Remembering the “Birdman of India” on His 124th Birth Anniversary

November 20, 2020 | By Mahima Sharma

“I suppose I have done my bit, it is now up to you, younger people.” – Dr. Salim Ali

Dr. Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali is a name that resonates with every Indian, as we fondly remember a man enthusiastically talking about his undying love for nature. Dr. Salim Ali’s outstanding contribution to the field of ornithology which stemmed from his dedication, led him to be known as the “Birdman of India”. He strengthened the ground for conservation of birds and became the first man in the country to conduct systematic bird surveys, bringing to light the rich bird species that the Indian subcontinent hosts. 

Remembering the Birdman of India – Dr. Salim Ali!

Dr. Salim Ali even has a bird named in his honour– the Himalayan Forest Thrush (Zoothera salimalii)  which was discovered in 2016, and he continues to inspire aspiring ornithologists in the field of conservation!

The year 2020 marks the 124th birth anniversary of Dr. Ali, and Wildlife SOS commemorated the beloved “Birdman of India” by organising a bird walk  at the Hygam Wetland Reserve in the state of Kashmir on 11th November, 2020. The bird walk witnessed the participation of over 20 naturalists and ornithologists from across the Valley, led by Ms. Aaliya Mir, Manager and Education Officer at the Wildlife SOS Bear Rescue Centre in Kashmir, in association with the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Department. Along with bird-watching, there was an awareness talk organised by Wildlife SOS on wildlife conservation and the importance of  wetland habitats.

The Buzzard captured by Sheikh Haris

It was an enriching experience as the group spotted some beautiful birds such as Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Mallards, Northern Pintail, Marsh Harrier and even the world’s fastest bird, the Peregrine Falcon, to name a few!

Yellow-billed Magpie captured by Mudasir Manzoor

The highlight of the day was the very rare sighting of the Little Bunting, this particular bird is widespread across Scandinavia and Siberia in the summer and migrates to South Asia during winters.

Little Bunting as captured by Jasjit Singh.

This was the first time in many years that the Little Bunting was spotted in the Kashmir Valley!

Eurasian Marsh Harrier captured by Mudasir Manzoor

On the glorious occasion of Dr. Salim Ali’s birth anniversary, we learnt that the Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, in which our Agra Bear Rescue Facility is located, was recognised as a “Wetland of National Importance”. The Agra Bear Rescue Facility, run in collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, is frequently visited by majestic birds such as the Pelican, Painted Stork, Grey Herons and Pond Herons, Serpent Eagles, among others! 

The enthusiastic participants of bird walk in Jammu and Kashmir. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS]

Various factors pose a threat to the wetlands of our country, the primary threats being climate change, increased levels of pollution and the improper disposal of waste which directly causes the quality of water and aquatic life to degrade and ultimately, perish. In Dr. Ali’s ever-inspiring words, the future is ours and how we treat the natural resources at our disposal is what will ensure the survival of the planet. There are innumerable bird species that the wetlands host, each species unique in their own way, paving the way for a health ecosystem to thrive. 

Flyers on the importance of wetlands were also distributed. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS]

As we remember the iconic Birdman of India, let us pledge to be aware and actively participate in conservation as a cause, not only for the survival of our species but also to support the survival of the rich biodiversity that we share the planet with!

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