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Feathered friends give state a miss

Ranchi, Nov. 11: They would come from thousands of miles away — from Russia, Baluchistan, Israel and Myanmar — descending on the state in search of food and habitation. But migratory birds, till a few years ago a common sight all over the state in winter, seem to be giving Jharkhand the miss of late.

A prime example is Kanke dam, once a favourite hub of the birds, which today boasts of only a handful of avians.

“The migration generally begins from mid September and they remain here till end-February or early March. But this time, there are hardly any birds around even in November,” said zoologist and avid wildlife enthusiast Kishore Mantri.

Although figures are not available of the number of species visiting every year, according to experts, the state hosts close to 60 species of birds.

“In Ranchi alone, over two dozen species of birds, primarily from the Himalayan foothills and from Myanmar visit every year. Some of the prominent ones are common teal and shoveller,” he said.

The number of cotton teal and Brahminy duck or Lalsar that come from the foothills of the Himalayas has also fallen.

The fact that the number of migratory birds is dwindling is also apparent in other popular bird watching sites like Jubilee Park and Dimna Lake in Jamshedpur. However, non-aquatic birds like the wagtail from Russia and red-headed bunting from Baluchistan have already arrived there.

“The birds are coming late and the flock size is worrying,” said K.K. Sharma, in charge of the Jharkhand chapter of Ornithology Society of India and a qualified ornithologist.

“Usually, these species have a flock size of 20-25 birds, but this year there are hardly seven to eight,” said Sharma, adding climatic disturbances could be a reason why the birds are staying away. “It could be possible that they started their migratory route in large numbers but due to abrupt seasonal change many might have deviated. Animals or birds have a definite route and even a slight change can result in them losing their way,” Sharma said. Another reason, bird watchers said, was enhanced human activity like encroachments near water bodies.

A case in point is Udhawa bird sanctuary near Sahebganj. “In 2005, there were around 15,000 birds of myriad species, but last year’s census showed only 2,500 birds visited the sanctuary. Siberian ducks, teals and coots, low wagtails and common coot formed the bulk of the migratory flock, but species like red-crested pochard are nowhere in sight,” said Arvind Mishra, state coordinator for Indian Bird Conservation Network.

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