The Green Munia A tale of woes
The green avadavat or green munia ( Amandava formosa) is a species of finch with green and yellow on the body, a bright red bill and black ‘zebra stripes’ on its flanks. They are endemic to the sub-continent and have been popular cage birds from the 19th century. This bird’s distribution is becoming restricted and their population is threatened by the bird trade. The key regions of the bird’s existence are Central India, Southern Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, parts of Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra.
In fact, the vivid images accompanying this narrative, have been photographed by the renowned photographer, Uttam Pegu, when he was touring Rajasthan’s Mt. Abu. Uttam Pegu’s meticulous attention to detail, includes the correct shutter speed in his camera, which ensures clear images.
The green munia’s diminutive size, of only 10 cm in length, with the bird often moving in flocks of hundreds, appeals to trappers for the bird trade. To capture a flock 100-200 birds is lucrative for the bird trade market. The bird’s high pitched warble, ending with a shrill ‘sweee’ along with their bright hues, makes them attractive as popular cage birds.
Tiwari, in 2005, and Mehra in 2011, reported counts in Mt. Abu of 825 birds and 832 birds respectively. In Indian bird markets a combined total of 2000 birds were counted, in scattered locations. However, trappers in recent reports state these birds are now difficult to find. As a species, the green munia inhabits grasslands, low bushes, open shrubby forests and in Bihar have been observed in a mango orchard. Interestingly, 2000 to 3000 birds have been smuggled out of India in the last few years, to Europe and America. According to surveys by TRAFFIC India, in 2011, 500 birds were recorded in cages in Kolkata and Patna, thought to have been brought in through the Odisha-Madhya Pradesh border.
Increasing agriculture replacing the bird’s habitats, with pesticides being used, are additional factors leading to the green munia’s decline.
Trapping and trading of these birds in India have been banned since 1981. The green munia’s plight illustrates a classic theory. Unlike pheasants, this bird has not declined because of its flesh. Its decline has occurred primarily due it being trapped for the bird trade. Many of the birds captured die, because of the stress they are confronted with, when caged. Abroad, these birds are categorized as unique and exotic song birds. Ironically, the bird’s lovely colours and expressive call has led to its sharp decline. Ornithologists
sympathise because the green munia, which is only 10 cm in length, has flown about without much ado, for hundreds of years, until the curtains have very slowly begun to fall. Wildlife is a monumental heritage which India possesses. We must leave no stone unturned to conserve and protect our rich resources, which includes protecting a 10 cm bird- the green munia.
(All pics by Uttam Pegu.)
By Deepak Rikhye