Avian use of man-disturbed forest habitats in the Eastern Ghats, India



Short-term, fixed-line surveys using mist-nets and visual censuses were made of bird populations on five plots in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh. Plots included two segments of moderately-disturbed hill forest, a remnant patch of humid ravine forest surrounded by young coffee, a mature coffee plantation with remnant natural forest overstory, and a sub-mature teak monoculture. Species-number and diversity (H') were measured to be highest in the two hill forest plots. Equitability was highest in the Teak plot. Population numbers were highest in one of the forest plots and the Coffee plot. ‘Over-dominance’ by tramp species was exhibited in the Coffee plot, in which the three most common bird species (two bulbuls and a white-eye) comprised more than half of the individuals censused. All censuses were dominated by non-forest and forest-edge species; few raptors and species larger than 100 g were recorded in censuses. The patch of Ravine Forest was species-poor and yet supported several unusual species (e.g., Abbott's Babbler Malacocincla abbotti. Blue Chat Erithacus brunneus and Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostris) found on no other plot. We suggest that: (1) the few remaining undisturbed tracts of moist deciduous and semi-evergreen forest should be declared natural reserves with complete protection from disturbance; (2) future forestry development in upland southeastern India should exclude teak monocultu re except on badly disturbed or clear-felled areas. Preferred development would feature coffee/ pepper plantation under maximum natural overstory, interspersed with remnant forest tracts for faunal and watershed protection. Such a combination would appear to have the least effect on the original forest avifauna.