ASIAN WATERFOWL CENSUS

More migratory birds seen in Mindanao wetlands

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08:58 PM February 18th, 2013

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February 18th, 2013 08:58 PM

DAVAO CITY—Increasing flocks of migratory birds have been sighted in at least three wetland areas in southern Mindanao, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has announced.

A total of 13,404 migratory bird species have been counted by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Division (PAWD), a DENR-attached agency, in Malalag Bay in Davao del Sur, Carmen town in Davao del Norte and Banaybanay town in Davao Oriental since January, a DENR news release said.

Last year, the number was only 7,836, it added.

Joselin Marcus Fragada, DENR regional chief, said most of the birds species seen during the seven-day bird watching and counting made by the PAWD were the Black-winged Stilt, Little Egret, Common Tern and Whiskered Tern. In 2012, the dominant species were Godwit, Sand Plover and Common Greenshank.

The counting was in line with the Annual Asian Waterfowl Census (AWC) for migratory birds, Fragada said. It was aimed at obtaining information on the population of migratory birds at wetlands in southern Mindanao, as well as monitoring the state of the wetlands, he said.

The AWC takes place every second or third week of January. It was initiated at the Indian subcontinent in 1987 and has since spread to over 32 countries.

According to the National Wetlands Program, many birds leave their natural habitats during winter and fly to warm areas in search for food. They stop over one country to another until it was suitable for them to go home in spring.

Fragada said the three areas being visited by the migratory birds in southern Mindanao were the only ones identified as temporary habitats in the region. In the entire Philippines, the PAWD has classified 117 “important bird areas” (IBAs) for 115 species, with a total size of 32,302 square kilometers and including the popular Candaba Wetlands in Pampanga.

In Mindanao, the IBAs include Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, where indigenous residents fear some bird species because they sometimes attack humans; Basilan Natural Biotic Area, a wetland area in Bislig, Surigao del Sur; and Liguasan Marsh, one of Asia’s largest wetlands and home to more than 200 rare local and migratory birds.

Rey Calderon, a Manobo living near the marsh, said the birds would “dive” on people in boats at the 14,800-hectare sanctuary.

Environmentalists had earlier warned that the IBAs were at risk of destruction because of expanding agricultural plantations, especially with the entry of foreign companies.

“There are now patches of oil palm farms in the Sultan Kudarat area of Liguasan Marsh,” said Armand Pacudan of the Manila-based Foundation for Philippine Environment. The group maintains a biodiversity conservation and sustainable development project at Liguasan. Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao

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