The Green Avadavat
Locally known as the green munia in parts of the Indian peninsula there have been numerous songs made in tribute of the green avadavat. A member of the Estrildidae finch family, this quirky bird is a joy to behold and is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
The green avadavat is endemic to central India , ranging from southern Rajasthan to central Uttar Pradesh, southern Bihar and possibly West Bengal, south to southern Maharashtra and northern Andhra Pradesh. There is a reasonable population on Mount Abu in Rajasthan, where this species is locally common.
Records of green avadavats from Kerala in India and from Lahore in Pakistan are believed to be escaped caged birds.
The green avadavat, like other members of the Estrildidae finch family, is likely to feed mainly on grass seeds and occasionally insects. As in other finches, the shape of its bill, being short and thick, has evolved to allow it to specialize in eating seeds.
This species has been recorded breeding between May and January. It typically builds its nest from coarse grasses within sugarcanes, sometimes incorporating the leaves of the sugarcane into the nest. The nest of the green avadavat is usually globular in shape and is lined with finer grasses. The female lays a clutch of 5 or 6 eggs, which are likely to be endemic for around 11 to 18 days. Once hatched, the chicks may remain in the nest for 16 to 25 days. Both the male and female green avadavat help in incubating the eggs and feeding and raising the young.
The green avadavat is a sociable bird and nests in small colonies . The green avadavat prefers grasslands, scrublands, sugarcane fields, shrubby forest and boulder-strewn scrub jungle, often near water, in the foothills and lowlands of India. It has also been recorded in stony, arid wasteland .
The decline of the green avadavat is mainly due to the caged bird trade. Up to 2,000 green avadavats have sometimes been found in markets in central India, and at least 2,000 to 3,000 are smuggled out of India to Europe and America every year. This trade has been going on since the late 1800s, but trapping for the trade has eliminated several populations and is believed to pose the greatest threat to this species, contributing to a rapid and ongoing population decline. This is reflected in the fact that trappers are reporting that the green avadavat is becoming increasingly difficult to capture.
Unfortunately, mortality rates are high among trapped birds as this species suffers from stress in captivity. The total numbers trapped are therefore likely to exceed those seen in markets. In the mountains of Rajasthan, local tribes also kill green avadavats as they believe that they have some medicinal properties.
Some of the decline in the green avadavat is also due to habitat loss. An increase in the amount of land used as farmland, together with the use of pesticides and insecticides, has led to the destruction of this species’ lowland habitats. In addition, green avadavat populations may be affected by fires, while tourist developments and illegal land clearance also threaten its populations in some areas.
The green avadavat is protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in this bird should be carefully controlled. It is also legally protected in India under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, and trapping and trade of green avadavats has been banned since 1981. This species is known to occur in a number of protected areas.
Despite this protection, green avadavats are still being caught and sold. Wildlife trade laws in India are often poorly enforced, and some trappers may not even be aware that what they are doing is illegal. An initiative of WWF and the IUCN, known as ‘TRAFFIC’, is monitoring the illegal trade in wildlife, and aims to work with both local and national governments to prevent illegal trade in protected species.
Trade in the green avadavat should be more closely monitored and controlled. It has been suggested that this species should be upgraded to CITES Appendix I and to Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, and these measures may go some way towards preventing a further decline in the green avadavat population.
Other recommended conservation measures for the green avadavat include communicating with trappers to discover the location of remaining populations, as well as further field studies to better understand this species’ exact numbers and distribution. Relatively little is currently known about the green avadavat, so studies into its habitat requirements and the impacts of habitat degradation and trapping are needed. Efforts should also be made to protect the habitat of this species.
A small bird endemic to India, the green avadavat (Amandavaformosa) is named for its light olive-green to green-yellow upperparts and wings. It has a pale yellow throat and chest, becoming bright yellow lower on the belly, and its flanks are barred black and white, with the feathers sometimes tipped with yellow. The green avadavat’s black tail is short and slightly rounded. The bill of the green avadavat is short and pointed and is a distinctive bright red. The eyes are dark brown, and its legs and feet are curved.
Also known as green munia, green strawberry finch, green tiger finch or green wax-bill, the IUCN status acknowledges it in list of vulnerable species.
The female green avadavat is similar to the male in appearance, but is duller overall, tinged with ashy-grey or brownish above and paler below. The female also has more indistinct bars on the flanks. Juvenile green avadavats have a black rather than red beak, olive-brown wings, and no black barring on the flanks. The underbelly of the juvenile are a dull buff color, shading to an oily yellow lower on the abdomen .The song of the green avadavat is a high-pitched warble, with a long trill to finish, while its other calls include weak ‘see’ and ‘swee’ notes. It is truly a wonder bird.