Migratory species from northern hemisphere land at sanctuary

There’s good news for birdwatchers this season. A team of ornithologists and forest officials has spotted rare newcomers at Pulicat lake.

The migratory species were discovered on Friday in the course of the first bird census at the lake, around 65 kms north of Chennai, for the migratory season between October and March.

With major waterbodies such as Arani, Kalangi and Swarnamukhi rivers, situated near the sanctuary, filled up by the rains, the lake has turned an attractive feeding ground for thousands of migratory birds.

Most of the birds have traversed several thousand kilometres and arrived from countries in the northern hemisphere including Russia, the Far East, Mongolia, China and Pakistan.

The day-long bird census was conducted by the wildlife division of the State forest department to find the number of birds, variety of species and areas within the sanctuary they favoured.

“Such an exercise helps us understand the migratory pattern of the birds and the reasons. The arrival of more migratory birds is also an indication of the region’s rich biodiversity,” a senior forest official said.

On Saturday, a similar exercise was carried out at Vedanthangal bird sanctuary, too, an official said.

Some of the rare migratory birds spotted for the first time at Pulicat lake include the orange-headed thrush, black shoulder kite, comb duck, black-capped kingfisher, caspian tern, curlew, European herring gull, and black bittern.

“Apart from the severe winter in the north, the availability of water and food are major factors for the birds to travel long distances. In fact, birds are known to survey stretches along the migratory route for a few years before settling down there for feeding or breeding,” a biologist said.

The sanctuary at Pulicat is spread over 13 villages including Annamalaicherry, Orivakkam, Devanpattu, Peralampakkam, Kallur, Kadapakkam and Thiruvellaivayaal. Rare migratory birds were found in these areas by the census team on Friday.

The sanctuary is home to more than 55,000 birds comprising 60 species — more than 80 per cent of them are migratory birds. Some of the other migratory birds that have arrived this season are little cormorant, night heron, grey heron, sand piper, spoonbill, little and large egrets, white ibis, cattle egret, pintail, common teal, whistling teal, pond heron or paddy bird, Indian moorhen, darters or snake bird, grey pelican and open bill stork.

A team of forest officials has been deployed round-the-clock to ensure the safety of birds in the sanctuary. Villagers too, have been roped in to ensure the birds remain undisturbed.

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