Bird watchers says migratory birds are shifting their habitat to fresh water

Pallas’s Gulls or Great Black-headed gulls, the marine migratory birds, which breed in marshes and islands, sprang a surprise by flocking the ‘Sakkarakottai Kanmai,’ a fresh water body near here on Sunday.

S. Balachandran, eminent bird watcher and deputy director, Bombay Natural History Society, who was on his way to Danushkodi, accompanied by research scholars, made a brief stop near the sprawling ‘Kanmai’ to find as many as 250 birds.

“I have been visiting the areas for the last 30 years and this is the first time, I am seeing the Pallas’s Gull in a fresh water habitat, that too in large numbers,” he told The Hindu.

It was surprising that the migratory birds from eastern European countries seem to be shifting their feeding habitats from marine water to fresh water, he said. “This is a unique phenomenon,” he said, adding that the factors which forced this species to shift their feeding habitats needed to be explored. “Global warming and lot of other changes forced birds to shift their feeding habitats,” Dr. Balachandran said.

He was not sure whether the submergence of islets off Danushkodi due to high tides on the full moon day couple of days ago, forced the birds to visit the fresh water body for feeding. If that was the case, these birds should often visit the water body, but he was seeing them for the first time, he said.

He also sighted migratory birds such as Bar-headed goose, which breeds in Mongolia, Siberian northern pintail and Northern Shoveller from Arctic Russia, besides local birds such as Eurasian Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis in the water body.

There were no birds in bird sanctuaries in this district, which was hit by water scarcity for the second successive year, he said.

“I have visited Melaselvanoor and Keelaselvanoor bird sanctuary and there is no nesting and no bird,” he said. Pelican White Ibis and Spot-billed pelicans were sighted in the sanctuary in good numbers last year, but “not a single bird this time,” he lamented.

When contacted, Deepak S.Belgi, Wildlife warden, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, said that his department would take up bird population estimation before the end of this month.