Transitioning Wintering Shorebirds to Agroecosystem: A Thorough Evaluation of Habitat Selection and Conservation Concern

H. Byju, K. A. Rubeena, C. T. Shifa, T. R. Athira, K. Jishnu, Jagdeep Singh, Asha Sohil, Sonika Kushwah, Akhilesh Kumar, Jasmine Anand, K. M. Rajaneesh, Seerangan Manokaran, Durga Rao Gijjappu, Omer R. Reshi, Orus Ilyas, Neeraj Sharma, K. K. Junaina, N. Raveendran, T. M.V. Mumthaz, M. NasserSabir Bin Muzaffar, Aymen Nefla, Syed Masiur Rahman, K. M. Aarif

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Habitat fragmentation and degradation in natural wetlands has resulted in declines in the populations of shorebirds in the Indian subcontinent. Shorebirds rely on these wetlands as wintering or stop-over sites along the southern extent of the Central Asian Flyway. Shorebirds are known to utilize agroecosystems as alternate foraging habitats. The suitability of agroecosystems as foraging areas for overwintering migratory shorebirds has not been well studied in the Indian subcontinent. We conducted a comprehensive assessment of published literature and compiled field observations to investigate the importance of inland and coastal agroecosystems for shorebirds in India. We assessed the shorebird populations at natural wetlands: mudflats and mangroves of Kadalundi Vallikkunnu Community Reserve (KVCR) and Puthuvypu sand beach, as well as adjacent agroecosystems on the west coast of India, including Sanketham Wetlands, Manthalakkadavu, Vazhakkad, Elamaram, Kodinhi, and Kooriyad. On the east coast, we assessed the natural wetland habitats of Valinokkam, Point Calimere, and Pichavaram and evaluated inland agroecosystems in regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. Fifty-three shorebird species utilize diverse agroecosystems from various parts of India. While studies on the use of agroecosystems by shorebirds are limited on the east coast, evidence suggests that major wintering sites are adjacent to paddy fields, fostering substantial shorebird diversity. In Pichavaram, Point Calimere, and Gulf of Mannar regions, 22 shorebird species utilize agroecosystems, including the notable near-threatened Eurasian Curlew. Seventeen of these species are winter arrivals, highlighting the crucial role agroecosystems play as stopover areas. On the west coast, 19 shorebird species appear to utilize agroecosystems in Kooriyad, Manthalakkadavu, Vazhakkad, Sanketham Wetlands, Elamaram, and Kodinhi. Few species use agricultural fields in the north (Jammu and Kashmir). Paddy fields, that are flooded as part of the cropping cycle, support diverse prey species, such as macroinvertebrates, amphibians, and small fish, that could attract and support migratory shorebirds. Agricultural practices like fallowing, flooding, and ploughing could further increase the abundance and accessibility of prey for shorebirds, drawing them in greater numbers. It is crucial to recognize that unsustainable and unethical agricultural methods could detrimentally affect shorebird numbers. The accumulation of pesticide residues and the contamination from heavy metals could also threaten shorebirds. As a result, there is an urgent need for detailed research to better evaluate the importance of agroecosystems in supporting resident or migratory shorebirds. Systematic studies that explain the population dynamics, habitat selection trends, habitat utilization, and the over-summering behavior of the migratory birds at agroecosystems are needed. Implementing sustainable conservation strategies and adopting environmentally friendly agricultural practices are essential to support the rich biodiversity of the region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • agriculture
  • artificial wetlands
  • foraging
  • migratory birds
  • natural wetlands
  • waterbird

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modelling
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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