Caged in

The bright and colourful Green Avadavat is listed as Vulnerable due to its rapidly declining population—a consequence of widespread trapping for trade, which is compounded by continuous loss and degradation of its habitat.

The distinctive and brightly-coloured Green Avadavat (Amandava formosa) is a popular cage bird world wide. One of the three species in the genus Amandava, it has the smallest distribution range in this group. The Latin word Amandava and its English counterpart Avadavat are thought to be corruptions of Ahmedabad, which was once the centre for the trade of this particular species. Popularity in bird trade business is the chief cause behind its declining population.

Like a finch

The Green Avadavat has an olive-green colouration above and yellow-green to the under parts, with distinctive black and white barring on the flanks. The short beak has a waxy red colour and is a specialised tool to crush seeds. Females are similar in colour to the males, but a bit paler. Their usual calls are high-pitched and short with a trilling end or weak ‘swee’ notes.

Like other members of the Estrildidae finches family, the Green Avadavat mainly feeds on grass seeds and occasionally, on insects. The bird builds a globular nest from grass blades, often seen in sugarcane fields. Since the bird is social and forms loose colonies, nesting is usually done as a flock.

Caging the bird

The Green Avadavat is endemic to central India and distributed from southern Rajasthan and Bihar up to Maharashtra and Telangana in the south. It prefers to inhabit grasses, open shrubby forests and scrub jungles. Records from Kerala and Lahore are believed to be of escaped birds. Their population has dropped dramatically over the last few decades and the distribution is becoming increasingly sporadic. The IUCN thus classifies the bird as a ‘Vulnerable’ species.

The Green Avadavat is one of the most popular cage birds in the domestic market and has been frequently traded illegally to Europe, America and Australia. As many as 2,000-3,000 birds are estimated to be exported annually. The bird is susceptible to stress and shows a high mortality rate when trapped. This has resulted in more numbers being captured to ensure that a few survive. With only 6,000 to 15,000 mature birds believed to be remaining in the wild, the species is in dire need of protection. It has been suggested that local laws protecting the Green Avadavat have to be strengthened by adding the bird to the Schedule I list of the Wildlife Protection Act. Interviewing bird-trappers to identify remaining locations where the bird still exists and establishing its current distribution and population is another conservation strategy that has been proposed. Community-based conservation projects might also be helpful to raise awareness about the bird’s plight. Whatever strategy is adopted, combating the ongoing trade has to be the first step taken to ensure the survival of the bird.

Kingdom : Animalia

Phylum :Chordata

Class : Aves

Order : Passeriformes

Family :Estrildidae

Genus :Amandava

Species :A. Formosa


Authors : Dr. Arpit Bansal and Pooja Gopalani

This article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of Saevus magazine

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