Bird watchers here are elated as rare and exotic water fowls are selecting Kumarakom as their nesting destination.

The latest of the sighting was that of Painted Stork, which has been sighted for the first time nesting in Kerala.

The study conducted by Shiby Moses, naturalist at Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, has identified nesting of these exotic birds at the sanctuary area.

Further study by N. Unnikrishnan, secretary, Kottayam Nature Society, has uncovered three nests in the area. According to B. Sreekumar, president of the society, more nesting places are believed to be inside the sanctuary since Painted Storks nest colonially on trees.

These large, colourful birds stand nearly one meter tall. Their distinctive pink tertial feathers give them their name. Painted Storks, listed in the Red List prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), were usually sighted in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, but not in Kerala, Dr. Sreekumar said.

The sighting shows that these large wading birds, though widely distributed in the plains of Asia, are now expanding to new areas.

Good news

The arrival of the Painted Storks is good news for the tourism industry. Kokrebellur village in Karnataka attracts thousands of bird lovers during the nesting season for the sole reason that it is a well-known Painted Stork nesting destination.

“With the arrival of these birds, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary needs special conservation strategy,” said Dr. Sreekumar. While, the largest secure Painted Stork population is found in India, they have become victims of bird trade in neighbouring Pakistan.

They were nearly wiped out in Thailand while small populations had been sighted in Cambodia and Vietnam, it is pointed out.

The latest water fowl census held jointly by Kottayam Nature Society and the Department of Forests and Wildlife, the 14th in a row, had sighted a pair of Sand Martin, perhaps for the first time in Kerala.

However, this was from Narakathara area a few kilometres away from the bird sanctuary. The census had registered a marginal increase in the bird population in the Vembanad lake area.