Goa, which has 0.1% of India’s area, has 37% of its listed birds

During the last winter season, when birders set out on their annual birding expedition across Goa, they were delighted to have spotted four new species in the state. This has taken the number of listed birds found in Goa to 481, which is almost 37% of the tally of birds listed across India, though it is the smallest state in terms of geographical area.

Malabar starling, chestnut winged cuckoo, great bittern and white browed fantail are the newest bird presence recorded in the state.

The Malabar starling is generally found in southwest India, while chestnut winged cuckoo in South-East Asia. The presence of great bittern or Eurasian bittern is a sub-family of the heron, whereas white browed fantail breeds across tropical regions of Indian sub-continent and South-East Asia. But these birds have been spotted and added to the list of recorded birds found in Goa for the first time.

“With the addition of four species of birds, the richness of Goa’s landscape in supporting avifauna has been highlighted,” Aranya Environment and Research Organisation president Harshada Gawas said.

The recorded bird numbers in Goa stood at 477 at last count, with the last two additions being of the migratory greater flamingo and lesser flamingo.

Goa’s recorded bird species roughly constitute 5% of the total 10,000-odd bird species listed globally.

Goa has around 481 of 1,300 bird species recorded in India

Compare the geographically tiny state’s 481 to the 525 bird species listed in the vast state of Karnataka. This has helped make Goa a popular destination with birdwatchers from India and abroad.

Peru has the largest number of birds listed for any country in the world with its count standing at 2,000, while the recorded bird species in India are between 1,200 and 1,300, of which Goa has nearly 481. “Goa is blessed with a wide variety of habitats and this has made Goa a bird watcher’s paradise. The habitats are very easily accessible and one can travel from the coast to the dense forests within a matter of hours. One is able to sight many of the Western Ghats endemics quite easily here,” Goa Bird Conservation Network’s Omkar Dharwadkar said.

Goa offers a diverse habitat within a small area — the coast, the mid-elevation plateaus and the Western Ghats, which as one of the eight biodiversity hotspots in the world, comparable to the habitats of the Amazon, Congo and Borneo.

The Western Ghats, the coastal plains and mid highlands with creeks, islands, estuaries, rocky headlands, grasslands, marshy land, paddy fields and the hilly forest cover has been offering refuge to varied species of bird, while also attracting many migratory species, largely from eastern Europe, who come here to escape the harsh winter.

The first comprehensive checklist of birds of Goa was meticulously prepared by Heinz Lainer, listing 382 species of birds in 1999. As per the current checklist of birds of Goa, there are 481 species in which 120 are rare, 3 are critically endangered and 13 are vulnerable. The Western Ghats that has four wildlife sanctuaries and one national park is home to 16 species of endemic birds.

In 2018, based on robust rules for verification of all records from Goa, 473 species were published in Indian Birds, authored by Pronoy Baidya and Mandar Bhagat. On November 13, 2020, with the new additions the total species count reached 477.

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