The rich diversity of birds in rice field ecosystems
Whiskered terns catch fish or insectsProf Tirso Paris
Small flocks of red turtle doves are often seen on IRRI farms in winterProf Tirso Paris
Buff-banded rails are mainly seen in the morning and at twilightProf Tirso Paris
Cattle egrets feed on insects disturbed by large animalsProf Tirso Paris
Chestnut munias feed by catching insects in flightProf Tirso Paris
Despite its name, the white-throated kingfisher generally feeds on insectsProf Tirso Paris
Large flocks of Oriental pratincoles roost in the rice fieldsProf Tirso Paris
Pacific swallows are often seen chasing flying insectsProf Tirso Paris
Swinhoe’s snipe stays motionless when in dangerProf Tirso Paris
The blue-tailed bee-eater nests in holes burrowed into tall sandbanksProf Tirso Paris
Rice fields cover 160 million hectares around the world — an area more than six times the size of the United Kingdom. They are an important ecosystem for various animals, including a number of birds that can be seen at the experimental paddies run by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
The IRRI fields in the Philippines cover just 250 hectares, but can be considered a microcosm of millions of rice fields globally in which sustainable agricultural practices, such as non-lethal methods of controlling rice-eating birds, are used.
These images were part of photography exhibition, Feathers in the Fields: The Birds of IRRI. They show the abundance of birds within a rice field ecosystem. This emphasises the need to carefully manage rice fields and, ultimately, the wildlife that depends on them, as well as the need to prevent their conversion to urban uses. It also offers a way to correct the misconception among many farmers that birds are pests and raise awareness that 90 per cent feed on harmful insects. The birds reduce dependence to pesticides producing greener rice farming.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.