Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler new addition to Coimbatore’s checklist of birds

April 04, 2022 07:25 pm | Updated 07:25 pm IST - COIMBATORE

The Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler that was recently spotted at Krishnampathy tank in Coimbatore.

The Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler that was recently spotted at Krishnampathy tank in Coimbatore.

The Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler ( Helopsaltes certhiola), a long-distance migrant bird which breeds mainly in Siberia, parts of central Asia and Mongolia, was recently spotted and photographed in an urban waterbody in Coimbatore.

Birder D. Gajamohanraj spotted the winter migrant at Krishnampathy tank on March 24 during a routine birding, which is possibly the first record of the bird in Coimbatore.

“I noticed a small warbler-like bird perched on top of the water hyacinth. It immediately caught my attention since it had streaking on its back and a rich rufous colour tone overall, quite unlike the other regularly seen old-world warbler species,” he said.

Mr. Gajamohanraj could take a photograph before it flew away. “Upon reviewing the image, it seemed like a Grasshopper Warbler species, but exact identification was inconclusive as I could not record the bird’s call,” he said.

A few days later, on March 30, Mr. Gajamohanraj and his co-birder Sharang Satish spotted the same bird at the location.

“The second time, we were able to get some better photographs, videos and call recordings of the species. The bird’s identification was confirmed from its distinct call which is very different from the visually similar Common Grasshopper Warbler. Apart from the call, the other pointers were the well defined supercilium, rufous rump and upper tail coverts and pale tips of the tail,” Mr. Gajamohanraj said.

Belonging to the Helopsaltes family of warblers, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, which primarily feeds on small insects, is known for their skulking behaviour and their distinctive calls. They prefer thickets, reeds and low-lying vegetation, often remaining inside for a long duration.

In South India, there are scattered records of the bird from Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Tamil Nadu, the only other records are from Chennai, Mr. Gajamohanraj added.

P. Pramod, Senior Principal Scientist, Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), who confirmed the identification of the bird, said that protecting and conserving natural habitats around water bodies was very critical for the survival of many resident and migrant species.

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