| The nest of the white-necked storks. Telegraph picture |
Patna, Nov. 29: Bird lovers of Bihar are in for a treat as nesting white-necked storks have been sighted for the first time in the state at Raghopur.
The village is located 20km south of Bhagalpur in the Gangetic flood plains. Arvind Mishra, state coordinator of Indian Bird Conservation Network, told The Telegraph over the phone today: “Sighting the nest of the white-necked stork in Bihar is a good indication. It shows that the Gangetic plains of the state provide a conducive environment for the birds’ breeding.”
It was Mishra, along with Jainandan Mandal of Mandar Nature Club, who were the first to sight the white-necked stork’s nest on a 45-feet high Semal tree.
Mishra said he and Mandal camped in Raghopur to make the local residents aware about the importance of the birds’ nesting. They also convinced the residents to safeguard the nests — where already two healthy chicks are visible — from possible poachers. “Fortunately, the villagers understood my point and promised to safeguard the nest,” Mishra said.
The nest of the white-necked storks is significant for another reason. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the population of white-necked storks had been on the decline. Destruction of habitat and rampant hunting has been identified as two main reasons for the storks’ declining population.
Even Wetlands International, an organisation working for the conservation of birds, had come up with a similar observation.
The international union, based on the assessment of Birdlife International, UK, put the white-necked storks on its red list. The bird species was also kept in the “least-concerned” category. Mishra said: “From 1988 to 2004 the white-necked stork was put in the “lower risk” category. However, going by the trend of the declining number of the birds, they were put in the category of “least-concerned” which is one step higher on the basis of vulnerability.”
Mishra, who has worked extensively on birds in Bihar and Jharkhand for the past two decades, said earlier small groups of white-necked storks were often sighted at a few places in the Gangetic plains. “But now that the nest of the white-necked storks has been sighted, it gives hope that the birds’ number would grow in the years to come,” said Mishra.
Of the six species of storks, which are the resident birds of India, breeding of five species — greater adjutant, lesser adjutant, black-necked stork, open bill stork and painted stork — has been reported from the state in the past.
Unlike the four other species of storks, the black-necked and white-necked storks breed in solitary while the rest breed in colonies.
Mishra also pointed out that Bihar is probably the only state in the country, which can now boast to be the breeding ground of all the six varieties of the resident storks. He, however, added there is a strong possibility that the six species have been reported breeding in Assam, although it needs to be verified.