Climate change and developmental activities lead the change in arrival pattern and habitat alteration of the migratory birds in the coastal wetlands of India.
Four prominent wetlands on the east coast of the country – from south moving upwards – Gulf of Mannar, Point Calimere, Pulicat and Chilika in Odisha.
The above were traditional hibernating sights for winters till decade back. But now their numbers are dwindling. All thanks to extensive degradation of wetland habitats.
Climate change is second reason affecting the flight. The winters in Odisha’s Chilika were really chilly which were ideal for the Arctic birds. It used to be their nesting ground and they were accustomed to the temperature before taking their flight back to Arctic. Today the numbers have declined for the birds such as greater flamingos, plovers and spoonbill sandpipers. Not only numbers but their arrival patterns have changed. Some arrive too early and some are coming later.
These wetlands in the past have successfully provided refuge to birds from different parts of the world. We got visitors from as far as North Central and West Asia, Europe and Mediterranean regions. It should be noted that not only these wetlands but the health of stopover cities is equally important. These stopover cities are used by the birds on the way to build the energy reserves before a long migratory journey. Some birds fly as far as 18000 kms in one year to undertake their migration successfully. If these sites are degraded the birds are devoid of food to refuel and they perish.
No doubt that these migratory water birds connect continents and countries. But for us they are excellent environment indicators at both global and local scales.