Birds: India A-F

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Birds: India A-F

Amur falcons

Nagaland, Manipur

The Hindu, November 1, 2016

A satellite-tagged Amur falcon in Nagaland, during a research study on their migratory patterns.; Picture courtesy: The Hindu, November 1, 2016

Traditionally seen as harbingers of a good harvest, their migration is now safer with conservation action

Thousands of Amur falcons, small birds of prey that undertake one of the longest migrations, started arriving on October 7 in Wokha district in Nagaland and Tamenglong district of Manipur. The first winged visitors arrived with unerring precision on the same day as 2015.

Wokha district is a declared second home of the Amur falcons. In neighbouring Tamenglong, officials and wildlife lovers have won over many tribals who were earlier trapping the birds during their famous migratory journey.

Most bird catchers have turned bird lovers, and the species is recognised as friends of the tribals. The falcons eat various insects, thus helping farmers. The turnaround is a radical change from the past, when hundreds of trussed up Amur falcons would be on sale in village markets and towns, while some would be sold fried or smoked.

When he was Union Minister for Environment, Prakash Javadekar witnessed enthusiastic public response to conservation, and government initiatives taken up in Manipur and Nagaland to save the migrating Amur. On a visit to the Doyang lake areas, 200 km from Kohima on November 15, 2015, he announced that it would be developed as an eco-tourism spot for bird watchers.

At just 150 grams, an Amur falcon, Falco amurensis is a small bird, the male mostly grey in colour, and the females having dark-streaked cream or orange underparts. The species flies non-stop from Mongolia to northeast India covering 5,600 km in five days and nights, a small part of its 22,000 km circular migratory journey. The birds halt briefly in Myanmar. After a month or so, they reach central and western India en route to South Africa.

In Tamenglong, the tribals see the falcons as messengers of god, their arrival indicating a good year and a bountiful harvest. The birds eat winged termites and other insects that destroy crops.

“Our forefathers never killed these avian friends. However, the younger generation started decimating them by the thousands using nets, slingshots and guns,” laments an elderly tribal. Though the species is protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, enforcement was weak as only skeleton staff is present in hilly Tamenglong. The bird roosts in the four forest ranges in the district.

More recently, people from all walks of life, youths in particular, have joined hands for conservation. As a part of the awareness campaign, the first Amur falcon dance festival, including a beauty contest, was held in the district on October 25, 2015.

Kerala, Malamphuza dam

The Hindu, December 19, 2016

Amur falcons have started flocking on the premises of Malampuzha Dam in Palakkad. Photo Credit, K.K. Mustafah; Picture courtesy: The Hindu, December 19, 2016

K.A. Shaji

Amur falcons, which undertake one of the longest migrations, spotted in Kerala

Leading birders across the State, along with some of their counterparts from Tamil Nadu, have started flocking around the Malampuzha dam to get glimpses of the rare and elusive Amur falcons, small birds of prey that undertake one of the longest migrations.

December 2016 is the first time that Amur falcons, which breed in south-eastern Siberia and North-eastern China, are being spotted in Kerala. They have been arriving in small groups at the southern edges of the Malampuzha reservoir, presumably for a stopover.

According to leading birder S. Namasivayam, the birds preferred Malampuzha this time instead of Kolhapur in Maharashtra. The rare and colourful sighting has enraptured birders across the region and over two dozen of them are now camping at Malampuzha to photograph the birds.

Ornithologists say Nagaland was their home in India. Every year, they travel 22,000 km from Nagaland to South Africa then onto Mongolia and back to Nagaland. The bird has one of the longest and most fascinating migratory paths in the avian kingdom.

The falcons normally breed in south-eastern Siberia and North-eastern China where the Amur river divides the Russian Far East and China, hence the name Amur.

“Their sighting in Malampuzha is quite unexpected. We believe they are on their way to Mongolia,” said Shefeeq Ahmed, a birder camping in Malampuzha.

Amur falcons typically begin their annual journey from north- eastern Siberia and Northern China, heading to north-east India and roosting in Nagaland, before leaving for Africa, where they spend winters.

In Nagaland, hunters used to mass-slaughter them for their tender meat. It was hardly three years ago that nearly 1,20,000 of the birds were trapped and killed at just one location in Nagaland.

‘Friends of the Amur Falcons’ was formed recently by several green groups in Nagalanad. Weighing hardly 150 g, Amur falcon or Falco amurensis is a small bird. The male is mostly grey in colour, and the female has dark-streaked cream or orange underparts.

In some parts of Nagaland, tribal people consider the falcons as messengers of God, their arrival indicating a good year and a bountiful harvest. The birds eat winged termites and other insects that destroy crops.

May 2017/ sighted in Karnataka

Mohit M Rao, KGF welcomes an Amur falcon, May 9, 2017: The Hindu

Taking a detour: In a first, an Amur falcon was spotted near Kolar Gold Fields, Mohit M Rao, KGF welcomes an Amur falcon, May 9, 2017: The Hindu

Satellite-tracked bird’s route from Somalia throws new light migration

On May 1, perched on a lookout in Somalia, the Amur falcon named ‘Longleng’ prepared to fly towards India, the mid-point of a nearly 22,000-km journey to Northern Mongolia. The project has provided new evidence on altered flight patterns of the species.

After a four-day crossing of the sea – a non-stop flight – it halted near Pune before “surprisingly” heading towards Kolar Gold Fields.

“This is the first time one of our tagged birds has gone south during this season, rather than fly across the Gangetic plains towards Nagaland,” said R. Suresh Kumar from the Department of Endangered Species Management at Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which is tracking three other falcons to better understand their migration routes.

Between October and November, Amur falcons go from Nagaland towards Central Peninsular India and then to Somalia before wintering in Southern Africa. On their return, they fly over 5,500 km from Somalia into Northern India and then Southeast Asia.

On why the Amur Falcon turned up in KGF, Mr. Kumar said: “While it is too early to say, we believe it may have something to do with the cyclonic depression over the Arabian Sea. These birds follow rain, and air currents letting them to fly longer with little effort.”

Short rain spells may have brought the bird here, with termite mounds that thrive just after showers providing food.

Contact lost

WII’s programme began in November 2013 with tagging of three birds for satellite tracking. After contact with them was lost, five were tagged in October 2016 : Longleng, Hakhizhe, Phon, Eninum and Intangki — all of them named after villages in Nagaland.

Contact was lost with Intangki, while the other three birds were traced to locations in Somalia.

BLACK-NECKED STORK

With its contrasting colour, Black-necked Stork is a very attractive bird, found along shallow water bodies. One can see them wading along the lake shores looking for fish, frog or snails, which they can effectively catch with the help of a sharp powerful beak. Their number has gone down in recent times mainly due to pollution of the water bodies.

BAYA OR WEAVER BIRD

There is no match for the fine architecture in the form of the intricate nest of a baya. You can see these upturned pitchers like nests along the roadside especially on tree branches overhanging water bodies throughout India. Baya is related to the sparrow but during the breeding season, it is brightly coloured with bright yellow on their head and chest. You can observe feverish activity of these birds when they are busy making their nests. The male happens to be the main architect. During this time, it is always a photographer's delight.

BLOSSOM-HEADED PARAKEET

One of the most beautiful parakeet, it is distributed all over the country. They are always seen in flocks. The males have a bright blossom head while the females have a gray head. A red patch on its wings also helps in its identification. They are very noisy and prefer to occupy treetops. They feed on fruits and berries. The ficus trees in the forest are always tempting and is the best place to observe them in large numbers. Corbett, Melaghat, Bandipore, Kanha, Dudhwa, may give an opportunity to observe them.

BLACK PARTRIDGE

Like all other fowls, they are ground birds living in small parties. They are mostly confined to the deciduous, grassland, and scrubland forests all over the country. They disclose their presence by their typical call. The male is black with white and brown spots while the females are brown in colour. They can be tamed easily and trained partridges are used for fights. They are also considered as a delicacy and hence are hunted for food. An early morning walk along the countryside in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and parts of UP, Rajasthan sighting them can surely be a possibility.

BENGAL FLORICAN

One of the small and most beautiful among bustards, Bengal Florican is confined to the grasslands of northeastern region. Clumsy in flight, like other bustards, it was always an easy prey for the hunters. Besides grasslands being ideal places for the fodder for domestic animals, this species has suffered the maximum. Periodic burning of grasslands for fresh fodder crop invariably destroyed their nests endangering them further.

Only thirty-four birds were found in Manas in the year 1984 and at present they are on the endangered list of species.

FLAMINGO

This long-legged bird, with its long neck and upturned shoe like beak, is a typical filter feeder. It is found along marshes. This gregarious species is known for its typical nest, made out of mud in the form of pillar like structure with bowl shape nest on the top. A large number of nests resemble cityscape and hence the nesting sites are always called Flamingo cities. Rann of Kutch is famous as their breeding sites. Sambar Lake, Chilka, and Rann of Kutch are places to see these graceful birds.

FINN'S BAYA

Finn's Baya is related to commonly seen weaverbird well known for their beautifully assembled nest. They are colonial and build their nests along waterfronts. They are polygamous and male assembles the nest but after eggs are laid female looks after the offsprings, leaving male to build a nest for another female. Nest it constructed out of fibers from palm leaves, grass blades with special nest chamber.

Sri Lankan Frogmouth

2018: sighted in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Giji K. Raman, Sri Lankan Frogmouth is usually found on the western side of the Western Ghats, November 18, 2018: The Hindu


The sighting of a rare bird species in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary has sparked much interest among ornithologists since its presence was noticed on the eastern side of the Western Ghats for the first time.

The Sri Lankan Frogmouth, belonging to the Batrachostomus moniliger species, which was sighted at the sanctuary is usually confined to its habitation in the western side of the Western Ghats forests.

It is a relative of Nightjar, a crepuscular and nocturnal bird breeding in Europe and temperate Asia.

Its preferred habitat is a dry and open area with some small trees or bushes.

A few ornithologists who were on a trekking trip, accidentally noticed the bird’s presence in the forest. Initially, they thought it was Nightjar, but a closer scrutiny confirmed it to be the Sri Lankan Frogmouth, said Assistant Wildlife Warden P.M. Prabhu.


Only one egg a year

The first one was noticed by ornithologist and Thattekkad resident Vimal, while he was trekking with another person, Vijayan. The second sighting was near the Chinnar river. The bird, like the Nightjar, eats insects and mainly seeks prey during night time.

The main feature is that it lays only one egg a year after the mating season in April-May. The nest is made using moss or leaves of soft plants and the bark of the trees. The male bird destroys the nest and flies away with the new born bird.

Ornithologists say that the bird has a unique habitat in Sri Lanka and is also believed to be present in the Thattekad bird sanctuary. It is also found in Karnataka, Goa, and Maharashtra.


At Thattekad in 1976

It was believed that the species had gone extinct in the State after its presence was not noticed for a long period. Ornithologist Sugathan had found it at Thattekad in 1976. The Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is on a project to study its habitat and make a favourable environment for it.

The Sri Lankan Frogmouth usually rests on small tree branches during daytime. Because of its silent presence, it is hardly noticed.

The Great Backyard Bird Count:2004-14

The Times of India

Feb 10 2015

Delhiites keep eyes peeled as this bird count not for experts only

You don't have to be a birdwatcher sporting powerful binoculars to participate in the world's largest bird race.Several Indians and Delhiites are likely to participate this week in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a global event in which people from across the world will report the birds they spotted in their backyard or neighbourhood. Organizers call it a `citizen science' exercise in which common people can play an important role in documenting biodiversity close to them. The basic activity is to list all bird species seen in a particular location over at least 15 minutes and upload the list to the global bird listing platform . Last year, India recorded the highest number of species (823) followed by Mexico and US.The most frequently reported species overall are the house crow, common mynah and rock pigeon. Rare species like the Baikal teal and the blue-naped pitta were also sighted.

Birders are excited about the count. “I live near Shalimar Park in Ghaziabad. There are 2-3 pockets near my place where I have seen hundreds of sparrows. I have also seen shik ra. It makes me wonder why they are seen there. It could be because of the woodland habitat. Birds are great indicators of the quality of environment.Near DU for instance you can see grey hornbills because of the old trees in that area,“ said Faiyaz A Khudsar, scientist in charge, Yamuna Biodiversity Park (YBP), who will participate in the count.

In India, the count is being coordinated by Bird Count India. Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi, one of the organizers, said the “idea was conceptualized in Cornell University so that data can be gathered by any person anywhere in the world. Birders usually track rare birds but this is mainly to sight common backyard birds“. The count was launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society and was the first online citizen science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.

It's the birding season now and birders are preparing for another exciting event on March 8--the Big Bird Day .About 3,000 people participated in this event last year spotting close to 800 species or 65% of India's bird diversity.

See also

Birds: India

Birds: India G-L

Birds: India M-Z

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