There are now 178 bird species in India classified as “high conservation priority” meaning that their abundance continues to decline after a considerable drop in the number over the years, and the sharpest decline in numbers is among species found in so-called open ecosystems or habitats, which typically have no protection.

That number is up from 101 in the last report, released in 2020. Worryingly, the number of long-distance migrants has declined by 50%, with those that breed in the Arctic but winter in India seeing a decline of 80%.

Birds with special habitats, as opposed to generalists that can live in multiple habitat types are far more threatened, the report has added.

These are among the key findings of the State of Indian Birds report 2023, released in Delhi on Friday. India’s birds are facing a significant decline in numbers revealing a silent, gradual change in population dynamics with around 60% of bird species recording long term decline in numbers and 40% showing an annual decline, according to the report.

The report, put together by around 50 experts from 13 premier institutions such as Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science (CES, IISc), Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), and Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), revealed that grassland, wetland, woodland and other birds of open habitat are declining very rapidly.

Species endemic to Western Ghats and Sri Lanka are particularly threatened. But, common species such as the feral Rock Pigeon, Ashy Prinia, Asian Koel and Indian Peafowl are thriving. The numbers of other familiar species such as the Baya Weaver and Pied Bushchat are also stable.

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