Avians are missing from the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad. The flourishing foliage and the comforting safety of the sanctuary seems to be failing to enamour them.

The chirping of birds no longer announces the daybreak here. Though the forest has turned greener after the monsoon, an eerie silence has replaced the usually noisy atmosphere, baffling bird lovers and ornithologists alike.

Earlier, during this part of the year, a large number of water birds such as the Oriental Darters, Cormorants, Lesser Whistling Teals and Egrets could be spotted here. But they are completely missing this time, says R. Sugathan, renowned ornithologist of the sanctuary.

It is estimated that the sanctuary is home to around 250 species. The area was once described by Salim Ali as one of the richest bird habitants in peninsular India.

The birds, which have abandoned the sanctuary and adjoining places, seemed to have decided not to fly here from far away places. They have made the marshy areas near Muvattupuzha and nearby places their home.

The drying up of the water body adjoining the sanctuary might be the reason for water birds moving away from here. But one needs to look into the reasons for the absence of the forest birds, says Dr. Sugathan.

The absence of forest birds could be on account of changing weather patterns. Change in rainfall pattern, increased temperature and related climatic conditions might have changed the flowering and fruit-bearing cycle

of the trees and plants thus depriving the birds of their food. The birds might have left for places where they could find food in abundance, he observed.

Significant was the absence of nests and chicks along the forest routes where they could be once spotted easily. Large number of chicks of forest birds could be seen here during the months that preceded the monsoon, says

Dr. Sugathan, a student and research associate of renowned ornithologist Salim Ali.

Forest birds such as Black headed Oriole, Woodpeckers, Barblers and Bulbuls were the permanent residents of the area.

Climate change and changes in the flowering and fruit-bearing schedule of trees might have also affected the breeding patterns of birds. The increasing temperature would certainly have a bearing on the incubation

period of eggs. The flowering of some mango trees in the region in August, when the mango season was over, should be counted as an indication of climate change affecting the flowering season of trees, he said.

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