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Wetlands attract more winged visitors

White-necked stork spotted near Sasthamcotta lake for the first-time

January 26, 2016 12:00 am | Updated September 23, 2016 03:15 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram:

Known as woolly necked stork or Karuvarakkuru in Malayalam, the white-necked stork had earlier been sighted at Vembanad, Kole wetlands and along the banks of the Bharathapuzha.

Known as woolly necked stork or Karuvarakkuru in Malayalam, the white-necked stork had earlier been sighted at Vembanad, Kole wetlands and along the banks of the Bharathapuzha.

The five major wetlands in Kerala, including the Vellayani, Sasthamkotta, Vembanad, Ashtamudi and Pookode lakes, and their surrounding areas are attracting more migratory birds this year, a survey conducted by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) has revealed.

Check list

The board is preparing a check list of birds, as part of the biodiversity assessment of the wetlands. Birdwatching teams are keeping a close tab on the lakes to take stock of the winged visitors. The teams comprising the project groups tasked with the preparation of Panchayat Biodiversity Registers (PBR) visit the allocated area at least two times every week for the survey.

The survey team for the Sasthamkotta wetlands recently recorded the first sighting of the white-necked stork.

Also known as the woolly necked stork or Karuvarakkuru in Malayalam, the species had earlier been sighted at Vembanad, Kole wetlands and along the banks of the Bharathapuzha.

The white neck of the bird contrasts with the black head and body and the large bill is grey with a reddish tip. The legs and feet are red and the eyes deep red.

Measuring up to 95 cm in length, it prefers waterlogged areas and cultivated areas and mostly feeds on fish, frogs, snakes, crabs and molluscs. They rarely wade.

According to the IUCN status, the bird is classified as a vulnerable species.

“We have noticed that the number of migratory birds visiting the wetlands of Kerala is higher this year,” says KSBB member secretary K.P. Laladhas. “It requires a detailed study to understand if this is linked to climate change”.

Favourite spots

The birdwatching team deployed at the Sasthamkotta lake has identified 65 species while that for Vellayani has recorded 131 species.

“The high altitude lake at Pookode in Wayanad seems to have a strong biodiversity, perhaps because of its proximity to the forest,” Dr. Laladhas said.

The biodiversity assessment of wetlands assumes significance in the light of the threats faced by the fragile ecosystems, including the three Ramsar sites — the Sasthamcotta and Ashtamudi lakes and the Vembanad- Kole lands.

In the absence of a conservation and sustainable management plan, the lakes in Kerala are increasingly prone to encroachment, pollution, and debilitation caused by invasive alien species.

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