Himalayan griffon spotted in Goa

Birdwatchers in south Goa have reported spotting the rare Himalayan griffon, also known as Himalayan vulture.

Updated - February 12, 2016 11:07 pm IST

Published - February 12, 2016 11:06 pm IST - PANAJI:

Himalayan griffon. — Photo: Special Arrangement/Mandar Bhagat

Himalayan griffon. — Photo: Special Arrangement/Mandar Bhagat

Birdwatchers in south Goa have reported spotting the rare Himalayan griffon, also known as Himalayan vulture.

Mandar Bhagat and Omkar Dharwadkar of the Goa Bird Conservation Network (GBCN) said they spotted the bird in Cacora village recently.

“Notes taken from the field and photographs of the bird taken were sent to several expert ornithologists across the country to confirm the species and our suspicions were correct. It is indeed the Himalayan griffon,” said Mr. Dharwadkar, who was the first to spot the avian.

According to the GBCN, the Himalayan griffon was previously believed to belong to the upper Himalayas and was presumed to stray till the Gangetic plains at the most. In 2013, however, “an exhausted juvenile” was rescued in Thrissur district of Kerala. In the same year, multiple sightings of the species were also reported from Bangalore in Karnataka and Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh. Earlier this year, the same species was reportedly spotted in Kaiga in Karnataka, the network of avid birdwatchers said.

“Himalayan griffons do not breed in the first three years, and hence juvenile birds of the species do not remain in breeding grounds to avoid competition. Such long-distance straying from home territory also points towards a lack of navigational experience in immature birds. All individuals of the species previously reported as sighted from south India, including the one spotted in Goa, are the immature ones. With this, the list of birds of Goa officially stands at 460 species, of which 14 additions were made in the last three years alone,” said Pronoy Baidya, a reviewer for eBird , an online programme that crowdsources information from birdwatchers.

Dwindling number

Ornithologists said there was a time when vultures could be seen in large numbers in Goa, especially the white-rumped vulture ( Gyps bengalensis ) and the Indian vulture ( Gyps indicus ). However, exposure to large doses of diclofenac has spelt doom for these birds as they feed on carcasses of cattle given this painkiller. Today, vultures can be said to be locally extinct in Goa, they added.

“On March 10 last year, I sighted a lone white-rumped vulture near Mandrem, a northern coastal village. It was probably a stray bird from a neighbouring State. The last known cluster of Indian vultures was in Chorla Ghat on the Goa-Maharashtra-Karnataka border but there have been no sightings since 2010. But we are hopeful that they will stage a recovery,” said Parag Rangnekar, president of GBCN.

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