This Weekend, Celebrate the Bird Man of India

Join the Salim Ali Bird Count on Nov 13. All you need is a pair of binoculars. | By NGT Staff  
Indian Roller Dr Salim Ali
The Indian roller (right), the state bird of four Indian states, can be identified by its colourful plumage of "Oxford and Cambridge blue, rufous brown and lilac", Dr. Salim Ali (left) notes in "The Book of Indian Birds". Photos: Courtesy Bombay Natural History of India (Dr. Salim Ali); Nandkishor Dudhe (Bird)

This weekend, join birdwatchers across the country as they celebrate the birth anniversary of Dr. Salim Ali, a naturalist, avian enthusiast, and “Bird Man of India”. To honour Dr. Ali, who was born on Nov 12, the Bombay Natural History Society (where he discovered his love for birds as a boy), conducts a nation-wide bird count on the first Sunday following his birthday. It will be held on Sun November 13, 2016 this year.

The Salim Ali Bird Count is simple and fun enough to take the kids along. It is a day-long event, but birdwatchers only need to spend a minimum of 15 minutes, or preferably an hour at any location, anywhere in India—even from their apartment windows. Download the count summary sheet here; it’s a checklist of birds found in India, and is also available on the BNHS website. Keep your eyes open for any bird from the crow to the Himalayan griffon, and fill in the species name and the number of individuals you spotted. Use separate sheets if you’re birdwatching in several locations through the day. Email the filled-in sheets to BNHS research assistant Nandkishor Dudhe at

BNHS hopes the yearly count will encourage travellers to visit Important Bird Areas (Indian sites identified for conservation by BNHS and Birdlife International) and other protected wilderness. In the long run, if participants visit the same area every year for the bird count, their feedback could help monitor the status of birds and their habitats. It’s a great reason to plan a last-minute getaway—visit national parks, or pick a birdwatching holiday by a species you’d like to spot.

Like every other boy in his day, Dr. Ali’s journey into the natural world began with a gun—a toy air gun—with which he shot sparrows. Read his heart-warming story here.


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