Count the birds: Public urged to join global initiative


Published on SundayTimes on 17.02.2019

As the annual initiative, Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) from February 15-18–where birdwatchers around the world are invited to count and report details of birds in the area in which they live– marks its last day tomorrow, a veteran ornithologist here has said it was important to keep a tab on what are regarded as common birds too.

Prof. Sarath Kotagama says that while many are concerned about the declining numbers of rare birds, the numbers of common birds, too, could dip towards extinction without anyone realising it and, therefore, it was important to take a count of those birds too.

The latest ‘State of the World Birds’ report published by BirdLife International reveals that while highly threatened species continue to go extinct, what were once considered common and widespread species too are in sharp decline. At least 40% of bird species worldwide (3,967) have declining populations, compared with 44% that are stable (4,393) according to the report.

“As the birds around are mostly common ones, even an amateur birdwatcher can identify most of the birds around us. So the public too can join in such citizen science initiatives such as the GBBC and make note of the common birds which can be an indicator of the state of the environment,” Prof.Kotagama explained.

Red-vented Bulbul. Pic by Hari Namasivayam

The global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a citizen science project conducted annually in mid-February. During this four-day event birdwatchers around the world are invited to count and report details of birds in the area in which they live.

The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) based at Colombo University urges Sri Lankan birders also to participate in GBBC. “The migratory birds are still in Sri Lanka in mid-February, hence the timing of the GBBC is good to get an annual snapshot of birds here,” FOGSL president Dr.Sampath Seneviratne said.

“The GBBC is also a great opportunity to introduce not just adults, but children too to birding and build greater awareness of our biodiversity and its conservation. So get your kids to participate in this event,” urges Dr.Seneviratne.

Meanwhile pointing out that the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has announced its first coordinated flamingo count in the region on February 23 and 24, Dr.Seneviratne said that FOGSL will carry out a similar programme here too on the same days. He invites birdwatchers here to be a part of the programme by calling the FOGSL hotline on 0789330076. The Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus rosues) is a common winter visitor to Sri Lanka, and birdwatchers and wildlife photographers flock to Mannar and other northern regions to get a glimpse of the spectacular gathering of hundreds of these birds.

Flamingos (c) Janaka Bandara

How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count 
Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes on one or more days of the four-day event and upload their sightings on eBird ( 

If you find it difficult to access eBird, make a list of the birds seen around in your area their numbers and details of the location, sounds etc and email to urges FOGSL or call their hotline 0789330076 for any assistance. 

White-breasted Kingfisher

Rose-ringed Parakeet

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