Ornis Hungarica. vol.29(1). (2021) p.1-19.
Wintering waterbird assemblage in an emerging wetland of West Bengal, India: characterization for conservation management
Waterbirds constitute a prominent biota and reflect the ecosystem health and functionality of the freshwater wetlands. Documentation of the bird species assemblages of wetlands is therefore carried out as a part of monitoring of wetlands from a sustainability viewpoint. Using the emerging wetland of Purbasthali, West Bengal, India, as a model study area, the diversity of the associated bird species was estimated to supplement necessary information for conservation management of birds and ecosystems. The point count method was applied to count the waterbirds from each sighting location with a 25 m radius covering 360° arc and the counting period lasted 10 min for each site, and counts were made in the winter of 2016/2017. The data on the waterbirds encountered were recorded and subjected to diversity analysis, including the residential status, global population trend and feeding guilds. Apparently, the wetland was considered as suitable habitat for 27 waterbird species, which could be grouped under 24 genera, 10 families and 5 orders. Among these, the family Anatidae with maximum relative density and abundance dominated in the wetland. Out of the 27 recorded species, 5 species were widespread winter visitors, 3 species widespread resident, as well as, widespread winter visitors and 2 species were sparse local winter visitors. A globally near threatened species, the Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) was very common in the sampling sites. The waterbird assemblage in the wetland was dominated by carnivores followed by omnivores and herbivores. The abundance of the waterbirds with considerable variations in the foraging guild reflects availability and exploitation of multiple resources of the Purbasthali wetlands. Prominence in the differences in relative abundance of the different waterbirds could be linked with the heterogeneity in the habitat quality. The present information on waterbird assemblage calls for appropriate measures for conservation of the species and appropriate management of Purbasthali wetlands.