Hideouts for barn owls, pigeon holes atop buildings

NO DEAD WOOD:A pair of parrots perched on a withered tree sharesintimate moments.— Photo: V. Raju

NO DEAD WOOD:A pair of parrots perched on a withered tree sharesintimate moments.— Photo: V. Raju  

Conservationists are trying all the tricks up their sleeves to rejuvenate the avian population of central Kerala by providing artificial nests, feed, and improving the bird habitats.

Artificial hideouts for barn owls, pigeon holes atop tall buildings, protection of dead and lofty trees for woodpeckers, parrots and myna, and food and roosting sites for attracting domestic and migrant bird species are to be tried near the Vembanad wetland system and adjacent areas shortly.

These conservation steps form part of an initiative of the Kerala Forest Department to create and widen the natural habitats of birds and regenerate the lost ecosystems congenial to them. It also envisages the protection of the population of domestic and migrant birds, improvement of fish biodiversity in the water bodies for ensuring feed for birds, and improvement of bird habitats.

The project, piloted by the Social Forestry Wing of the Forest Department in bird habitats located near the Vembanad Lake system, will get financial assistance to the tune of Rs.4 crore from the Kuttanad financial package.

The Vembanad wetland system covers an area of over 1,512 sq. km. and is bordered by Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Ernakulam districts. The long stretches of backwater and brackish water bodies, located on the central Asian-Indian flyway of birds, are ideal habitat for many wetland birds. Vembanad, Ashtamudi and Periyar lakes provide suitable habitats for many migratory species. Terns, sea gulls, sandpipers, plovers and teals are some of the important visitors to these localities.

The project will receive Rs.1 crore each for the next four years under the biodiversity improvement component of the Kuttanad package, said Justin Mohan, project director of the package. Authorities hope to develop Vembanad Lake ecosystem into a bird sanctuary in its broader sense, said Mr. Mohan.

Serious threat

Rampant destruction and loss of habitats are posing a serious threat to many bird species and the project attempts to address these issues by creating ideal environment for the bird species, said Raju K. Francis, Assistant Conservator of Forests (Social Forestry).

The Forest Department plans to set up around 300 artificial hideouts for the barn owls in Alappuzha town, its outskirts, and villages in the district.

Barn owls, which mostly nest in old tiled structures such as temples, mosques, churches and traditional buildings, are losing their nesting places as the old buildings are fast giving way to concrete structures in many parts of Alappuzha. Artificial hideouts will also be provided for pigeons in buildings with the support of people, he said.

Protection and conservation of lofty and dead trees will be included in the project as woodpeckers, common myna and parrots roost in holes in dead trees. The land owners who protect such trees in their holdings will be given annual incentive of Rs.250 for every tree they protect.

Authorities plan to plant at least 5 lakh saplings of Njaval, Jack, Anjily, Guava and Neem to increase tree cover and canopy to support the avian ecosystem and enhance bird resting, roosting and feeding places. Improvement of mangrove vegetation and planting of Vetiver seedlings are also planned. Planting of Vetiver along the bunds and ridges of wetlands and paddy fields would help in consolidation of soil where birds like Kingfisher nests.

Conservation and protection of sacred groves and incentives for land owners for the conservation measures will also be undertaken as groves provide the ideal habitat for a large number of birds. Ranching of fishes and fingerlings in various wetland systems for increasing the availability of feed for birds have also been planned, Mr. Francis said.

Project will receive Rs.1 crore each for next 4 years

‘Hope to develop Vembanad Lake ecosystem into a bird sanctuary'

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