Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 December 2002
White-bellied Shortwing is a globally threatened species found in the Western Ghats of India. There have been few records of this species over the past 119 years and its population is thought to have fallen due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The present study was conducted to assess the habitat preferences and distribution of this species in the Western Ghats of Kerala and Tamilnadu states as a prelude to a long-term study on the biology and causes of decline of this species. Several areas across varying vegetation type and altitude were surveyed after an intensive reconnaissance. There were 214 sightings from evergreen and shola forests during the study. They were found to prefer shola forests to other vegetation types. The species was also found in pine, wattle and tea plantations near shola forests. Although it was found to prefer an altitude above 1,500 m, it was also found in shola forests between 1,000 and 1,500 m elevations. White-bellied Shortwing was found to occupy an elevation range from 1,000 m to 2,200 m. Encounter rates in shola forests fragmented by human interference were four times higher than those in natural shola forests. Most encounters of shortwings were near streams that were wet (running or damp). Emphasis is laid on the need for long-term studies to unravel the basic biology of the species in order to aid active conservation efforts.