In an unprecedented mobilization of human resources for the cause of wildlife
conservation, 560 (five hundred sixty) persons participated surveying and counting weaver
birds in the just concluded Odisha Weaver Bird Count 2019. ‘Wild Orissa’ alongwith Odisha Chapter of Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN), who have been conducting Weaver Bird Counts in state of Odisha since 2016 annually, organized this years’ count. This count was the
4th consecutive weaver bird count in the state of Odisha, which focussed on three species of
weavers, belonging to family Ploceidae, resident in Odisha, viz., Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus, Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar and Black-breasted Weaver or Black-throated Weaver Ploceus benghalensis. ‘Wild Orissa‘ is the coordinator for Indian Bird Conservation Network in state of Odisha.
‘Wild Orissa‘ states the following are the census figures for Odisha from this years’ count:
(1) Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus– 14193 (fourteen thousands one hundred and ninety three)
(2) Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar– 3000 (three thousands) (3) Black-breasted Weaver Ploceus benghalensis– 35 (thirty five)
Total weaver birds counted during 2019 in Odisha: 17228 (seventeen thousands two hundred and twenty eight)
During 2018 a total of 11676 weavers were counted, comprising of the 3 species of birds as mentioned above). So there has been an increase of 5552 number of weaver birds counted in Odisha this year in comparison to last year.
‘Wild Orissa‘ states that this year a total of 18 districts in the state of Odisha was covered for counting weaver birds, against 10 districts covered for counting during 2018. This increased coverage for counting was possible due to enthusiastic participation of people from
all corners of the state!! The districts covered include Angul, Bhadrak, Boudh, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Ganjam, Jagatsingpur, Jajpur, Kendrapada, Keonjhar, Khurda, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangur, Nayagarh, Phulbani, Puri, Sambalpur and Sundargarh.
The volunteers, guided by experts from ‘Wild Orissa’ covered remote sites in the state, enabling to compile critical information helpful for conservation of weavers in Odisha. Volunteers included from septuagenarians to teenagers!! Such was the enthusiasm generated for these friendly species of birds!!
The participants were farmers, villagers, pensioners, policemen, paramilitary personnel, central government employees, state government employees, school teachers, college lecturers, school students, college students, small business, etc.
‘Wild Orissa‘ states that what was indeed heartening to note is the large amount of love and affection which exists for the weaver birds in the state of Odisha. Being a species which predominantly inhabits human-dominated landscapes, it is extremely important to have local people’s support for their conservation.
The main persons who have played a major role, coordinated and guided the participants in this year weaver bird census are:
- 1. Shri Sulabha Sethi (Wild Orissa)
- 2. Shri Mohan Rao J. (Wild Orissa)
- 3. Shri Nanda Kishore Bhujabal (Wild Orissa)
- 4. Shri Aditya Dash (Nayagarh)
- 5. Shri Gananath Nayak (Sambalpur & Angul)
- 6. Shri Gobardhan Sahu (Jajpur)
- 7. Shri Rama Hari Behera (Mangalajodi)
- 8. Shri Shyam Sundar Bhoi
- 9. Shri Rabindra Nath Sahu (Ganjam)
10.Shri Antaryami Sahoo (Nayagarh)
11.Shri Sudhanwa Dash (Wild Orissa)
12.Shri Sanatan Paikray (Cuttack)
It may be recollected that Odisha was hit by Cyclone Fani a little more than 2 (two) months ago, and the high turnout by the citizens of Odisha reflects the genuine concerns by the people not only for the state for the well being of its rich biodiversity.
The census showed as to how damaging Cyclone Fani has been on the breeding habitats of weaver species. The district of Puri, Kendrapada, Jagatsingpur and some parts of Khurda,
which experienced maximum onslaught of Fani, showed blanks in most parts , which in the past years had counted healthy figures of weavers. On a few Palm Trees/Coconut Trees etc. which survived, the weavers especially Baya Weavers Ploceus philippinus built their nests in big numbers.
Weavers are highly social birds; and are known for their nest-weaving skills. Among the three species of weaver birds, Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus is the most familiar and common bird in the country. This species builds overhanging nests built in colonies, usually above water or in a well. It’s food includes grains, seeds, and small insects. The breeding season ranges between April to August. The male weaver appears yellow in breeding plumage, male builds their retort-shaped nests in colonies, they continuously sing during nest building. The Baya Weaver has a polygamous breeding system means one male builds multiple nests and mates with many females (not necessarily at the same time). Urbanization, agricultural practices, industrialization, development, human population, deforestation are the major threats to this species. All Indian Weaver species are protected and listed in Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
During the years 2016, 2017 & 2018, Odisha stood first amongst all the states in the country w.r.t. weaver bird numbers, which were counted by ‘Wild Orissa’ & Odisha Chapter of IBCN.
Participants had been requested to record and report the sightings of weavers during the period 1st June 2019 upto 15th July 2019 in Odisha as follows:
For each site/spot the following was required:
- 1. Name of spot/site
- 2. Number of weaver (species-wise) counted
- 3. Number of nests counted
- 4. Trees & plants being used for nest building
- 5. Names of volunteer(s)/person(s) who participated
This year 8665 weaver bird nests were counted, in comparison to 852 nests counted last year, which is a spectacular jump.
The important findings from 2019 Odisha Weaver Bird Count:
- 1. Cyclone Fani has severely damaged most of the trees, in Puri, Jagatsingpur, etc. districts on which Baya Weavers Ploceus philippinus build their nests vi Coconut trees, Palm trees, Date Palm trees, with the result that the districts which experienced more cyclonic impact gave comparatively fewer numbers.
- 2. Streaked Weaver Ploceus manyar which build nests on reeds and reed-grasses in wetlands, were seen in far lesser numbers this year in comparison to last year. This is due to severe Cyclone Fani which damaged reeds and reed-grasses. During 2018- 7200 Streaked Weavers were counted, while this year vi 2019 only 3000 could be counted.
- 3. Black-breasted Weaver Ploceus benghalensis which used to come to Odisha in good numbers, this year appear to have given Odisha a big miss. Only 35 birds could be seen, as compared to
1100 last year. The reason is again Cyclone Fani, which destroyed their nesting sites.
- 4. The most important reason for spectacular increase in Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
numbers this year, can be said due to extra coverage of sites by volunteers and participants.
- 5. At the same time, due to the sheer tenacity and resilience of the weaver bird species, who are extremely hardworking and industrious, every small nesting place available was fully utilized to build nests. Volunteers have counted upto 67 nests on a single Palm tree in Ganjam district while 88 nests have been counted on a single Palm tree in Jagatsingpur district. 88 number of nests on single tree could well be a record for India.
- 6. Cutting of palm & date palm trees and toddy extraction from date palm trees by people, resulting in leaves and branches being cut, was a reason as to why weavers did not chose many date palm trees for nest building
- 7. Urban and semi-urban areas in Odisha, like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur, are becoming devoid of weaver birds due to non-availibility of proper trees for building nests
- 8. Rural and areas where much development has not taken place still have good number of weavers
The findings from Odisha will be communicated to the Govern ment of Odisha, Government of India, and certain other research and conservation organizations.