The relative impacts of hunting and habitat onwaterbird community were studied in agricultural wetlandsof southern India. We surveyed wetlands to documentwaterbird community, and interviewed hunters to documenthunting intensity, targeted species, and the motivations forhunting. Our results show that hunting leads to drasticdeclines in waterbird diversity and numbers, and skew thecommunity towards smaller species. Hunting intensity,water spread, and vegetation cover were the three mostimportant determinants of waterbird abundance andcommunity structure. Species richness, density ofpiscivorous species, and medium-sized species (31–65 cm)were most affected by hunting. Out of 53 species recorded,47 were hunted, with a preference for larger birds. Althoughillegal, hunting has increased in recent years and is driven bymarket demand. This challenges the widely held belief thatwaterbird hunting in India is a low intensity, subsistenceactivity, and undermines the importance of agriculturalwetlands in waterbird conservation.
Ambio, 46(5): 613-620. DOI: 10.1007/s13280-017-0907-9