Kerala Bird Atlas: FAQ

Q: Why is atlas protocol so important to follow ?

A: If this large effort of hundreds of volunteers has to be meaningful to science, we need some set high standards and follow it. Otherwise, twenty years from now, our next generation would not trust the results we obtained.

Q: Can I use atlas survey time for imparting education to co-birders?

A: No. You can educate your co-birders before or after each listing. While doing a 15 minutes list, you should give your 100% as the lead observer(s) and let the co-birders point out extra birds which you can identify for them. Further details like showing it in the field guide, explaining the differences with other birds, discussing its habits should be done after a listing bout of 15 minutes is over.

Q: For the first 15 minutes, I got 10 species. For the next list, I got 7 species which I already got in the previous list. Should I include them again ?

A: Yes. You should include them. You are expected to do a traveling list and hence the number of double counts (individual birds being counted twice) are going to be less. However, even if you know it is the very same bird, you should include the same species in the next list also.

Q: If the number of birds in a list is low, should we redo the sub-cell ?

A: It depends. You should discuss this with the respective district coordinator. If the survey has been affected by extraneous conditions like rain, fog, time of the day, tide, traffic, crowd, festival or any other intrinsic conditions or a disturbance that made the lead observer not 100% occupied (e.g. Phone calls, discussion with locals, explaining questions from co-birders, photographing an unusual species, counting a heronry etc) that took a significant amount of time of the list (> 3 minutes), then you should redo it. Otherwise, there is no need to redo the list as it is a random sample which was genuinely low. If the disturbance is momentary, you are allowed to ‘pause’ the listing and restart when the disturbance is over.

Q: If the number of birds in the sub-cell is low, can we move to an nearby sub-cell where bird activity is better?

A: No. You should stick to the sub-cell but try to cover the sub-cell as best as you can with four 15 minute lists, covering all habitats at the ‘right’ time. The right time is decided by a number of factors and the answer to the previous question details what could go wrong.

Q: I saw some species while travelling inside the sub-cell while I was not doing the atlas listing. Can I add those species to one of the atlas lists ?

A: No. You should only include species seen during the respective 15 minutes. All other species seen can be entered as a fifth list which is either incidental or traveling list with All Species Reported as No.

Q: Why are we documenting fruiting figs and water bodies as a part of the survey?

A: Presence of a fruiting figs or small water bodies can affect bird diversity in a sub-cell disproportionately. If these are not called out by bird-watchers, it can affect subsequent data analysis. E.g. Consider two sub-cells with dried up paddy fields. If one of them has a small inlet of sewage water, it can attract a variety of birds that may be absent in the other sub-cell. Similarly, the bird community of a mono-culture rubber plantation can be drastically affected by a fruiting fig that brings in population of fruigvores.

Q: Why are we collecting details of invasive species during a bird survey?

A: It is widely reported that several invasive plants are fast spreading in our wetlands, villages and forests. It is impossible to estimate its spread using satellite images. Since bird-watchers are visiting every corner of the  state, it was proposed that we should atleast check for the presence of four wide-spread and easily identifiable invasive plant species.

Q: Why are we documenting only these four species?

A: Intention is to keep the survey as simple as possible and hence two wetland and two non-wetland species were selected based on the popularity results a poll.

Go to main Kerala Bird Atlas page.

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