These traditional guests arrive in Hidkal

Bar-headed geese

Bar-headed geese  

Vijaykumar Patil

Belgaum: Bar-headed geese have arrived at the Ghataprabha near the Hidkal dam here. These water birds (Anser indicus) from Central Asia have been visiting Indian wetlands for long. Normally, they take off during non-breeding period, cross the mighty Himalayas and camp in Assam, northern Burma, wetlands of Pakistan and parts of India, including Hidkal near here and at Magadi in Gadag district.

Two distinctive black bars across its neck and behind its head with a white stripe running down lend beauty to this bird. Bar-headed geese arrive in October-November and return during March-April.

R.G. Timmapur, English teacher and birdwatcher from Yamkanmardi near Hidkal, says the bar-headed geese are “vegetarians”. They feed on paddy, wheat and barley and other foodgrains and vegetables. The Hidkal region is known for cultivation of vegetables in Belgaum district.

From their nesting grounds in China, Leh, Ladakh and Mongolia, they migrate towards the South over the Himalayas. Bar-headed geese are known for flying at a high altitude at 80 kmph, he says.

Mr. Timmapur says these geese are nocturnal and pose no threat to other birds. But they damage crops while feeding. However, they face threats from their traditional predators such as Osprey. Unlike in the past and owing to the growing awareness, people living in villages have almost stopped hunting these migratory birds.

The number of bar-headed geese visiting the Hidgal area has come down owing to changes in cultivation practices. Most of the farmers there have shifted to commercial crops such as sugarcane from foodgrains and vegetables, he says.

About 20 migratory bird species visit the Ghataprabha-Hidkal belt every year, attracting birdwatchers from various places across the district.

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