Only endemic nation bird calls for conservation action

Have you ever seen or heard the unique call of Spiny Babbler (Kaande Bhyakur)? Often hidden in dense undergrowth, sight and song are rare treasures. Those lucky enough to hear and see it will be rewarded with a glimpse of the bird found nowhere else in the world except Nepal. Spiny Babbler, the only bird endemic to Nepal, is a symbol of Nepal’s rich natural heritage, but is increasingly endangered due to habitat loss and anthropogenic threats.

Nepal, home to nearly 900 species of birds so far, is a paradise for birdwatchers. Among these bird species found in Nepal, the Spiny Babbler stands out as the only endemic bird. It is a large, brown-colored bird characterized by a pointed bill and a tail with prominent crossbars. This species generally lives in areas with dense shrubs and is often found in pairs. The suitable habitat of Spiny Babbler is scrubland, tropical and subtropical moist forest in the mid-hills. It is typically found at altitudes ranging from 500 m to 2135 m in summer and 500-1830 m in winter. The Spiny Babbler’s primary diet consists mainly of insects such as grasshoppers, caterpillars, bugs and wasps, and also includes berries, nectar and seeds, with foraging taking place on the ground or in lower shrubs. It has a very distinctive sound and mimics squeaks, chuckles and squeaks. The species is rarely visible to the human eye due to its shy nature, except during the breeding season (April–June), when males often sing in the open. The Spiny Babbler is found in the mid-hills of Nepal, from far west to east. It is commonly seen in Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, Annapurna Conservation Area and Makalu Barun National Park. It has also been recorded in other areas including Kathmandu Valley, Godavari, Phulchoki, Pokhara, Tamor Valley, Mai Valley Forest, Raja Rani Community Forest and Sunsari District.

The Spiny Babbler was considered extinct for centuries until it was surprisingly rediscovered by American ornithologist Sidney Dillon Ripley in the village of Rekcha in the Karnali zone. In recent years, there has been a growing influx of bird tourism in Nepal. Nepal has become one of the global destinations for bird watchers eager to catch a glimpse of the diversity of birds including the rare Spiny Babbler. About eight percent of the total international tourists come to Nepal specifically for bird watching. The search for this bird attracts tourists to the remote areas of Nepal, highlighting the potential of Spiny Babbler in promoting ecotourism. However, the growth of bird tourism comes with challenges, especially for a species like the Spiny Babbler, which thrives in undisturbed habitats. Because Spiny Babbler is a shy species and avoids human interference, increased foot traffic and human activity can disturb their sensitive habitat, forcing them to relocate their habitat elsewhere. Furthermore, because this species is found in a limited range, it has a high risk of rapid population extermination. This situation thus calls for a balanced approach to tourism, one that respects the natural environment while allowing tourists to enjoy Nepal’s bird treasures.

In addition, Spiny Babblers face threats from the loss of their prime habitat due to agricultural expansion and urbanization, while the dense shrublands in which they inhabit are rapidly diminishing. Furthermore, forest fires place them in a precarious position, not only destroying their lives and habitat, but also depleting their food supply and suitable shelter. Outside protected areas, hunting further threatens their survival. Despite these challenges and being Nepal’s only endemic bird species, the Spiny Babbler is classified as “least concern” on the IUCN Red List, indicating a lack of focused research and conservation efforts. This situation underlines the crucial need for conservation measures to secure the future. of this species. Efforts to conserve Spiny Babbler are essential not only for protecting Nepal’s biodiversity, but also for supporting the local economy through ecotourism. Responsible tourism practices, together with good research, habitat protection and the implementation of effective conservation strategies, are therefore crucial to securing the future of this species. Mobilizing community involvement and raising awareness can also play a key role in conserving this unique species and its habitat. The local community plays a crucial role in the conservation of the species and benefits from bird tourism, which can provide a sustainable source of income while encouraging Spiny Babbler conservation. As the only bird exclusive to Nepal, the Spiny Babbler not only represents the country’s natural heritage but also highlights the global importance of biodiversity conservation. Therefore, we must act quickly to ensure that this symbol of Nepal’s wildlife continues to thrive for generations to come, echoing the calls for conservation across the country and beyond.