In a first, east Asian birds make Andaman stopover

Flying visits:The Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, the Javan Pond Heron and the Zappey’s Flycatcher.G. Gokulakrishan, ZSI

Flying visits:The Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, the Javan Pond Heron and the Zappey’s Flycatcher.G. Gokulakrishan, ZSI  

Distinguished by the green and brown plumage on its back, the dimunitve Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo ( Chalcites basalis ) is a native of Australia and New Guinea.

However, researcher G. Gokulkrishnan had an unexpected encounter with the tiny bird — roughly about 15 cm and weighing 22 g and known for its repeated, loud and piercing whistle — early on July 7, 2017 in a tsunami ravaged coastal forest in the Great Nicobar Island of the Andaman and Nicobar island chain. The sighting was the first recorded instance of the bird in India.

Two other first time visitors were also recorded on the islands over 2017-18. The Zappey’s Flycatcher ( Cyanoptila cumatilis ) a song bird that breeds in China and spends the winters in the Malay peninsula, Sumatra and Java, was spotted six times in different areas of Andaman and Nicobar Islands between December 2017 and March 2018 — at least thrice in pairs.

Thai visitor

Later that year researchers recorded the presence of the Javan Pond Heron ( Ardeola speciosa ), usually found in Thailand and Cambodia. Larger than Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo and Zappey’s Flycatcher, it was spotted on August 26, 2018.

“During their migration from north to south, these birds make a stop over at the Andaman and Nicobar islands. We have been able to make these new records because of increased fieldwork and interest in avifauna,” said Dr. C. Sivaperuman, Officer-in-Charge, Andaman and Nicobar Regional Centre of the Zoological Survey of India.

The three new records from India from the Andaman and Nicobar Island have been discussed in detail in a recent publication of journal Birding ASIA . The other contributors to the research paper are P.C. Rasmussen, Minakshi Dash and D. Sekar.

East Asian Flyway

In the past few years a few other birds of southeast Asian origin have been recorded in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands during migration.

Researchers are intrigued by the fact that number of new sightings has increased post the 2004 tsunami. The new records include the Mugimaki Flycatcher ( Ficedula mugimaki) , Blue-winged Pitta ( Pitta moluccensis) , Chinese Egret ( Egretta eulophotes) and the Chinese Paradise Flycatcher ( Terpsiphone incei) .

These birds also use Andaman and Nicobar Islands for a few week rest before they can fly along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF). The EAAF extends from Arctic Russia and North America to the south Australian boundaries and includes the most of the east Asian regions including Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

A birding publication, A Checklist of the birds of India by Praveen J, Rajah Jayapal and Aasheesh Pittie, and published by the journal Indian BIRDS in June 2016 had listed 1,263 birds. The list in the publication has since been revised with the number of birds found in the country now being pegged at 300 approximately.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, with just about 0.25 % the country’s landmass, is home to about 350 species of exotic birds, according to an official estimate.

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