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02 Dec 2023, Edition - 3063, Saturday

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Loss of habitat: a growing threat to migrant birds



Udhagamandalam: About two months into the annual migratory season in this hilly district avid and knowledgeable birders are noticing changes which they say are ‘worrying’.In particular they are expressing concern over the state of the wetlands.

Pointing out that September marks the start of the six month long migratory season in this district , P.J.Vasanthan,an authority on birds told Covai Post here on Tuesday that normally about fifty-six species belonging to twenty families begin their sojourn in these hills to tide over the harsh winter conditions that prevail in their home grounds. A motley lot, they range from small to large,from colourful to drab and most of them fly in from the Himalayan belt while a few come from regions as far off as Central and North Asia.

Stating that migration is a phenomena which is food-driven, and the majority of the migrants which winter in this district are insectivores, whose home is upon the face of the waters,he said that contrary to the popular belief that these are attracted to these hills by their lush vegetation like sholas and other forests, it is rather to their wetlands that they make a beeline.It is there that they find their insect food in plenty, either in the oligotrophic waters of the many streams, valley-bogs, morasses, and other permanently moist places of the summits or the eutrophic ones of the swamps and marshes of the lower reaches.

Regrettably the alteration of these wetland habitats into useless tracts of wattle and eucalypti coupled with drainage and other anthropogenic activities have taken their toll.

Consequently migrants which for long were seen in large numbers in many parts of the district have of late become a rare sight.

Nowadays they are mainly seen in whatever remains of the original landscape of the Kundahs and the Nilgiri-Wynaad region.

Pointing out that the Eurasian Woodcock, the Wood Snipe, the Pintail Snipe, the Jack Snipe, and the Spotted Crake were once reported to be fairly common Dr.Vasanthan lamemted “ they no longer visit us and even if they do they are in much lesser numbers”. The loss of their habitat ,the wetlands. is the main reason.

To a query,he opined that the situation seemed to be worsening owing to the frequent failure of both the South West and North East monsoons.

He feared that if the present state of affairs continues these winged creatures would either move out to other greener pastures or perish due to lack of enough strength to make their return journey.

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