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Winged beauties camp near Hidkal dam

Vijaykumar Patil
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Bar-headed geese and Demoiselle cranes attracting bird watchers

Treat for the eyes:Demoiselle cranes are camping in large numbers around the Hidkal dam in Belgaum district.— PHOTO: NIRANJAN R. SANT
Treat for the eyes:Demoiselle cranes are camping in large numbers around the Hidkal dam in Belgaum district.— PHOTO: NIRANJAN R. SANT

With premises of the Hidkal dam across the Ghataprabha in Hukkeri taluk of Belgaum district abuzz with rare whistling sounds of migratory birds such as the Bar-headed geese (Anser indicus) and Demoiselle cranes, bird watchers from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa have camped in the area.

Well-known bird watchers such as Niranjan R. Sant of Belgaum are pleased over the large number of Demoiselle cranes this year. Around 2,000 of them are presently camping on the banks of the dam. While there are around 500 Bar-headed geese, they are scattered in small groups.

While there number of the geese have neither decreased nor increased, the large number of Demoiselle cranes was a surprise for bird watchers as only 200 to 300 cranes were sighted in the last two years in the area. They had had almost stopped visiting the Hidkal dam after 2003 for few years. Hardly 40 to 50 of them were sighted until 2010, when more than 600 were spotted.

Significantly, of the 500 Bar-headed geese, two have leg-bands. Mr. Sant’s enquiries with experts revealed that these birds were from Mongolia.

These beautiful pale grey Bar-headed geese, distinguished by black bars on its head with white stripe running downwards, are native to Central Asia and regularly visit Indian wetlands for long stays. The migration is normally during non-breeding days when they take off towards south, flying over the Himalayas. Of late, as these birds fly long distances and nestle for long periods ranging from two to five months, Hidkal dam has become one of their roosting sites apart from Gadag and Haveri.

They arrive in separate flocks in October-November. During their stay, they visit nearby water bodies surrounded by vegetable fields and gear up for return flight to their nesting grounds in Leh, Ladakh, China and Mongolia in March-April.

These birds feed on barley, paddy, wheat and other food grains and vegetables. Changing cropping pattern in Hidkal belt with farmers taking up cash crops such as sugarcane had affected their visits in the past.

However, as the area around the dam has grown into a major vegetable belt in the district with more farmers taking up vegetable cultivation along with sugarcane, the birds are assured of their food.

One of the reasons behind the declining number of these migratory guests to Hidkal dam was poaching. However, with growing awareness about biodiversity among villagers the hunting of birds has been discouraged so that the winged guests camp here without fear, said a farmer from Hidkal.


  • The number of Demoiselle cranes visiting the area has gone up

  • Hidkal dam is one of their roosting sites apart from Gadag and Haveri


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