eBird India taxonomy 2016

Each year, eBird updates the base eBird/Clements checklist to take into account any changes resulting from newly discovered species or better taxonomic understanding — including species splits, lumps, name changes and changes in sequence. In addition, various new helpful options for data entry for birds that cannot be identified to species are added, e.g. spuhs, slashes, hybrids, and domestic forms.

The 2016 update for the global eBird/Clements checklist is now available, and has been implemented in eBird. This has also impacted a number of birds in the subcontinent.

For your reference, we have collated the names of the 1,305 species known to occur in India into an Excel file. For each of these species, the eBird default name, the ‘English (India)’ name, the eBird scientific name, and a link to the species map on eBird is given. Also, for each species, the English and scientific names under three other taxonomies is given: the Indian BIRDS name, International Ornithological Committee, and BirdLife International. Many thanks to Praveen J, R Jayapal, and Aasheesh Pittie for compiling the master list based on which this file was generated.

There are separate worksheets within the file that list all the spuhs and slashes relevant to India as well.

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Leafbirds – Golden-fronted, Jerdon’s and others

There are four species of leafbirds (also known as chloropsis) found in India and they never fail to enthral a birder. Each of them is largely green, slender in build, with a medium-length tail and the habit of dwelling in the top or mid-canopy. They feed on fruits, insects and even nectar.

The Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii is restricted to the lower and middle Himalayas, the Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis is found in the North-eastern lowlands (and further up in the Cachar Hills as well), while the very similar (and recently split from Blue-winged) Jerdon’s Leafbird Chloropsis jerdoni is found throughout much of the peninsula. The Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons is widespread across the entire region, overlapping in range with all the other subcontinental leafbirds.

A pair of Golden-fronted Leafbirds:

All the species are usually seen in pairs or in loose flocks. In the non-breeding seasons, they are often seen in mixed flocks and hunting parties.

This article looks at the two frequently confused leafbirds – Golden-fronted and Jerdon’s – that are recorded most often, and explains they key features to identify one from the other.

Golden-fronted and Jerdon’s Leafbirds

Basic Differences

Golden-fronted Leafbird Jerdon’s Leafbird
Bill Long, slim and decurved Heavier, shorter, less curved
Face Mask:
Male Extensive, covers entire cheek and runs down to the breast Large but only up to cheek and entire throat
Female Similar to male Blue, brighter on moustache
Juvenile No mask, blue moustache Blue moustache, Yellow eye-ring
Forehead Orange, but restricted in females and missing in juveniles Dull yellow
Upper parts Green nape, head and mantle but juvenile is dull Dull yellow wash on head, breast, nape and upto mantle

 

1. Beak – Longer and slimmer in Golden-fronted, Heavy and short in Jerdon’s
2. Extensive face mask in Golden-fronted, not as extensive on Jerdon’s (esp cheeks)
3. Golden-forehead on Golden-fronted vs dull yellow on Jerdon’s
4. Green overall on Golden-fronted, dull yellow nape and head on Jerdon’s Leafbird
Golden-fronted Leafbird (Left) © Panchami Manoo Ukil (checklist)
Jerdon’s Leafbird (Right) © Bhavesh Mengar (checklist)

leafbird_golden-fronted_jerdon's_comparison_2

1. Beak – Shorter and thicker in Jerdon’s Leafbird, long and slim in Golden-fronted
2. Turquoise Blue moustache in Jerdon’s Leafbird, blue patch on imm Golden-fronted
3. Dull yellow forehead on Jerdon’s vs yellowish forehead on Golden-fronted
4. Dull yellow wash on head and nape in Jerdon’s
Jerdon’s Leafbird, female (Top) © Ramesh Desai (checklist)
Golden-fronted Leafbird, immature (Bottom) © Ramit Singal

Calls

All leafbirds may sounds extremely similar to the untrained ear. Most calls are a mixture of harsh and sweet notes with some differences in quality. Leafbirds are also excellent mimics and often have an impressive repertoire of sounds that may cause confusion amongst several birders!

Have a listen to the song of the Golden-fronted Leafbird and the Jerdon’s Leafbird to understand how similar they can be!

Do check out other calls of the Golden-fronted Leafbird, Jerdon’s Leafbird, Blue-winged Leafbird and the Orange-bellied Leafbird.

Habitat

Golden-fronted Leafbird Jerdon’s Leafbird
Landscape level Prefers wetter regions with evergreen and deciduous forests Prefers drier and more arid regions with deciduous scrub and forests
Site level Dense forest patches as well as gardens, groves and woodlands Gardens, scrub, woodlands with lower tree densities

Some helpful notes

a. Habitat may often be a pointer to what leafbird you are seeing. If you are in a rainforest, you are most likely to see a Golden-fronted Leafbird, while a dry scrubland with scattered trees will most probably have only Jerdon’s Leafbirds. However, many regions – such as the western coast, central Indian forests and parts of the eastern ghats may have both species co-existing (in variable numbers).

b. Leafbird juveniles are tricky and often require a good look, with multiple features noted, before an ID can be finalised.

c. Seeing a pair often aids in identification as Golden-fronted Leafbirds do not exhibit the obvious sexual dimorphism that the Jerdon’s Leafbirds show.

d. In case of any doubts, eBird provides the option of using Jerdon’s/Golden-fronted Leafbird and Leafbird sp.

Blue-winged Leafbird

The Blue-winged Leafbird is similar to Jerdon’s Leafbird but allopatric (i.e. populations of the two are geographically isolated from each other). It has blue on the primaries (outermost group of flight feathers) and the tail, while the face mask is even smaller. The male has a bright yellow border to the face patch.

leafbird_blue-winged_pair

Note patches of blue on wings and tail. Female (above) has no face mask, while the male (below) has a smaller face mask than Jerdon’s with a very obvious bright yellow border. Beak is thick and short.
Blue-winged Leafbird female (above) © Pam Rasmussen (checklist)
Blue-winged Leafbird male (below) © Collin DeBuysere (checklist)

Orange-bellied Leafbird

The most distinctive of our leafbirds thanks to the obvious orange underparts. The face mask on the male is large and elaborate while the female only shows a blue moustache. The bill is longer than that of the Blue-winged Leafbird. The male also has dark blue wings and tail.

Note blue on wings, large face mask and orange belly on male (Left) and the blue moustache on the female (Right). The beak is large and long. --- Orange-bellied Leafbird male (R) © Amatya Sharma (checklist), Orange-bellied Leafbird female (L) © Ashwin Viswanathan (checklist)

Note blue on wings, large face mask and orange belly on male (Left) and the blue moustache on the female (Right). The beak is large and long.
Orange-bellied Leafbird male (R) © Amatya Sharma (checklist)
Orange-bellied Leafbird female (L) © Ashwin Viswanathan (checklist)

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Bird Monitoring and eBird Workshop in Ladakh

A workshop on bird monitoring and documentation was organised in Leh on 09 August 2016 by Bird Count India, Nature Conservation Foundation and Wildlife Conservation and Birds Club of Ladakh. The Department of Wildlife Protection J&K, Snow Leopard Conservancy, WWF – J&K and Angnam Production and Advt supported the workshop. The aim of the workshop was to communicate the importance of birds and their habitats in Ladakh and understanding the need for regular monitoring and documentation of the birdlife in the region.

Explaining eBird tools at the workshop

Explaining eBird tools at the workshop

Almost 60 people, including 25 students of the Elizer Joldan Memorial College, attended the workshop. It began with Tsewang Namgail of SLC, Lobzang Vasuddha of WCBCL and the Wildlife Warden, Tsering Angchok, speaking about birding in Ladakh and stressing the need for increased awareness and conservation measures to protect the biodiversity of this incredible landscape. Following them, Stanzin Namgail of NCF and Prof Tashi of EJM College spoke to the participants about the birds of Ladakh. The Pocket Guide to Birds of Spiti and Ladakh was released at the event.

The release of the Pocket Guide to the Birds of Spiti and Ladakh

The release of the Pocket Guide to the Birds of Spiti and Ladakh

The workshop, delivered in English and Hindi, focussed on the need of documenting birds in the region. Using several examples showcasing the potential of data generated from eBird, Ramit Singal communicated the importance of regular monitoring to the participants. An interactive session was held to discuss what kind of information and knowledge of the birds could be generated using eBird and the participants asked several relevant questions. The workshop closed with a session on how to use eBird on the phone and the web.

A post-workshop birding session was then held at Spituk with over 30 attendees taking part in the birdwalk. Binoculars were shared, curiosity was expressed and many gasps were heard as students and birders spotted some stunning birds such as the Wagtails and Rosefinches in breeding plumages, Redstarts, Chiffchaffs and many others. The walk in the cool weather was made even more pleasant as the clouds held back against the sun to provide a magnificent rainbow as the backdrop!

Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/india/view/checklist/S31106419

A small flock of Mountain Chiffchaffs under scrutiny as a rainbow appears in the background

A small flock of Mountain Chiffchaffs comes under scrutiny as a rainbow appears in the background

Ladakh sees a number of visiting birders in the summer months, and records are regular from a number of popular areas. However, much of the region remains under-represented on eBird and there are no local birders who contribute to the database and thus, the region’s birdlife remains relatively unknown. It is hoped that this workshop is a step forward towards more regular and increased reporting from the region.

If your organization or an organization in your area is interested in conducting such workshops, please write to us about it!

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How to Choose a Local Patch

This is the second in a series of articles from Bird Count India about Patch Birding, following on from Part 1 “What is Patch Birding?”

Location

Thankfully birds occur in most areas and you don’t have to travel far, or go to anywhere special, to go birding. In fact, the priority for a local patch is that it is somewhere convenient to go to on a regular basis, and that it is somewhere where you will enjoy going. The ideal could be a site that you visit for a few hours every weekend, or a couple of times a month – which gives you enough time to cover the entire area in detail – while also being somewhere that you could drop in to when you have maybe just an hour or so to spare during the week, e.g. before or after work or school, during a lunch break, or on your way to somewhere that you have to travel to frequently. The patch should not be far away from your home or work, as if you have to travel for more than perhaps half an hour to get there, then you are not going to visit as frequently.

In order to cover your patch in detail it should not be too large: a maximum of a few square kilometres is suggested, but less than one square kilometre is also fine.

Habitat

Your patch can contain any type of habitat. A small neighbourhood park, school or college campus, scrub area, agricultural farmland, woodland, railway edge, urban lake, are all suitable. Of course, a variety of habitats, with mature trees, hills or especially water, will increase the diversity of species and enhance your enjoyment. If you are lucky enough to live near the coast, or a large wetland, then you will probably have a great local patch, but it doesn’t have to be a place known to be fantastic for birds.

Ideally don’t use your own garden as your patch – part of the fun of patch birding is to choose a patch that has habitats that you think will attract a variety of birds, and that will get you out in to the field more often. Of course, do continue to note observations from your garden or neighbourhood separately.

Choosing your Patch

You may already know a local site that fits the criteria described above, but if you are not sure, or to refine an area that you are interested in, try the following steps.

  1. Use an online map such as Google Maps or Google Earth
  2. Centre it on your home (or work)
  3. Switch to the satellite or earth view
  4. Look for nearby areas of greenery or water (which might be dried up)
  5. Identify prime areas based on combination of habitats, e.g. water near areas of woodland or scrub
  6. Check for suitable access and whether the sites appear to be private or publicly accessible
  7. Visit the possible sites to check this.
  8. When visiting sites, specifically check the details of the habitat, especially for fairly “wild” areas
  9. Also consider ease of access and viewing: there are good places for birds that are not always easy to access for birders, and for a local patch you want visiting and watching to be enjoyable
  10. Remember to take some notes and enter eBird checklists for your scouting visits to possible locations, even if you don’t select them as your patch!
Choose a Patch using Google Maps

Choose a Patch using Google Maps: greenery and open areas alongside the river looks promising…

Choose a Patch using Google Maps

Choose a Patch using Google Maps: zooming in shows a potentially good area of floodplain with easy access – definitely worth a site visit to check!

Once you have identified a local patch you’d like to “adopt”, create a map (e.g. based on a screenshot from Google Maps) and define reasonable boundaries for it. You will probably refine these over time as you visit.

Try to plan some routes to explore the patch as fully as possible. Again you will likely refine these over time, and you don’t have to do the same route every time you visit. Aim for a route that visits all the different habitats in the patch. Ideally your routes should be circular, i.e. starting and ending at the same point – as this is most convenient when birding on foot!

Now you have your local patch, just visit as often as possible!

Part 3 “How to Record Birds from your Patch?” will be published in a few days…

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What is Patch Birding?

Do Black Drongos migrate?

Have I seen a Green Bee-eater recently?

Is Greenish Warbler only a passage migrant in my area, or a winter visitor as well?

Do juvenile Barn Swallows migrate with adults, or separately?

Are migrants arriving later this year?

Do Asian Koels call all year round?

How many different call types do Common Ioras have?

What food do Barbets prefer, and what do they eat at times of year when this is not available?

When do Tailorbirds nest?

Do Red-whiskered Bulbuls have multiple broods?

What species hold territories?

How can I tell whether this newly arrived Marsh Harrier is a juvenile or an adult female?

These are all common birds but questions that most birders would find it difficult to answer. One solution to this lies in an exciting and rewarding way to take your birding to the next level: local patch birding.

This is the first in a series of articles from Bird Count India about Patch Birding

Your Local Patch

Patch birding involves visiting a local and familiar site on a frequent basis, thus gaining an intimate knowledge of the birds that occur there. Seeing birds on your patch is more than listing and counting, and is more about actively watching and enjoying.

A local patch can be any type of habitat – birds do occur pretty much everywhere after all – so the key is for it to be an area that you can conveniently and regularly visit. Ideally you’d be able to visit at least once a week, year-round. Over time you will learn a lot more about the birds that frequent your patch, and develop your skills as a birder in doing so.

Local Patch

A small wetland with surrounding vegetation and some mature trees makes an excellent local patch.
© Kulbhushan Suryawanshi

Advantages of Patch Birding

Spending time in a place that you get to know well allows you to observe birds in more detail, and quickly learn more about different species and their behaviour, than visiting different sites much less frequently.

As you watch a local patch you will find yourself improving your skills as a birder: you will pick up songs and calls and see and identify the bird making these, improving your ability to bird by ear to the extent that you will soon be identifying birds by sound alone. Watching regular birds over time is the way to build up your appreciation of “jizz”, something that is not really possible to learn out of the field, such that soon you will be able to identify some birds by the way they perch, or walk, hop, run or fly, and even a brief glimpse may be enough for you to confirm the identification.

Singing Plain Prinia

Singing Plain Prinia – patch birding will help you distinguish this from Ashy Prinia by song and call
© Kavi Nanda, http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S30466678

Patch birding will reward you with things that you would ordinarily miss when just occasionally birding at different sites. You will start to recognise which trees begin flowering first and which birds come to them, the order that different species visit in the mornings, which patches harbour the first migrants etc. Soon you will identify the quiet corner that is a reliable spot for an unobtrusively wintering Red-throated Flycatcher; you will find the bush where a pair of Red-whiskered Bulbuls are nesting, and be able to discreetly watch the antics of the parents feeding young, and the following year note whether the birds nest in the same area. After a while you will know what to expect, and would consciously look out for the winter’s first Grey Wagtail in the last week of August for example.

Nesting Red-whiskered Bulbul

Nesting Red-whiskered Bulbul – careful watching on your patch will help you observe breeding behaviour
© Yogesh Patel, http://orientalbirdimages.org/search.php?Bird_ID=1679&Bird_Image_ID=119200

You will develop an understanding of the seasonality of common species – when they breed, when you can expect to see young birds, when they moult and how their plumage differs at different times of year. For some common species that we don’t really think of as migrants you may notice that they actually leave your patch for long periods, on what may be local migrations. Observing bird behaviour more deeply, appreciating common birds that you might not have given a second glance to before, will help you detect habitat and food preferences for different species, and you may even end up recognising specific individuals through their particular habits.

Eclipse male Purple Sunbird

Eclipse male Purple Sunbird – when do they attain this plumage, and for how long?
© Rahul Paranjape, http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S25773628

Second-winter Brown-headed Gull

Second-winter Brown-headed Gull – gulls are ideal for recognising the different feather tracts and understanding moult as an aid to ageing.
© Hemant Kirola, http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26075637

Over time you will become very familiar with the regular birds, which helps you then recognise something unusual if you are lucky enough to come across it.

Also, regularly watching a local patch can be a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to watch birds, with short travel times and low fuel usage and costs. It is of course considerably more enjoyable than spending long times in traffic!

Overall great pleasure can be derived from getting to know a place in depth, observing the seasons change and the impacts that has. The notes you take (see below) can build up into a nostalgic personal diary as well as a valuable resource for an overall understanding of bird populations, distribution and movements. With the added possibility of seeing something unusual (whether behaviour you’ve not noted before, a new species for your patch, or even a rare species for the area) patch birding is an exciting pastime that adds a new dimension to your birding.

Part 2 “How to Choose a Local Patch?” will be published in a few days…

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