Swati Sidhu

Project Associate, Education and Public Engagement

Hs 2013 08 04 0262

M.Sc. in Environmental Biology

I joined Nature Conservation Foundation in 2007. During my time with NCF, I have worked with three different programmes. In the Anamalai Hills with the Western Ghats programme, I spent my time observing hunting parties of birds and studying aspects of leopard biology that may reflect the nature of their relationship with people. In 2011, I joined the Eastern Himalaya programme to explore the relationship between plants and their less obvious agents of seed dispersal and predation, the forest rodents. I am currently working with the Education and Public Engagement team on SeasonWatch project.



Living with leopards

Carnivore, conflicts, and conservation in the Anamalai hills


Of forests and farms

Conserving wildlife in forests and plantations in the landscape



Pakke Nature Information Centre

A new learning and activity centre for visitors to Pakke Tiger Reserve

Turpinia 20pomifera 20seedling

Rats, seeds and rainforest trees

Plant-animal interactions: seed predation and plant demography

Pongamia jmgarg


Join us in studying the seasonality of trees!

Ltm with infant

Wildlife in rainforest fragments

Life in the treetops and undergrowth in rainforest remnants


  • Popular Article
    The land of travelling falcons
    The Hindu in School, 30 November
  • Journal Article
    Prey abundance and leopard diet in a plantation and rainforest landscape, Anamalai Hills, Western Ghats
    Current Science 109: 323-330.

    PDF, 3.54 MB

    Leopards use a wide range of habitats from natural forests to plantations in human-dominated landscapes. Within interface areas, understanding leopard ecology and diet can help in conservation management and conflict avoidance. In a fragmented rainforest and plantation landscape in southern India, we examined diet of large carnivores (with a focus on leopards) using scat analysis with DNA-based identification of predator species, and estimated relative abundance of prey species in different land uses through transect surveys. Large carnivores predominantly consumed wild prey species (98.1%) and domestic prey species contributed <2% to overall prey biomass. For leopards, four wild prey species (Indian muntjac, Indian spotted chevrotain, sambar and Indian porcupine) contributed 95.1% of prey biomass, with the rest being minor wild prey species (no livestock in identified scats). Wild prey species occurred across the landscape but varied in relative abundance by land-use type, with forest fragments supporting higher abundance of many species relative to tea and coffee plantations. As large carnivores mainly depend on wild prey and rainforest fragments act as refuges for these mammals within the tea and coffee plantations, it is important to continue to retain or restore these forest fragments.

    PDF: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/109/02/0323.pdf

  • Dataset
    Data from: Tracking seed fates of tropical tree species: evidence for seed caching in a tropical forest in north-east India.
  • Popular Article
    Hornbill hills: the hunter
    The Hindu in School, 25 Feb
  • Journal Article
    Tracking seed fates of tropical tree species: evidence for seed caching in a tropical forest in north-east India
    PLoS ONEDOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134658

    PDF, 1.3 MB

    Rodents affect the post-dispersal fate of seeds by acting either as on-site seed predators or as secondary dispersers when they scatter-hoard seeds. The tropical forests of north-east India harbour a high diversity of little-studied terrestrial murid and hystricid rodents. We examined the role played by these rodents in determining the seed fates of tropical evergreen tree species in a forest site in north-east India. We selected ten tree species (3 mammal-dispersed and 7 bird-dispersed) that varied in seed size and followed the fates of 10,777 tagged seeds. We used camera traps to determine the identity of rodent visitors, visitation rates and their seed-handling behavior. Seeds of all tree species were handled by at least one rodent taxon. Overall rates of seed removal (44.5%) were much higher than direct on-site seed predation (9.9%), but seed-handling behavior differed between the terrestrial rodent groups: two species of murid rodents removed and cached seeds, and two species of porcupines were on-site seed predators. In addition, a true cricket,Brachytrupessp., cached seeds of three species underground. We found 309 caches formed by the rodents and the cricket; most were single-seeded (79%) and seeds were moved up to 19 m. Over 40% of seeds were re-cached from primary cache locations, while about 12% germinated in the primary caches. Seed removal rates varied widely amongst tree species, from 3% inBeilschmiedia assamicato 97% inActinodaphne obovata. Seed predation was observed in nine species.Chisocheton cumingianus(57%) andPrunus ceylanica(25%) had moderate levels of seed predation while the remaining species had less than 10% seed predation. We hypothesized that seed traits that provide information on resource quantity would influence rodent choice of a seed, while traits that determine resource accessibility would influence whether seeds are removed or eaten. Removal rates significantly decreased (p< 0.001) while predation rates increased (p= 0.06) with seed size. Removal rates were significantly lower for soft seeds (p= 0.002), whereas predation rates were significantly higher on soft seeds (p= 0.01). Our results show that murid rodents play a very important role in affecting the seed fates of tropical trees in the Eastern Himalayas. We also found that the different rodent groups differed in their seed handling behavior and responses to changes in seed characteristics.

  • Popular Article
    Hornbill hills: the protector
    The Hindu in School, 4 March
  • Dataset
    Data from: Does mixed-species flocking influence how birds respond to a gradient of land-use intensity? Proceedings of the Royal Society B
    C Mammides, J Chen, U M Goodale, S W Kotagama, Swati Sidhu, E Goodale
    Dryad Data Repository doi: 10.5061/dryad.vk070
  • Journal Article
    Does mixed-species flocking influence how birds respond to a gradient of land-use intensity?
    C Mammides, J Chen, U M Goodale, S W Kotagama, Swati Sidhu, E Goodale
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282: 20151118.

    PDF, 476 KB

    Conservation biology is increasingly concerned with preserving interactions among species such as mutualisms in landscapes facing anthropogenic change. We investigated how one kind of mutualism, mixed-species bird flocks, influences the way in which birds respond to different habitat types of varying land-use intensity. We use data from a well-replicated, large-scale study in Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats of India, in which flocks were observed inside forest reserves, in ‘buffer zones' of degraded forest or timber plantations, and in areas of intensive agriculture. We find flocks affected the responses of birds in three ways: (i) species with high propensity to flock were more sensitive to land use; (ii) different flock types, dominated by different flock leaders, varied in their sensitivity to land use and because following species have distinct preferences for leaders, this can have a cascading effect on followers' habitat selection; and (iii) those forest-interior species that remain outside of forests were found more inside flocks than would be expected by chance, as they may use flocks more in suboptimal habitat. We conclude that designing policies to protect flocks and their leading species may be an effective way to conserve multiple bird species in mixed forest and agricultural landscapes.

    PDF also available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2015.1118

  • Report
    Hornbill Watch Report June 2014 to May 2015
    May 2015, www.hornbills.in

    PDF, 813 KB

    An update that summarises the information obtained on Indian hornbills contributed by people on the Hornbill Watch website for one year (June 2014 to May 2015).

  • Journal Article
    The response of birds and mixed-species bird flocks to human-modified landscapes in Sri Lanka and southern India
    Eben Goodale, Sarath W. Kotagama, T R Shankar Raman, Swati Sidhu, Uromi Goodale, Samuel Parker, Jin Chen
    Forest Ecology and Management 329: 384–392

    PDF, 705 KB

    While there is no substitute for undisturbed forest, secondary forests and agroforests are increasingly common in tropical areas and may be critical to conservation plans. We compared the diversity and abundance of birds and the characteristics of mixed-species bird flocks in forests inside protected reserves to ‘‘buffer’’ areas, consisting of degraded forests and non-native timber plantations at reserve boundaries, and to agricultural areas. We monitored a network of 57 transects placed over an altitudinal gradient (90–2180 masl) in Sri Lanka and southern India, collecting 398 complete flock observations and 35,686 observations of birds inside and outside of flocks over two years. Flocks were rarely found in agri- cultural areas. However, the density of flocks in buffer areas was similar to that in forests, although buffer flocks were smaller in average flock size and differed significantly in composition, as measured by the proportion of species that were classified, from the literature, as forest interior or open-landscape species. While flock composition was distinct between agricultural, buffer and forest areas, the differences in the composition of flocks was not as great as the differences between the overall communities in these different habitats. Considering buffer transects alone, pine plantations retained fewer forest interior species in flocks than did forests, and small areas of agriculture and abandoned agriculture attracted open-landscape species. Though clearly not equivalent to protected forests, degraded forests and agroforests in buffer areas still hold some conservation value, with forest species found particularly in mixed-species flocks in these human-modified habitats.

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