In a conservation effort to monitor seasonal fluctuations in birds' movements, the ringing of oriental darters has been taken up in the world-famous Bharatpur bird sanctuary (officially Keoladeo National Park) here after a gap of 22 years. The ringing of darters, or snakebirds, with colourful bands will help ascertain their habit of reporting back at the nests used earlier by them.
Oriental darters have been classified as “near-threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Research scholar Neha Imtiyaz from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has ringed 10 darters at the bird sanctuary with the plan to study their preferences for particular aquatic habitats and identify their movements with the help of general public.
As a water bird of tropical South Asia, oriental darter, taxonomically named as Anhinga melanogaster , has a long and slender neck which looks like a snake when it swims and dives into water to catch a fish. Its sharp and long beak is helpful in puncturing the fish which it brings out of water to toss it up in air and swallow it, a scene photographers wait for hours to catch.
The darter hunts for fish while its body is submerged in the water.
The availability of fish of the same size for a longer period causes the bird to stay at one lake. Besides swimming in the lakes, it is often found perched on a rock or a tree branch for drying its wettable feathers.
The ringing and banding of birds, conducted earlier by the Bombay Natural History Society, was stopped in the sanctuary after it was upgraded and named as the Keoladeo National Park (KNP). Park’s Director Mohit Gupta told The Hindu that the birds had been tagged after 22 years and the exercise would make no adverse impact on the habitat’s ecology in any manner.
Mr. Gupta said the ringing was taken up earlier mostly on the migratory birds to find out their routes of flight, breeding zones and stopover sites. “The Forest Department has allowed the banding after we recommended it. The outcome of the research study on darters will be useful for the KNP management as well,” he said.
Ms. Imtiyaz, undertaking research on the ecology and breeding biology of oriental darters in AMU’s Department of Wildlife Sciences, obtained plastic rings from the U.S. in bright yellow, green, blue and red colours. After capture, it was a matter of minutes to fix the rings and release the birds back into the nature.
Since no earlier record of the behaviour and movement of darters is available with environmental experts, Ms. Imtiyaz’s study is the first of its kind on the near-threatened species of bird.
The research scholar has called upon the bird lovers in the region to spot the darters with the coloured rings and inform her of their global positioning system (GPS) coordinates. This will involve common people in the effort for darter conservation.