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Updated: February 1, 2011 20:09 IST

More to PTR than tigers

Giji K. Raman
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A Malabar pied hornbill
A Malabar pied hornbill

The sanctuary is home to 323 bird species including endangered ones. Besides the endemic species, the Western Ghats is home to certain 'disjunct species', which are found in the Eastern Himalayas too but are absent in between

The Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) harbours a wide variety of migratory and endemic birds too, with various ornithological surveys in the sanctuary recording 323 species so far.

In a recent survey, nine new species, the Spot-billed pelican, the Pheasant-tailed jacana, the Purple heron, the Purple swamp hen, the Western reef egret, the Oriental white ibis, the Common teal, the Common moorhen and the Common coot, were identified in the sanctuary.

A. Veeramani, an ecologist at the Periyar Foundation, who keeps a record of the bird surveys here from 1993, says that though migratory birds here are less when compared to better known bird sanctuaries like Thattekkad, 14 species endemic to the Western Ghats are found in the PTR. An earlier survey had identified four new bird species — the Common green shank, the Malabar pied hornbill, the Ashy-crowned sparrow lark and the Chestnut-bellied nuthatch.

The avifauna of Periyar includes birds of prey (raptors), water birds, galliform birds, pigeons, woodpeckers and passerines. Cormorants and darters are numerous in the lake and woolly-necked storks and grey herons are found on the fringes of Thekkady Lake. Along with many common birds, the Great Hornbill, an endangered species, is common in the park.

The Western Ghats is known as an area of high avian endemism. Fourteen endemic species are reported from southern Western Ghats viz., the Malabar grey hornbill, the Nilgiri wood pigeon, the Malabar parakeet, the Crimson-fronted barbet, the Rufous babbler, the Nilgiri laughingthrush, the White-bellied treepie, the Black-and-orange flycatcher, the flycatcher, the White-bellied blue flycatcher, the Broad-tailed grassbird, the Nilgiri pipit, the White-bellied shortwing and the Crimson-backed sunbird. Except the Nilgiri laughing thrush, all endemic bird species of the Western Ghats are found at the PTR.

'Disjunct species' too

Besides the endemic species, the Western Ghats is home to certain 'disjunct species', which are found in the Eastern Himalayas too but are absent in between. They include the Black baza, the Rufous-bellied eagle, the Great hornbill, the Spot-bellied eagle owl, the Sri Lanka frogmouth, the Great eared nightjar, the Dollarbird, Scaly thrush and the Little spider hunter. All the disjunct species in the Ghats, except the Grass owl and the Oriental bay owl are found in the PTR.

In addition to the above species, the Grey jungle fowl, the Jungle bush quail and the White-bellied treepie, which have a restricted distribution in the Western Ghats and the neighbouring hills, have also been found in the sanctuary.

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