The Telegraph
Thursday , October 10 , 2013

Rare sighting cheers ornithologists across country

- Members of Bhubaneswar Bird Walks urge chief minister to make pale-capped pigeon state bird

Bhubaneswar, Oct 9: A rare pale-capped pigeon (Columba punicea) has been sighted in and around the city.

The bird is listed as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red Date book, which means that it is on the verge of extinction.

On August 18, members of the Bhubaneswar Bird Walks have reported sighting three pigeons of rare species perched on the high canopy of a tree on the Regional Plant Resources Centre campus.

Panchami Manoo Ukil, founding member of the Bhubaneswar Bird Walks, said: “After sighting three birds on August 18, I, along with co-birders Mamta Megha and Nisha Chawda, saw 12 birds, male and female, on the same tree. The birds were photographed. The incident has excited ornithologists all over the country.’’

The bird was sighted in large numbers in the Similipal Tiger Reserve core area in May this year. This led avian experts to say that Odisha is home to this rare and vulnerable species.

“Ramki Srinivasan of Conservation India, along with divisional forest officer of Debrigarh Manoj Nair, sighted the bird at Similipal,’’ said Ukil.

Last month, two birds of this species have been sighted at Pokhariput. The sighting has been photographed.

Dehradun-based ornithologist Bikram Grewal has commented that the recent sightings of pale-capped pigeons in Bhubaneswar and earlier in Similipal had been one of the most amazing bird-related events in recent times.

City ornithologist Gahar Abedin said: “The bird sighting on the RPRC campus and later near Pokhariput proves that the bird is present in good numbers around the city and the Chandaka forests.”

It took the birders a while to realise that these were rare birds, which had never been seen in such numbers in Bhubaneswar earlier.

Typically, the species are found in a few places in India and Thailand, but sightings in peninsular India are rare.

The Bhubaneswar Bird Walks was started by Panchami with five members. Soon, other avian enthusiasts joined in and actively involved themselves in the documentation of wild birds which inhabit in the city and its surrounding areas. This is a first of its kind initiative in Odisha.

The bird watchers have appealed to the chief minister to make the pale-capped pigeon the state bird of Odisha.

“At present, we share our state bird — the very beautiful Indian roller (Bhadbhadalia) — with Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. The pale-capped pigeon has a presence in some of the northeastern states, but there has been no report of any sightings as yet. Therefore this rare bird that has made its home so close to us certainly deserves to be exalted to the position of the state bird,” said Shakti Nanda, another founding member of the Bhubaneswar Bird Walks.