Tamil Nadu

Arctic Terns arrive in the thousands to Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park

A huge flock of Arctic Terns has arrived at the Gulf of Mannar Marine biosphere reserve | Photo Credit: Courtesy: G. Venkatesh
Soma Basu MADURAI 27 October 2021 12:47 IST
Updated: 27 October 2021 12:50 IST

Migration of birds occurs every year over the Central Asian Flyway; more birds are being seen this year compared to previous years

The annual migration of birds from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve, has begun with an enormous flock seen swarming the Manoli Islands inside the park last weekend.

Mandapam Forest Range Officer, G. Venkatesh, told The Hindu that during his visit to the protected area on October 23, he saw thousands of terns and gulls, hundreds of sand, crab and grey plovers and the little stints and rudy turnstones that wade through shallow waters.


An avid photographer, Mr. Venkatesh caught the shorebirds on his camera. “It was a breathtaking sight,” he said, and added, “The population of the migratory birds that has got to to the Gulf of Mannar till now is far more than seen in previous years.”

The seasonal ritual of migration occurs every year over the Central Asian Flyway (CAF), comprising 29 countries including Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar and Maldives. “The birds take the long non-stop haul from the Arctic and European regions to winter in South Asia, and usually stopover in the coastal swamps of the Gulf of Mannar between October and December,” Mr. Venkatesh said.

The CAF is the shortest flyway in the world. On this route, the migratory birds travelling on the east of CAF also halt at the adjoining sanctuary habitats in Dhanushkodi and other water bodies and inter-tidal shores.

The Arctic birds begin their journey through India from the Bhitarkanika National Park, Odisha, and fly over to Kanniyakumari, the southern-most tip of coastal Tamil Nadu. The flocks again return in March on their way back.

According to ornithologists, the birds go on these exhausting journeys commuting thousands of miles between their summer breeding grounds and winter habitation spots.

Mr. Venkatesh said last year, 2,000 Terns were recorded in Manoli. But this year, at least four times that number have already arrived, signalling the start of the migratory season.

“When birds return to the same undisturbed habitats in search of food and rest, it indicates a healthy environment, and we are taking measures for their protection and management by staying at anti-poaching camps round-the-clock, and creating awareness among the local public to keep the area disturbance-free,” he said.

Other than the migratory birds, the Manoli Island is also twittering with resident birds like egrets and herons, Mr. Venkatesh said.