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Ceylon Frogmouths flying back to life at Salim Ali sanctuary

A pair of endangered Ceylon Frogmouths at the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad, in Kerala.

A pair of endangered Ceylon Frogmouths at the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad, in Kerala.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Special Arrangement

K.S. Sudhi

Habitat improvement measures have yielded good results

KOCHI: The Ceylon Frogmouth (also known as Sri Lanka Frogmouth), an endangered bird, is thriving at the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad, amid reports of a decline in the number of forest birds nesting there.

Habitat improvement measures, initiated to protect the Ceylon Frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger), have produced good results. Around 35 pairs have been located in the sanctuary, said R. Sugathan, a leading ornithologist.

The sanctuary, spread over 25 sq. km., is home to 320 bird species and considered one of the important bird centres in the country. Assured sighting of some 60 species during a one-hour trek along the forest route is one of the attractions here.

Of the 13 Frogmouth species available in the world, only two belong to India. While one variety is available in south India, the other is found in the Himalayas.

The nocturnal bird scoops on insects and beetles, and build nests on woody climbers and trees. It was supposed to be highly endangered till the late 1970s, and it was at the instance of Dr. Salim Ali that efforts to track it started in south India, said Dr. Sugathan, who conducted the first Frogmouth survey.

The parochial bird vehemently defends its territory and rarely ventures out. Habitat destruction and human disturbances are proving costly for this species found in Karnataka and Kerala.

Though destruction of bamboo and cane forests has affected its population, the bird seems to have adapted itself to the modified habitat and now nests in shrubs like Madakka, Dr. Sugathan said.

“Unethical tourism practices like playing back the call of the bird for drawing it out of the nests for visitors, is detrimental to the bird population,” said P.O. Nameer, State coordinator of the Indian Bird Conservation Network and Important Bird Area Programme. He added that such practices needed to be curbed immediately. “We have acted on tendencies of the visitors to force birds out of the nests by rattling the branches on which they have nested. Habitat improvement measures like planting of favourite shrubs, prevention of forest fire and protection of eggs have paid rich dividends,” the ornithologist said.

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