It is perhaps for the first time that a brood of the highly elusive nocturnal forest bird, the Great Eared Nightjar, has been spotted in Kerala. A recently published book Birds of Kerala: Status and Distribution had mentioned that a brood of this bird had not been spotted from Kerala.
A team of the nature lovers’ forum Warblers and Waders, on its annual bird survey at the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary in Kollam during February, was able to record a Great Eared Nightjar sitting on brood in the forest. The Warblers and Waders team claim “it is the first record from the State”.
An earlier sighting had been recorded from the Siruvani foothills in Tamil Nadu in May 1995. The Great Eared Nightjar (Eurostopodus macrotis bourdilloni) belongs to the nightjar family. It gets its name from the two erect earlike tufts of feathers on its head, behind the eyes.
The Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary is rich in biodiversity and the Warblers and Waders has been conducting bird surveys there in association with the Kerala Forest Department since 1995. This year’s survey was conducted for three days from February 21, said C. Susanth, who coordinated it.
He said the objective of the survey was to update the checklist of birds in the sanctuary and study their status, abundance, and distribution in different habitats. For the survey, the sanctuary was divided into six sub-divisions namely Kattilappara, Kallar-Rockwood, Umayar, Rosemala, Dharbhakulam, and Pandimotta.
An ornithologist led the survey in each subdivision and it comprised senior and budding birdwatchers. Data were recorded directly by sight and indirectly by calls with two peaks of observation, one from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the other from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The survey teams were led by S. Rajeevan, R. Jayaprakash, K.A. Kosihore, C. Hairkumar, P.B.Biju, and S.S.Ratheesh. This year, 194 bird species were recorded at the sanctuary.
Significant bird species recorded were the Painted Bush Quail, Sri Lankan Frogmouth, White-Bellied Black Woodpecker, Great Indian Pied Hornbill, Black Baza, Blue-Bearded Bee-eater, Red-Winged Crested Cuckoo, Great-eared Nightjar, Lesser Fishing Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Booted Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush, Malay Bittern, Brown Fish Owl, Black-capped Kingfisher, Thick-billed Warbler, Speckled Piculet, Wayanad Laughing Thrush, and the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon.
The Tytlers Warbler, a rather uncommon winter visitor to Kerala, was recorded at Pandimotta. Of the 16 endemic species of the Western Ghats, 13 were recorded during the bird survey. Important birds recorded during previous surveys but absent this time were the Osprey, Lesser Coucal, Long-tailed Nightjar, Grey Heron, and the Hair Crested Drongo.
The highest bird presence of 124 species was recorded at Kattillappara and the lowest of 51 at Dharbhakulam. Mr. Suresh said 85 species were recorded at Rockwood, 114 at Umayar, 105 at Rosemala, and 60 at Pandimotta.