian Paradise Flycatcher found in Samtse which has now dropped to only one species. In the past years, there were two species found in Zhemgang and Tsirang. Likewise, the critically endangered White-Bellied Heron population is less than 60 individuals globally and Bhutan has 23 of them.

RSPN’s project officer Tshering Tobgay said the bird species are declining and that the data are important for appropriate conservation planning. “The documentation about the bird species distribution across the nation helps conservationists focus their activities on threatened or endangered species.”

He said the conservation challenge reflects on the vultures popularly known as scavengers or carcass-crunching birds. “There were six species of vultures reported last year.”

RSPN declares that the White-rumped vulture and Red-headed vulture populations are critically endangered species that help to eliminate harmful substances from the environment. For example, the dead corpse leaves bacteria and other pathogens that could spread throughout the nearby areas and infect humans and other animals, including livestock.

He said that climate change impacts migration time, breeding and also food resources of the birds. For instance, he said the birds migrate during their favourite time and climatic conditions. “The unfavourable climatic conditions in their habitats could lead to the death of birds because birds take time to adapt to different climates.”

Researchers said that climate change will break birds’ breeding and growth which are directly affected by temperature, rainfall or drought. “That also leads to scarcity of food sources for migratory birds.”

GBBC is one of the first annual events marked throughout the world that encourages birders to document the data of bird species across the world. The GBBC was launched in 1998 by the Cornell lab of ornithology and National Audubon Society.