Sigur turns a hotspot for migratory vultures

A cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) sighted in the Sigur plateau.  

Soaring high among the clouds, a kettle of white-rumped vultures and red-headed vultures, residents of the Sigur plateau, circle over the carcass of a dead animal. On closer inspection, research scholar, S. Manikandan, studying the vultures spots a bird noticeably different from the other vultures. “I immediately started taking pictures and later confirmed it to be a Eurasian griffon (Gyps fulvus),” said Mr. Manikandan.

The sighting of the Eurasian griffon, a winter migrant to the Sigur plateau, marks the third different migratory species of vulture recorded in the region this year.

S. Bharathidasan, secretary of Arulagam, a conservation NGO working on protecting vultures, said that apart from the Eurasian griffon, conservationists have also spotted the Himalayan griffon vulture (Gyps himalayensis), as well as the cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus), in the Sigur plateau.

“We were on a routine trip to the Sigur to document the vultures in the region when we spotted the Eurasian griffon, which is being recorded for the second time in the region since 2017,” said Mr. Manikandan, a research scholar studying vultures at the Government Arts College in Udhagamandalam. Previously, a Eurasian griffon was recorded near Masinagudi by D. Gajamohanraj in 2017.

Vultures such as the Eurasian griffon and the Himalayan griffon, particularly juveniles, are known to travel thousands of km during the winter before heading back to their home range during the summer, said B. Ramakrishnan, assistant professor at the department of zoology and wildlife biology at the Government Arts College in Udhagamandalam.

“This behavioural trait is seen particularly among juveniles, who travel to different parts of Southern India during the winter, possibly to take advantage of the ideal climate and availability of food in the region,” said Mr. Ramakrishnan.

Interestingly, despite the presence of other vulture species in the region, including the red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) and the white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis), the winter migrants seemingly have little to no conflict with the local resident vulture populations, said Mr. Bharathidasan and B.Ramakrishnan.

Captive vultures

Conservation methods could take advantage of this behaviour to reintroduce captive vultures back into the wild, opined Mr. Bharathidasan. “Around four years ago, a cinereous vulture was rescued in Kanyakumari and is currently being kept in captivity. Efforts could be taken to reintroduce the individual back into the wild, as there are plans to set up a vulture rescue, rehabilitation and breeding centre in Mudumalai, and could be an ideal learning and training process for future conservation and rehabilitation efforts, ” said Mr. Bharathidasan. “The presence of so many vulture species in a single limited landscape is an indicator that the Sigur is a hotspot for vultures and needs continued protection,” said Mr. Ramakrishnan.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 6:25:10 AM |

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