Bird Calls - To Communicate or Deceive?

Text & Photos by Udayan Borthakur

The rise of bird-based tourism has also given rise to an obsession with the gentle species, which threatens their very existence

Mishmi Wren-babbler or Rusty-throated Wren-babbler, an Endemic species from Eastern Arunachal Pradesh and categorised as Vulnerable by the IUCN, is a major interest for birders visiting the area.

The term ‘Birding’ refers to the popular form of observing and record keeping of birds by serious hobbyists and professionals alike. However, in recent years, birding has sought to compete with ornithology, which is a more systematic appraisal of birds. Nevertheless, birders have always added considerably to our understanding of birds, thereby contributing to science in general and bird conservation in particular.

Popularizing Birds

Birding in Northeast India is booming at present, a trend that was promoted by a handful of amateur nature lovers in the early nineties. Prior to the availability of internet and other popular communication media, most of the bird records were either personal collections or pieces in popular magazines and semi-scientific newsletters. With the advent of internet based platforms, such as bird databases and communities on different social media platforms, there was a sudden surge in the number of hobbyists watching birds, keeping records and taking photographs. Globally, information on birds, particularly their distribution, population status and conservation status etc. are readily available on websites of organisations such as Birdlife International, while other more interactive data sharing platforms like eBird provide real time records submitted by birders worldwide. Websites of organisations such as Oriental Bird Club reserves some of the largest collections of bird photographs. Ironically, amongst all these databases that mean serious business in birding, it is now social media such as Facebook and Instagram, which provide the most popular platform for regular interaction amongst the birders.

White-spectacled Warbler