Date: February 27, 2006
the University of the Philippine campus in Diliman,
Quezon City, some other, often-ignored sound may be
discerned apart from the din of students: the chatter
of diverse resident birds. The campus, with its isolated
buildings, tall trees, hidden creeks and extensive grass
lands, is a paradise for birds.
increasing numbers can attest to this, as reported by
the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) which posts
numerous sightings on its website <www.birdwatch.ph>.
group has reported sightings of 82 species of birds
in the campus, more than double the number reported
in 1998 in a study of Diliman fauna by biologists Dr.
Perry Ong, Marisol Pedregosa and Michael G. de Guia.
birds like it here because of the diverse habitats.
In Diliman we have almost everything -- forest, grass-land,
watery and muddy areas, buildings for nesting,"
said WBCP member and conservation scientist professor
Jonathan Villasper of the College of Social Sciences
mainstays of the campus are unaware that the chirping
in the stately acacias comes from species other than
the familiar maya (rice bird).
Villasper said an observant person might catch a sighting
of the swift blue-winged kingfishers around the grounds
of the Marine Science Institute or the lagoon.
there are the orange-tinged Cattle Egret, the Barred
Rail trotting through the tall grass, the slender White
Breasted Waterhen, the inconspicuous Brush Cuckoo and
many others found in different spots over the 493 hectare
most of the birds visit to breed and feed, the Diliman
habitats also support some endemic Philippine birds
such as the Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker and the bright
recent years, these creatures have drawn more attention
to the university as a bird sanctuary than a family
picnic ground or jogger’s romp. Individual birders
and bird enthusiasts, as well as bird-watching groups
and environmental stalwarts, such as the WBCP and Haribon,
to name a few, are flocking to the campus to catch a
glimpse of its feathered inhabitants.
vigilance does well for the continuing process of gathering
information about the birds, as each sighting brings
discoveries to light.
instance, bird watchers became aware of the presence
of the Ashy Ground Thrush when one crashed against the
glass panels of the Vargas Museum.
picked up the injured bird and was able to identify
it as an Ashy Ground Thrush," said Mr. Villasper.
The Thrush is listed in The Threatened Birds of the
Philippines, published in 1999 by Nigel J. Collar, Neil
Aldrin D. Mallari and Blas R. Tabaranza, Jr.
most of the birds, he said, are common enough. No exotic
species – in the eyes of many are here. But what
is ironic is that in the state of things – rapid
urbanization resulting in loss of habitat -- even the
most common birds are quickly becoming rare, when once
upon a time they were widespread all over the Metro
the birds are concentrated in unspoiled pockets of UP,
the nearby Ateneo de Manila University, Fort Bonifacio
and the Manila American Cemetery.
UP, they have found a safe haven for now. "But
there are still threats to the birds, from hunting and
the conversion of habitats around the campus,"
Mr. Villasper said.
the birds are not on the list of protected species as
specified by the Philippine Resources Conservation and
Protection Act, there’s no stopping anyone from
collecting them, as one group has done, having "harvested
some 20 waterhens from the Jardin ng Mga Rosas supposedly
for food," said Mr. Villasper.
said there have also been some instances where the residents
of the university, some from the squatters’ areas
and communities on the fringes, have hunted birds using
traps and air guns.
other times, the birds have been displaced when new
structures, agricultural or landscaping methods are
installed in the campus.
have been some initiatives in the past by the Board
of Regents to turn the campus into a protected bird
sanctuary, but nothing came of it," said Mr. Villasper.
The implications of such a move, he added, would result
in a complex bureaucratic bind.
first step to establish the birds’ permanence
is awareness among the community members. "Once
they have the awareness, then comes the development
of appreciation for the birds, and consequently, the
desire to look after them," Mr. Villasper said.
"Once they become aware, then the general UP community
can decide on whether strict protective measures are
the birds have no lack of champions and admirers from
UP and beyond. Dr. Perry Ong and Dr. Benjamin Vallejo,
Jr. of the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology
are hard at work completing a 2005 study of the university’s
study will serve as an update to existing data. The
WBCP continues to hold regular bird-watching sessions
in Diliman. Should the birds disappear, bird watchers
and the occasional passers-by granted a glimpse of jewel
colors among the trees, would surely notice the heavy
silence behind the usual grind.