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Indian Birds

The India Checklist acknowledges a total of 1263 species of birds for India, constituting about 12% of the world avifauna. Taxonomically, it covers 23 orders, 107 families, and 498 generas, representing the global avian diversity by about 64%, 45%, and 21% respectively. Predictably, passerines form the most predominant group (54%), followed by the order Charadniformes (10%) and Accipitriformes (5%).

Among the bird families, chats, robins, and flycatchers are the most diverse in Indian avifauna (97 species), closely followed by raptors (57), and typical babblers, laughingthrushes, and allies (53). Other significant species families include ducks and geese, galliforms, waders, woodpeckers, finches, and leaf warblers: each accounting for over 30 species among the Indian birds. Interestingly, some of the species-rich bird families of the world are otherwise represented by only one or two species in India; these include old World taxa like megapodes or scrubfowl (Megapodes: 22 species worldwide; ne in India), whistlers and shrike-thrushes, woodswallows, fantails, and the New World family of wrens. Among the avian genera, the following are notably dominant, with each represented by over 15 species in India: stints and sandpipers; leaf warblers; and thrushes.

Of all the birds known to occur within the geographical boundaries of India, 61 species (4.8%) are endemic. Another 134 species (10.6%), including Andaman Teal (treated here at the rank of a subspecies), are near-endemic, as they include: i) species that are endemic to the larger South Asian region (e.g., Common Hawk Cuckoo); ii) species, which are breeding endemics to the Subcontinent, but winter extralimitally (e.g., Spot-winged Starling); and iii) species, small populations of which are also found just across India’s borders with either China, particularly Tibet/Xizang (e.g., Chest-breasted Hill Partridge, or Myanmar (e.g., Chin Hills Wren Babbler), including Preparis and Coco islands in the Bay of Bengal (e.g., Andaman Drongo).

Admittedly, there may be very few species of birds that remain unknown to science from India, with just six mew species of birds (in the true sense of taxonomically unknown populations) having been described from post-Independence India, namely: Mishmi Wren Babbler (ripley 1948), Blossom-headed Parakeet (Biswas 1951), Sillem’s Mountain Finch (Roselaar 1992), Nicobar Scops Owl (Rasmussen 1998), Bugun Liocichla (Athreya 2006), and Himalayan Forest Thrush (Alstrom et al. 2016). Besides, a possible new species of crake from the Great Nicobar Island is yet to be formally described (Rajeshkumar et al. 2012).

–courtesy Indian Birds, Vol. 11 Nos. 5 & 6 (July 2016).