Birdwatchers in Maharashtra were thrilled by the sighting of an unexpected visitor — an Amur falcon — last week at the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary near the Pench Tiger Reserve, 60 km from Nagpur.
The raptor (bird of prey) — the size of a pigeon — makes its home in Nagaland, flying a staggering 22,000 km from there to South Africa, then onto Mongolia and back to Nagaland. The bird has one of the longest and most fascinating migratory paths in the avian world.
The falcon breeds in south-eastern Siberia and north-eastern China, where the Amur River divides the Russian Far East and China.
“It is an extremely unexpected sighting, and a mystifying one too. Most certainly the birds were on their way back to Mongolia,” said Srinivas Reddy, field director and Chief Conservator of Forests at the Pench reserve.
The sighting was recorded in the early hours of April 28 by Prafulla Sawarkar, a researcher of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
“I fortunately caught the bird perched on a tree when I noticed it. I took its picture and then it flew away, not to be seen again. This particular bird was probably a vagrant, stopping at Umred Karhandla for a rest after their spectacular, non-stop, three-and-a-half-day flight over the Arabian Sea,” Mr. Sawarkar said. Amur falcons typically begin their annual journey from north-eastern Siberia and northern China, heading to north-east India and roosting in Nagaland, before leaving for Africa, where they spend their winters.
The birds’ roosting in Nagaland made them particularly vulnerable to hunters who mass-slaughtered them for their tender meat. It was reported that in 2013, nearly 1,20, 000 of these falcons were trapped and killed at just one location in Nagaland.
Several green groups, along with concerned locals and the church, joined hands and launched a conservation and patrolling programme called ‘Friends of the Amur falcon’ to end the killings.