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Malampuzha has some rare visitors

Amur falcons, which undertake one of the longest migrations, spotted in Kerala

December 18, 2016 09:09 pm | Updated December 19, 2016 02:00 am IST - Palakkad:

Amur falcons have started flocking on the premises of Malampuzha Dam in Palakkad.

Amur falcons have started flocking on the premises of Malampuzha Dam in Palakkad.

Leading birders across the State, along with some of their counterparts from Tamil Nadu, have started flocking around the Malampuzha dam here to get glimpses of the rare and elusive Amur falcons, small birds of prey that undertake one of the longest migrations.

This is the first time that Amur falcons, which breed in south-eastern Siberia and North-eastern China, are being spotted in Kerala. For the past one week, they have been arriving in small groups at the southern edges of the Malampuzha reservoir, presumably for a stopover.

According to leading birder S. Namasivayam, the birds preferred Malampuzha this time instead of Kolhapur in Maharashtra. The rare and colourful sighting has enraptured birders across the region and over two dozen of them are now camping at Malampuzha to photograph the birds.

Ornithologists say Nagaland was their home in India. Every year, they travel 22,000 km from Nagaland to South Africa then onto Mongolia and back to Nagaland. The bird has one of the longest and most fascinating migratory paths in the avian kingdom.

The falcons normally breed in south-eastern Siberia and North-eastern China where the Amur river divides the Russian Far East and China, hence the name Amur.

“Their sighting in Malampuzha is quite unexpected. We believe they are on their way to Mongolia,” said Shefeeq Ahmed, a birder camping in Malampuzha.

Amur falcons typically begin their annual journey from north- eastern Siberia and Northern China, heading to north-east India and roosting in Nagaland, before leaving for Africa, where they spend winters.

In Nagaland, hunters used to mass-slaughter them for their tender meat. It was hardly three years ago that nearly 1,20,000 of the birds were trapped and killed at just one location in Nagaland.

‘Friends of the Amur Falcons’ was formed recently by several green groups in Nagalanad. Weighing hardly 150 g, Amur falcon or Falco amurensis is a small bird. The male is mostly grey in colour, and the female has dark-streaked cream or orange underparts.

In some parts of Nagaland, tribal people consider the falcons as messengers of God, their arrival indicating a good year and a bountiful harvest. The birds eat winged termites and other insects that destroy crops.

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