Monday, December 8, 2008


Birds are a common sight in Sri Lanka but many of us fail to appreciate them. To increase the awareness of the public about our feathered friends, the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) has launched its annual nationwide program to assess and study the distribution and presence of birds in Sri Lanka.

December has been declared Bird Counting Month as migrant birds that arrive from other countries too peak in this month. Participation is simple and one need not be an expert birder to get involve. Those who would like to participate has only to watch birds in as many places as possible - own home gardens, school premises, workplace, lakesides, paddy fields -anywhere that is frequented by birds. They can make a list of birds that they can identify in a given location and either email or post it to FOGSL. The list should include the date, location, weather at the time, the habitat that the bird was observed in, birds seen and the name with the contact details of the observer. Participants can also enter data directly to “Sri Lanka Birds” which is a part of the international database used to analyze status of birds.

The numbers of birds in various areas are also dwindling due to causes such as deforestation, wetland reclamation and changes in habitat. Even the birds that are common today can be diminished without our knowledge. So no species can be labeled as safe, no matter what its number is today. It is only when the public become aware of the value of these beautiful creatures, can more be achieved towards protecting them. Creating this awareness is another aim of Bird Month.

Prof.Kotagama on the ‘Value of observing birds and keeping records’

“Numbers can have great meaning. It helps us to keep track of changes, gives us confidence to effect changes, and to make good decisions”

“Birds are good indicators of environmental changes. For instance, an increase in the crow population of Colombo would indicate that there has been poor garbage clearance, and a polluted environment. An increase in beautiful birds such as the Sunbird would show that we live in an environment of quality”

Another example is the House Sparrow decline. A decade ago, most of the houses had nest boxes inviting this cute bird. But they are not to be seen in many areas, where they were previously common. So no species can be labeled, as safe no matter what its number is today. It is only when the public become aware of the value of these beautiful creatures, can more be achieved towards protecting them.

‘Bird Counting Month’ as a Citizen Science Project

‘Bird Counting Month’ exercise can be considered as a Citizen Science project where general public can participate. Citizen science is a term used for projects or ongoing program in which a network of volunteers, many of whom are not experts in the field perform or manage research-related tasks such as observation, measurement or computation. The use of citizen-science networks often allows scientists to accomplish research objectives more feasibly than would otherwise be possible. In addition, these projects aim to promote public engagement with the research, as well as with science in general.

Bird Month 2008 – FAQ

1. Why a Bird Counting Month..?

The environment around us is changing, How do we know this? One easy indicator is the common birds that visit our garden, the Magpie Robin that was present may not be there any more, The Crow population in the area may be on the increase; these changes are indicators of what is to come - inhospitable surroundings. To be more aware of this change and to commence a method to change this trend would be to keep tag of the birds in the area. - So count the birds at least once a year on the same day at the same time. You are sure going to help to make the environment - more importantly your own environment better. Beyond your home, in your neighborhood, in the province and the country needs this help from you.

Bird counting month is an opportunity for you to pay attention to the birds around you, count them and record them.

2. Why ‘December’..?

In ‘December’ we will be having the peak number of birds in Sri Lanka as it is middle of the migration season. December too is a holiday month, where you visit various locations, so you get more opportunity to observe birds. December is the last month of the year, so that you can also compile the records that you keep during the year and compile together.

3. How can I participate..?

Participation is simple.

i) Observe birds in as many places as you can. This need not necessarily be a wilderness - your home garden, school premises, workplace too are good places for starting this exercise.

ii) Keep a note about Birds. We all have "pencils and papers". The traditional reliable devices will never get replaced. If you have a computer and suitable software do so electronically.

iii) Send your records to FOGSL or feed the data directly to ‘Sri Lanka Birds’, a part of a global database “Worldbirds”.

4. I’m not an expert at identifying birds. Can I still participate..?

Definitely YES. We all can identify a "bird". Do not worry about what bird to start with, Just the bird. Black, blue or gold does not matter. You will be surprised at what you will see when you begin. Your own initiative will make you seek to get to know your friends, thus to identify them by name - here is the beginning - seek the help of a person or a field book at that point. (Note- To record at Sri Lanka Birds, you need to identify the species)

5. If participants are not expert, this won’t be accurate..?

Do not worry about that, If you only let us know that this is your first time we will compensate that situation. The important thing is we have to be more responsible to our environment, and birds can help us for that.

6. Do I necessarily have to visit a jungle to observe birds..?

You do not necessarily visit a wilderness to watch birds. You can do this in your home garden, school premises or at your workplace. It is through that wetlands and rainforests carries rich bird diversity, but the home gardens in Sri Lanka too are home for many birds. First learn about these neighbors.

7. How many birds may I see from my Home Garden..?

From an average home garden, you can observe at least 15 - 20 birds. Following are some of the common birds that most of the Srilankans can identify.

1. Red-vented Bulbul (konda kurulla)
2. Yellow-billed Babbler (demalichcha)
3. Oriental Magpie-robin (polkichcha)
4. Rose-ringed Parakeet (Rena girawa)
5. Common Tailorbird (battichcha)
6. Common Myna (myna)
7. Asian Koel (koha)
8. White-throated Kingfisher(pilihuduwa)
9. Spotted Dove (alu Kobeiya)
10. Red-backed Woodpecker(kerala)
11. White-bellied Drongo (kawda)
12. Brown-headed Barbet (kottoruwa)
13. Pale-billed Flowerpecker (pilalichcha)
14. Black-hooded Oriole (kaha kurulla)

This list includes the smallest bird in Sri Lanka, Pale-billed Flowerpecker and some of the best singers like Oriental Magpie Robin. Some species of Birds of prey (ukussa) or owls (bassa) too are sometimes visiting the Home gardens.

Perhaps your Home Garden is home for many other birds, you will never know. So go out and watch the birds and participate Bird Counting Month.

8. Can I see Migrants too from my Home Garden..?

Yes, some of the migrants can be seen in your home gardens. This includes beautiful birds like Indian Pitta (avichchiya), Forest Wagtail (kele halapenda), Asian Paradise Flycatcher (sudu redi hora), Blue-tailed Bee-eater (nil peda binguharaya), Brown Flycatcher (dumburu masimara), Barn Swallow (atu wehilihiniya).

9. Is there an Ideal time of the day to observe birds..?

Birds are most active in the morning, thus a morning count will be the best - Between 07.30 and Evening hours from 0500 – 0630 pm will also good to observe birds.

10. I do not have internet. How can I participate..?

Just send your records by post. Indicate your postal address and the closest town so that we can place your information in the right location.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rather amusing information