Composition and conservation status of avian species at Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh, India
Mohd. Shahnawaz Khan 1, Aftab 2, Zarreen Syed 3, Asghar Nawab 4, Orus Ilyas 5 & Affifullah Khan 6
1,4 Freshwater & Wetlands Programme, World Wide Fund for Nature-India, 172 B Lodi Estate, New Delhi 110003, India
2,3,5,6 Department of Wildlife Sciences, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh 202002, India
1 email@example.com (corresponding author), 2 firstname.lastname@example.org, 3 email@example.com, 4 firstname.lastname@example.org, 5 email@example.com, 6 firstname.lastname@example.org
Being conspicuous elements of the ecosystem, birds are the most suitable biological indicators for monitoring the health of an ecosystem (Gregory et al. 2003). In contrast to chemical or radiological monitoring of environmental health, a simple bird survey (Biological monitoring) can tell, simply and directly, the condition of living systems in a landscape of interest. Such knowledge is more direct and more integrative than information merely about a siteÕs contamination status (U.S. EPA. 2002). To assess the distribution and conservation status, occasional and random point count sampling for birds was conducted during the summer of 2010 (March to May) at Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh, India. The observations were made simultaneously with Otter and Gharial surveys under the sponsorship of WWF -India. Findings suggested that the mosaic of habitats of the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary holds a good variety of avifauna. In addition to the earlier checklist of 186 avian species (Riyaz 2000; Tanveer 2000; Islam & Rahmani 2004), anecdotal references on the occurrence of White-tailed Bushchat Saxicola leucura, FinnÕs Baya Ploceus benghalensis, Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax and Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus were reported from the area (Rai 1982, 1983). This study appended the earlier records with 15 new bird species for the area.
Study Area: Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary forms 2073km2 area of the upper Gangetic plain, the flat alluvial region formed by the deposition of silt by Ganga River between 28046Õ–29035ÕN and 77030Õ–78030ÕE (Fig. 1). According to Rodgers & PanwarÕs (1988) biogeographic classification, Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary falls in the upper Gangetic plain (7A) and represents the Gangetic grassland biome. The alluvial region comprises the Khola (elevated alluvial deposition, parallel to the western bank of river Ganga), Khadar (low lying sandy bed of the ever shifting river Ganga on either bank) and Boodhi Ganga (belt of swamps and marshes between Khola and Khadar, which are fed by river Ganga), a more or less permanent feature of ravines. But now marshy swamps have been drained or are in the process like Boodhi Ganga (Aftab 2010; Khan 2010). The vegetation occupied only 17% of the Sanctuary area which comprised tall wet grasslands (35.3%), short wet grasslands (23.5%), dry scrub grasslands (29.4%) and plantations (11.8%) (Khan et al. 2003). The remaining 83% of the Sanctuary area was under cultivation and a township which resulted in considerable human disturbance (Khan et al. 2003; Agarwal 2009; Khan 2010).
Materials and Methods: The study was conducted from March to May 2010 at Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary. Equal numbers of vantage points were randomly chosen with at least 250m separation in different habitats of the Sanctuary. At each point on the terrestrial habitat, bird species were recorded within a close circle of 30m radius for a time duration of 20 minutes using binoculars (7×35) as an optical support while for river and wetlands open radius circular plots were laid. Authentic field guides on Indian birds were used for the purpose of identification (Ali & Ripley 1987; Grimmett et al. 1999; Kazmierczak 2000). Relative abundance was assessed in terms of the following four categories (i) Abundant (species observed on 75–100 % of visits), Common (species observed on 50–74 % of visits), Uncommon (species observed on 25–49 % of visits) and Rare (species observed at < 24% of visits). The Sanctuary was divided into four different habitat types namely Khola, Khadar, river Ganga and Boodhi Ganga. On the basis of usage of available habitats, species distribution was categorized into four types. Species using only one habitat type were categorized into clumped with only 25% of available habitat usage, species found in two habitat types were labeled as clumped distribution with 50% of available habitat usage, similarly species with a usage of three habitat types were categorized into random distribution with 75% of available habitat use while the species using all the four available habitats were categorized into random distribution with 100% usage of available habitats. The nomenclature of birds follows Manakadan & Pittie (2004).
Results and Discussion: A total of 117 avian species belonging to 44 families were recorded during the course of the study. Among the recorded avian species, 111 species were Least Concern, three and two species were Near Threatened and Vulnerable categories, respectively, while one species was from Endangered category as per the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Table 1). Fifteen species namely Bluethroat Luscinia svecica, Indian Chat Cercomela fusca, Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos, Common Pochard Aythya ferina, Cotton Teal Nettapus coromandelianus, Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo, Gadwall Anas strepera, Gull Billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica, Indian Shag Phalacrocorax fuscicollis, Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, PallasÕs Gull Larus ichthyaetus, Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, Small Pratincole Glareola lacteal and White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus were reported for the first time from the area. Out of 117 recorded species, 25 were abundant and 57 species were common while 26 species of birds were assessed uncommon and the remaining nine species were rare (Table 1). The maximum bird species were recorded from river Ganga (Fig. 2, 29.79%) followed by Boodhi Ganga (28.51%) while 26.81% of bird species were recorded from Khadar and the least percentage of bird species was recorded from Khola (14.89%). A highly clumped distribution was recorded for 43 species, i.e., with only 25% usage of the available habitats, 38 bird species showed aggregated distribution with 50% available habitat usage, and 75% usage of available habitats was recorded in the case of 28 bird species which was considered as random distribution, while 8 species were found widely dispersed with 100% usage of available habitats (Fig. 3). Although Khola provides refuge to the wild fauna of the Sanctuary, the results indicated that due to high pressure from agriculture and other human disturbances, it is avoided by birds. Until the 1950s, Khola was a continuous belt of land 36.4km (Murti & Singh 1961) in length but due to disturbances the area has become fragmented, being converted into a series of small hillocks of sandy loam, with heights ranging from 20–40 m (Khan 2010). Despite being a protected area, locals in the vicinity of the Sanctuary are heavily dependent on the forest produce (Khan et. al. 2003). The Sanctuary harbors the unique riparian habitat along River Ganga, the national river of India and it also has historical values. There is an urgent need to prevent encroachment of the wildlife assets of the Sanctuary, and awareness and education programmes are also recommended.
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