Birds: India M-Z
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Birds: India M-Z
Monal Pheasant, state bird of Himachal Pradesh, with its metallic greenish blue plumage is a sight to watch. They are ground birds, related to domestic fowl, confined to coniferous forest of Himalayan region. Females are duller with no beautiful metallic shin. They feed upon insects, fresh shoots and plants among ground litter. They are active at dawn and dusk. Monals live in small parties. They roost in the trees and nest on the ground. Large scale hunting is the main reason for their depleting population.
The first avian melody that you can hear at dawn anywhere in the countryside or forested area could be the magpie robin. They are always found in pairs. The male is black and white and the female has a gray colour on it. They hop around trees and bushes with an upturned tail and this sight can not be missed by anyone.
As the name suggests, it is a nocturnal bird. At the onset of night you can know their presence by a loud call - talk. They prefer to sit on the open ground and occasionally take off to catch insects in flight. If you drive by during night along the country sides, their big eyes reflect like bright jewels. They are common in most of the protected areas.
Open-bill Stork is the smallest among storks and can be easily identified with gap between upper and lower mandibles which enables it to catch snails. They are found in marshes and shallow water bodies. Open bill Storks are colonial in their nesting habit, where both the parents look after offsprings.
As they are confined to marshes and shallow water bodies, habitats under tremendous pressure, the protection of wetlands alone can ensure their safety.
With large or oversized beak, the Pied Hornbill looks very formidable but in reality its beak is not strong enough to be a weapon for its protection. They cannot fly for long distance because of its over-sized beak and weakflying mechanism. They feed mainly on fruits and berries.
Its nest is unique. Nest is in the hollow of an old tree. Its entrance is sealed with mud and fibrous material where female and eggs are secured inside with only small opening through which male feeds female and young ones. When young ones are big enough to fly, the mud wall is broken.
Pied Hornbill are killed in large numbers as it is believed that their fat and meat has medicinal value. Large scale deforestation and disturbance in the habitat are also responsible for their declining population. Manas is one of the places in India where Pied Hornbills are protected properly.
ROSE RINGED PARAKEET
Rose Ringed Parakeet is the most common among parakeets, they are well distributed throughout India. They are popular as pets and if trained, can learn to imitate human language.
The rose ringed parakeet is a gregarious species and prefer to roost in close proximity to human habitation. A visit to Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior, will give you an opportunity to see thousands of birds roosting in the heart of the city, vying to get a foothold on every possible patch on the busy road side trees.
Sarus Crane, found always in pairs, is the tallest among Indian birds. The pairing is of permanent nature and separation is only with death of a partner. Their elaborate courtship, dance and trumpet like call has inspired many a writers, besides it has become a symbol of faithful relationship between husband and wife, which is reflected in the Indian culture.
These long legged birds are seen along water fronts and agricultural fields, where they feed on small animals and grass tubers. Their nests are clumsy and shallow where both take part in parental care. Large scale disturbance in their habitat is the main factor for their dwindling population.
In recent times, Siberian Crane being one of the important winter visitor to Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary has come in limelight. Related to commonly known Sarus Crane, it is smaller in size and is overall white except red bare portion of neck and head. Siberian Crane, as the name suggests comes from Siberian region during winter, when the extreme cold conditions force them to look for more comfortable climatic conditions. For many years they were regular visitors to Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary. During peak period a large number of birds used to visit in the earlier times but in recent years their numbers have gone down to few birds. Efforts are on to save these winter visitors.
Snowcock is a ground bird, related to domestic fowl, found in high altitude alpine region. It feeds on small insects, seeds, and tender shoots. It is unique in a way that normally colouration is brown mottled with dark and belly is white, but during winter seasons when the habitat is snow covered, its winter plumage becomes white mottled with darker streaks to merge with changing surroundings.
Excessive grazing activities, trampling of nests and hunting for food, have affected their habitat. Nandadevi National Park provides shelter to this endangered species.
Spoonbill visits Indiana subcontinent from northern Europe during the winter season. It derives its name from the typical spoon like beak which is used to disturb the muddy bottom in order to dislodge small worms hidden within so that it can feed upon them. They are colonial and so aggressive that in dwindling wetlands they are known for dislodging the resident waders and taking over their feeding grounds.
Spot-billed pelicans dying en masse in Naupada swamp
Nematode infestation triggers mass mortality; only 200 birds left
A nematode infestation has led to mass mortality of spot-billed pelicans (Pelicanus philippensis) at Telineelapuram Important Bird Area (IBA) in Naupada swamp of Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh.
Over 150 spot-billed pelicans have succumbed to the infestation since December, according to Forest officials, with 21 birds dying in the past 72 hours alone.
As of Wednesday, nearly 200 adult spot-billed pelicans are surviving in the habitat, where they are breeding during their annual sojourn in the swamp. If the mortality rate continues unchecked, the species is likely to disappear completely from the swamp in a matter of days.
Only adult birds have succumbed to the infestation till date. Until now, in South India, the Telineelapuram IBA is the prime winter sojourn for the spot-billed pelican for breeding. The same IBA is also a breeding habitat for the painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala).
Wildlife Institute of India (WII-Dehradun) expert in animal ecology, migration, and movement studies Dr. R. Suresh Kumar spoke to The Hindu regarding the mass deaths. “Preliminary inquiry suggests that nematode infestation is the cause for the death of the spot-billed pelicans that prey on nearby water bodies. The nematode parasite is suspected to be transferred through fish and snails in particular, when the birds prey in the aqua ponds. At Telineelapuram IBA, the death rate is a case of mass mortality,” he said.
Dr. Suresh Kumar had studied the mortality of spot-billed pelicans in Karnataka State between 2017-19. “In Karnataka, the nematode infestation has started taking a toll on spot-billed pelicans since 2017. Post-2019, the death toll had fallen. In all the affected habitats, only the spot-billed pelican is dying due to the infestation. No other species has been affected,” he observed.
“Until now, the mortality of spot-billed pelican has been reported in groups. There is no impact on painted stork which breeds in the same habitat. The post-mortem reports have certified parasitic (nematode) infestation as the cause of death,” said Srikakulam In-Charge District Forest Officer S. Venkatesh.
“Aquaculture management practices surrounding the habitat are said to be the source for the parasite. We have alerted the locals and steps are being taken to prevent further death toll of the migrant bird species,” added Mr. Venkatesh.
The nematode infestation would not spread from one species to another species as per the studies carried out by the experts in Karnataka State. “The way the infestation transfers from the fish, snails, and invertebrates is complex. It is purely related to water and aqua ponds,” said Dr. Suresh Kumar.
The spot-billed pelican is capable of hunting huge fish from the water bodies and swamps and thus, it is vulnerable to infestation. Thousands of spot-billed pelicans and a few hundred painted storks migrate from the Siberian region to breed in the Telineelapuram IBA and a majority of them prefer to stay here instead of going back home.
The scrub land resident mimics babblers and lapwings, and even squirrels
Appearances are deceptive, and unbelievably so for the tiny Tawny lark: the dull brown-coloured bird that is small enough to fit in your palm can imitate calls of 34 other birds found in its habitat, and even shepherds’ whistles.
Many birds mimic the calls of other birds to impress females during territorial displays, to discourage competing species from using the area and to teach their young to associate the calls of other birds with danger. The diminutive crested Tawny lark – found only in the arid grasslands and scrub lands of central and west-central India including Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra – belongs to a family of larks well-known for their mimicking abilities.
A team of scientists from Cornell University and the Bombay Natural History Society studied the flight songs of these birds in Gujarat and analysed the acoustics of their calls. They found that male Tawny larks imitate the calls of 34 other bird species, including babblers and lapwings, with varied accuracy.
Interestingly, they even mimicked a squirrel and whistles of local shepherds – indicating that the birds learn from their surroundings. “So larks in other parts of India are likely to mimic other species too,” one of the authors, Sahas Barve who took a Ph.D from Cornell University told The Hindu in an e-mail.
“Not only are the males listening to other species [in their environment] but if it is a signal of male quality then it means that the females know all the calls well too and are choosing males that can either mimic the most number of species or can mimic the most species really accurately or both. We don’t know yet,” writes Dr. Barve.
Birds often learn to mimic other birds and sounds they hear, like Australia’s Superb lyrebird which can imitate chainsaws and car alarms. Though mimicry is poorly-studied and its functions highly debated, it is thought to influence the behaviour of birds (of the same species and others) that are listening.
Also a songbird, the Tawny lark is one of India’s 22 lark species. It is endemic to the Deccan region, locally common in its range and not yet threatened, says Dr. Barve. However, the habitat it lives in – grasslands and scrub lands – are one of the fastest disappearing in the country, he adds. Rapid urbanisation and conversion of grassland and scrub habitats into farms endanger these master mimics. The researcher says common birds need to remain common, and others saved.
White Ibis, long legged bird with down-curved beak, is an aquatic bird. It feeds on worms and small animals in marshes and shallow water bodies. It is a colonial bird and lives in small flocks. Ibis had a prominent place in ancient Egyptian culture, as they were mummified along with Pharaoh and were presumed to be sacred. Pollution of water bodies due to wrong agricultural practices and dumping domestic industrial affluents is affecting life of White Ibis along with majority of other waders.