Arjun Kannan, Prashanth M.B, T. Ganesh
Frontline | June 2, 2023
It was a late winter evening in the early 1980s. One of us (T. Ganesh) was in a small patch of grassland near Hyderabad, counting harriers, a hawk-like bird that migrates to India in winter. There were hundreds of them, all flocking down to spend the night on the grassy meadow.
When we went back to the place some 15 years later, the grasslands had disappeared, replaced by trees planted in neat rows. The harriers were nowhere to be seen. More recently, in Tamil Nadu a large patch of grassland was lost to a tree plantation drive, robbing the harriers once again of their night roosting grounds. As we travelled across India looking for harriers, we found the same story repeated everywhere as grasslands were diverted to other forms of use, harriers and other grassland dependent species stopped visiting. No wonder, harrier counts done by various birdwatchers and researchers across India indicated a steady decline in their numbers in the last 30 years. It is the same with many other species of migratory birds, which are rapidly losing their migratory quarters and wintering grounds.