There are 889 bird species recorded within Nepal’s geographic boundaries in the last 230 years, making it one of the world’s richest birding destinations. Many of these birds have been protected by the government through the establishment of a network of protected areas. Apart from that, many forests, wetlands, and rangelands that are not connected to any of these networks are also home to these brightly colored inhabitants.
Bird conservation is deeply rooted in Nepali culture and tradition, which has also aided in the preservation of these magnificent creatures. Crows are worshipped during the festival of ‘Kag Tihar,’ peacocks are revered as the carriers of the god Kartikeya, white swans are revered as the carriers of the goddess Saraswati, and vultures are remembered as the heroic Jatayu from the Ramayana. These traditions and cultures are replete with references to the significance of birds and the need to protect them.
The threats to birds continue, and their numbers are currently on the decline, despite the efforts described above. Large-scale threats such as habitat loss and alteration, hunting and poaching, secondary poisoning as well as excessive use of agrochemicals, powerlines, and other similar infrastructure have negatively impacted bird life.
Dr Hem Sagar Baral, the country’s most senior ornithologist and the director of the Zoological Society of London’s Nepal Office, explains, “Nepal has the highest concentration of ornithologists in the world.” “This is the time of year when approximately 150 different bird species migrate to Nepal for the winter. The vast majority of Nepal’s winter migrants come from China, Mongolia, Russia, and other northern countries, according to the United Nations. At this time of year, not many birds in Nepal are able to reproduce. Residents tend to be less territorial and more accepting of visitors’ presence than non-residents. Upon arrival in Nepal, these birds become acquainted with their surroundings as well as with the local bird population. Wintering migratory birds rely on wetland habitats for half of their food, while the other half prefer forests and open habitats.”
Dr Baral also informed that he will be leading the national count of aquatic birds in major wetlands in Nepal next month on behalf of Wetlands International, the leading international organization in the field of wetland conservation all over the world, which will take place the following month. During the middle of winter, more than 50 wetland sites will be surveyed for birds by as many as 300 volunteers spread across the country as part of the aquatic birds counting event, which has been taking place for the last 35 years since 1987 and has taken place every year since 1987. The information gathered from such events is used to keep track of the status of aquatic birds both nationally and internationally, with the goal of conserving the species and their habitats in the process.
The conservation of birds will be beneficial to human society in a variety of ways. Every bird in Nepal is protected under the country’s federal law on wildlife conservation. The Danphe, Nepal’s national bird, is one of nine bird species that receive the highest level of protection under the country’s wildlife act. It is also the country’s national bird. Birds such as the Munal, Cheer, Black and White Storks, Bengal and Lesser Floricans, Saarus Cranes, and Great Hornbills are among the most endangered species on the planet.
Ecotourism promotion through bird watching, for example, has a direct impact on our livelihood and should be prioritized. Prior to COVID-19, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 visitors per year came specifically for bird-watching, according to the best educated guess. The number of people who were indirectly involved in bird tourism was approximately 10,000. The development of bird-watching tourism has aided the country’s progress toward development and bird conservation. We can expect this industry to resurge in the near future.
A large number of Nepali teenagers have taken up the cause of bird conservation. Every year, approximately ten Master’s level students graduate with their thesis work on birds. There is an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm from these passionate bird lovers and photographers, which gives us reason to be optimistic about the future of our birds.