Kerala

Why the number of peacocks are on the rise in Kerala

A newly married couple on motorbike met with a tragic end in Thrissur on Monday after a flying peacock hit the rider on the chest. The man lost his life in the accident, while his wife sustained injuries.

This is not an isolated case. Incidences of peafowls, isolated and in groups, causing threat to motorists are perhaps frequent now, especially near paddy fields. Peafowls, whose appearances were quite rare in the State earlier, are now spotted even in densely populated areas.

P.O. Nameer, Head of Centre for Wildlife Studies, College of Forestry, Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur, says the increasing sightings of the Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus), a dry-land species, are an indicator of the changing climate in Kerala.

Bioindicator

“Birds can be regarded as a bioindicator of environmental change as they are very sensitive to vagaries of climate. However, only limited analysis is available on the effect of climate change on the distribution of birds in India.

During recent years, the Indian Peafowl, an arid-land species, have been found to be expanding in Kerala, a region falling under humid tropics,” notes Dr. Nameer, who conducted a study, along with Sanjo Jose V., Academy of Climate Change Education and Research, Kerala Agricultural University. The study attempted to understand the expanding distribution of peafowls, influence of climatic variables and their future extent of distribution.

According to the study, currently 19.15 % area in the State provides a suitable habitat for the peafowl, while predictions suggest that this area may expand to 41.44% and 55.33% by 2050.

Central Kerala is found to be the hotspot for its expansion, and the distribution may be prominent towards south-east and north-west during the 2050s and 2070s respectively.

“In Kerala, 500 bird species are present, of which 17 are endemic species. There have been sightings of several dry-land bird species over Kerala,” notes Dr. Nameer.

The Indian Peafowl is commonly seen in scrub jungles and forest edges, with an affinity towards dry deciduous forests, semi-desert areas and semi-arid biomes. But they can also be found in agricultural fields and vegetations near streams and even in human habituations in semi-feral conditions.

Conflict with humans

The human-peafowl conflict often arises when the birds damage paddy crops. “Frequent attack of peafowls on paddy fields is a major concern for farmers. The birds sometimes come in groups and finish paddy spikes in a large area,” says Sreeja, an organic farmer at Arangottukara along the Thrissur-Palakkad border.

One of the earliest systematic bird surveys carried out in 1933 by eminent ornithologist Salim Ali did not record the Indian Peafowl in Kerala. Scientists say peafowl, commonly found in dry areas of nearby States like Tamil Nadu, started making an appearance in large numbers in the State from the late 80s.

Due to its status as the National Bird, people often refrain from attacking peacocks. Moreover, its meat is not consumed in the State.

The central and northern parts of Kerala, eastern slopes of Wayanad district, Chinnar range in Idukki district and Thenmala range in Kollam district are deemed suitable habitats for the Indian Peafowl.


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 9:36:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/why-the-number-of-peacocks-are-on-the-rise-in-kerala/article35948256.ece

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