Birds of a feather in Nepal

November 22, 1996

THE EFFECT of managed grasslands on Nepal's birds is being examined by the universities of Cardiff and Amsterdam and bird conservationists in Kathmandu.

One of the researchers, Hem Sagar Baral, is the first Nepalese ornithologist to study for a PhD. His thesis is being supervised by Steve Ormerod of Cardiff's school of pure and applied biology. As part of the project, Dr Ormerod has encouraged the Nepalese to ring some of the country's 400 bird species to establish their population size on the grasslands.

"The grasslands of the Royal Chitwan National Park are managed by fire and cutting to provide habitat for the single-horned rhinoceros and the Bengal tiger," said Dr Ormerod. "What we want to establish is the effect of that regime on bird populations."

The grasslands are home to both Nepalese birds and migrants from across the Himalayas and India.

During a recent trip to the region Dr Ormerod and his team managed to ring birds of 20 different species.

The ringing proved that some species, such as the blue-eared kingfishers, were more plentiful than previously thought.

"What was interesting," said Dr Ormerod, "was the sheer diversity of birds recorded and the highly specific patterns of habitat use. This kind of information has long interested ornithologists, and continued ringing of birds is crucial if areas like Chitwan are to be understood and managed optimally for birds."

The Nepalese study is one of Dr Ormerod's two Himalayan projects. He is also conducting a region-wide survey of the diversity of fish, mosses, insects and birds across the mountain range. Funded by the Darwin Initiative, this study aims to investigate the effects of deforestation and flooding on the diversity of Himalayan species.

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