Migratory birds flock to Kazhuveli wetlands for winter sojourn

Beginning November, many species of migratory birds start arriving from Siberia, North Africa, Europe and the foothills of the Himalayas – the Eurasian Curlew, Caspian Tern, Little ringed Plover and Eurasian Spoonbill.

December 12, 2023 01:14 pm | Updated 01:14 pm IST - VILLUPURAM

A flock of Greater Flamingoes in flight at Kazhuveli bird sanctuary in Villupuram district

A flock of Greater Flamingoes in flight at Kazhuveli bird sanctuary in Villupuram district | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

With the onset of the winter season, hundreds of migratory birds have started arriving at Kazhuveli bird sanctuary in Villupuram district.

Beginning November, many species of migratory birds start arriving in droves from Siberia, North Africa, Europe and the foothills of the Himalayas – among them are the Eurasian Curlew, a near threatened species, Caspian Tern, Little ringed Plover and Eurasian Spoonbill.

Located close to Marakkanam on the East Coast Road, the Kazhuveli wetland, spread over an expanse of 670 sq.km of catchment area, is one of the major wetlands on the Coromandel Coast after the Pulicat Lake.

The lake is connected to the Bay of Bengal by the Uppukalli Creek and the Yedayanthittu estuary and is visited for nesting by migratory birds on the Central Asian flyway. The southern part of the wetland has been reserved land since 2001.

Listed as one of Tamil Nadu’s 141 prioritised wetlands, Kazhuveli is also a wetland of international significance and a potential Ramsar site, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s ‘Wetlands of India’ portal.

According to District Forest Officer Sumesh Soman, “Kazhuveli has varied habitat including sloping wetlands preferred by shore birds, darters and waders, birds on floating vegetation and open grasslands preferred by different species of birds and fauna. Kazhuveli is home to over 200 species of birds and is recognised as an important stopover and breeding ground for about 40,000 migratory birds. As many as 38 bird species including long distance migrants have been sighted by birders in the wetlands at Oorani, Nanakkalmedu, Hanumanthai and the Vandipalayam bridge.”

According to a 2004 assessment of the Indian Bird Conservation Network and Bird Life International, Kazhuveli supports more than 20,000 birds every year. The lake has a feeding ground for long-distance migrants from the cold subarctic regions of Central Asia and Siberia including Black-tailed Godwits, Eurasian Curlew, White Stork, Ruff and Dunlin.

Mr. Soman pointed out that due to Cylone Michaung and rise in water levels, the number of birds sighted has temporarily come down when compared with the previous week. However, the arrivals are expected to go up in the coming weeks. A pre-migratory season synchronised census of wetland birds has been scheduled on December 27 and 28, he said.

Little Tern and River Tern were sighted in large numbers at Vandipalayam bridge. Both the species are arboreal feeders and mostly rest on electrical lines. Glossy Ibis and Eurasian Spoonbill were also recorded in high numbers at Oorani and Nakalmedu followed by Black headed Ibis and Painted Stork.

According to Bubesh Guptha, founder and Director of Universal Eco Foundation, a Puducherry-based biodiversity conservation organisation, “Wetland birds are excellent indicators of water quality and biodiversity. Migratory birds, especially water birds utilize wetlands like Kazhuveli located between their breeding grounds and wintering sites as stop over sites during their northward and southward journeys. These diverse wetlands provide feeding and resting habitats for these migratory and other resident water birds, which in turn help to maintain the global migratory population in a larger way.”

According to a study, as many as 204 species of birds were sighted in Oussudu and Kazhuveli bird sanctuaries during April 2021 to March 2022, Mr. Gupta said.

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