As many as 185 species belonging to 61 families including several rare, migratory birds and elusive resident birds were recorded during the fifth edition of the State-wide Pongal bird count that was conducted by members of Salem Ornithological Foundation from January 14 to 17.
To cover maximum area, 55 members were split into several groups which visited different habitats in the district to record the birds. While a team comprising A. Tamil Selvan, R. Suguna and Kavitha Ramkumar spotted elusive forest birds such as Painted spurfowl, Emerald dove, Black-throated munia and migrants like the Rusty-tailed flycatcher, Blue-capped rock thrush and Western Crowned warbler in the Shevaroy Hills, S. Subramania Siva spotted White naped tit, one of the rarest birds in the State, in the scrub jungles of Tharamangalam. Salem continues to remain as the only district in the State where this species has been recorded till date.
Another team comprising V. Kalaiselvan, S. Venkatesh and Himavat Gouresh spotted foreign migratory birds, Bar-headed goose, Northern pintail, European bee-eater, Booted eagle and several other shorebirds at Pannavadi. The team also spotted 52 individuals of Alpine swifts, which was the highest count for the species recorded in the district so far.
A team comprising S. Divya, Angeline Mano, A. Vadivukkarasi and S. Pradeepa visited Yercaud foothills and Kannankurichi Lake and recorded Indian pitta, Thick-billed warbler, Blue-throated flycatcher, Yellow bittern and Ruddy-breasted crake.
Students of Panchayat Union Middle Schools at Thalavaipatty and Krishnampudur participated in the bird count in large numbers. Led by their teachers P.Rajangam and S.Senthil Kumar, the students visited several wetlands and counted birds in Pethanaickenpalayam and Omalur taluk respectively.
S.V. Ganeshwar of Salem Ornithological Foundation said that all the sightings were submitted as check-lists to eBird, a global database, which helps map the distribution and abundance of birds. The data would be used for bird conservation in the long run.
In terms of birding hours and check-lists submitted (more than 2,000 lists), Salem outnumbered all other districts in the State and was clearly placed on top of the rankings. Overall, 185 species were recorded and 43,685 individual birds were counted by the birders during the count, he added.