Hunting or habitat? Drivers of waterbird abundance and community structure in agricultural wetlands of southern India

Ambio. 2017 Sep;46(5):613-620. doi: 10.1007/s13280-017-0907-9. Epub 2017 Feb 28.


The relative impacts of hunting and habitat on waterbird community were studied in agricultural wetlands of southern India. We surveyed wetlands to document waterbird community, and interviewed hunters to document hunting intensity, targeted species, and the motivations for hunting. Our results show that hunting leads to drastic declines in waterbird diversity and numbers, and skew the community towards smaller species. Hunting intensity, water spread, and vegetation cover were the three most important determinants of waterbird abundance and community structure. Species richness, density of piscivorous species, and medium-sized species (31-65 cm) were most affected by hunting. Out of 53 species recorded, 47 were hunted, with a preference for larger birds. Although illegal, hunting has increased in recent years and is driven by market demand. This challenges the widely held belief that waterbird hunting in India is a low intensity, subsistence activity, and undermines the importance of agricultural wetlands in waterbird conservation.

Keywords: Avifauna; Community structure; Illegal hunting; Tamil Nadu; Waterbird.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Ecosystem*
  • India
  • Wetlands*