Wayanad wetland survey unveils avian diversity

Updated - January 12, 2024 10:02 pm IST

Published - January 12, 2024 08:38 pm IST - KALPETTA

Cotton pigmy goose spotted during the water bird survey in Wayanad.

Cotton pigmy goose spotted during the water bird survey in Wayanad. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Spot billed duck

Spot billed duck

Grey headed lapwing

Grey headed lapwing

A water bird survey, organised by the Social Forestry department in association with the Hume Centre for Ecology and Wildlife Biology in Wayanad revealed that the wetland in the landscape played host to an array of avian wonders.

The survey was organised as a part of the Asian Waterfowl Census in the State by the Kerala Bird Monitoring Network. Over 100 bird species, encompassing water birds and wetland-associated varieties were spotted during the survey.

Notably, previously unreported species in the Wayanad Wetland Survey, such as the Grey-headed Lapwing, Steppe Eagle, and Short Toed Snake Eagle, made a remarkable appearance this time, C.K. Vishnudas, director of Hume Centre, said. However, despite the increased diversity, the overall bird count experienced a slight dip, with 1,425 individual birds tallied as against 1,621 last year, he added.

The migratory birds such as Grey-headed Lapwing, Common Coot, Eurasian Moorhen, Grey Heron, Red-naped Ibis, and Pied Cuckoo, were recorded during the survey.

Resident birds such as Cotton Pygmy Goose, Spot-billed Duck, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Bronze-winged Jacana, Little Cormorant, and Grey-headed Swamp Hen, were also spotted.

Surprisingly absent were the once-flocking Lesser Whistling Teals, a spectacle in Karappuzha lake. Their disappearance for the second consecutive year hints at a potential habitat disturbance, prompting concerns about local environmental conditions, Mr. Vishnudas said.

The unique wetland ecosystem of Wayanad, distinct from the rest of Kerala, revolves around shallow waterbodies linked to the Karappuzha dam reservoir, said R.L. Ratheesh, Assistant Professor, Department of of Preventive Medicine, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU), who coordinated the survey.

The dam’s partial commissioning has drawn wetland birds from neighbouring areas, steadily elevating their population. Notably, Wayanad boasts the largest heronry site in Kerala, he added.

The survey locations included the Karappuzha dam reservoir areas, waterbodies at Kurichyad, and Ammavayal inside the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary as well as Panamaram Aarattuthara and Valluyoorkkav paddy fields.

As many as 42 amateur ornithologists from various organisations in the district, Including the NSS volunteers of KVASU Jerdon’s Birding Club, DM Medical College Meppadi, and Wayanad Birders, a social media collective.

The event not only showcased the rich avian diversity of Wayanad but also raised concerns about the impact of local habitat disturbances on the bird population, emphasising the need for continued conservation efforts, Mr. Ratheesh added.

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