Wild Life

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Birds

Bird Sanctuaries in India
Among the most famous bird sanctuaries in India are, the Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur, the Corbett National Park and the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary, part of Project Tiger. These sanctuaries offer wide variety of bird species. Here one can watch countless birds in their natural habitat and take pleasure in their charming habits.

Keoladeo Ghana National Park is one of India's pioneer wildlife conservation centers. Considered to be the best sites for bird watching in the world, the sanctuary annually hosts thousands of visitors who come to view the spectacular wildlife

Spread over an area of 30 square km of marshy swamp, kadam forests, woodland and shallow lakes, the sanctuary offers habitat to both nesting indigenous birds as well as migratory water birds. An amazing number of more than 330 species of birds have been spotted and identified in the sanctuary. The Siberian Crane, the finest and rarest of migratory birds, are the cynosure this sanctuary and are regular visitors. Sometimes called 'The Lily Bird' in India and the 'Snow Wreath' in Russia, the Siberian Crane is believed to have existed in this world for over one million years. However it is of great concern that only 125 pairs of these pure white, crimson-billed cranes estimated to survive worldwide. Profusion of marine vegetation, frogs, fish, insects and mollusks, as well fine setting for migratory birds go a long way to make Keoladeo Ghana National Park an ideal place for pelicans, storks, herons, egrets and kingfishers. Breeding females stay in peaceful co-existence and it is of no surprise that one tree can have nests of different birds. The sanctuary is know to have been the best breeding ground for more than a thousand species of birds. Migratory birds start arriving in the month of October. They include a variety of Geese, Ducks, Raptors, Geese, Warblers and Waders.

Extending over an area of 800 sq km, the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the forest hills of the Aravalli ranges in the state of Rajasthan. It provides habitat to more than 200 species of birds including the Gray Hornbill, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black/Red Headed Bunting, Wryneck Woodpecker Babbler, White Breasted Kingfisher, Little Brown Dove, Small Minivet, Golden Oriole, Great Gray Shrike, Pale Harrier and Tailor Bird. The list goes on. An example of typical dry deciduous forest, the sanctuary remains lush and green during the monsoons and dry during the rest of the seasons.

Other place is the Pong Dam reservoir is 65 km Pathankot and 115 km from Dharamsala. Nestled in the sylvan surroundings of the Kangra valley, the sprawling Pong Dam wetland has emerged as a major habitat for migratory birds in the country as also an attraction for bird watchers.

The most common bird species that have arrived and often visit this lake every year include ruddy-shell ducks (surkhab), bar-headed geese, mallards, coots, pochards and pintails besides rare red-necked grebe and gulls. These species come from as far as China, Siberia, Central Asia, Pakistan and Ladakh. According to a census, more than one lakh migratory birds visited the lake last year.

Apart from being home to the tiger, Corbett National Park is also noted for the bird watching. Considered to be one of the best bird watching sites in the world, the park is home to some 600 species of birds. This number exceeds the total number of bird species found in Europe and is about one fourth of the diversity found in India. A case in point is that out of the 69 species of raptors found in India, 49 can be seen in Corbett. Spreading out on an area of 520 sq km, the Corbett National Park is a hot destination for bird-watchers. Bird-watchers from across the world make a beeline to this park during winters when the bird diversity is at its zenith.

Problems being faced by bird sanctuaries in India

The main problem faced by Bharatpur Bird Sanctury is that :

Water problem . In the past few years farmers have diverted two of three rivers which once flooded the wetlands, leading to a drop of more than 50 percent in the number of birds arriving from northern climates each winter. The consecutive droughts have dried up the water table in Bharatpur bird Sanctury. The state of Rajasthan is facing draught problem for the last 2- 3 years. And this time rains were less. There is a huge water problem. Every year, around 400 species of birds used to fly in from various destinations of like China, Europe, Siberia, Russia and Sri Lanka to the sanctuary. Only 5,700 of the 15-17,000 migratory water birds that regularly visit the park arrived this year, according to wildlife officials. The problems confronting Bharatpur are being mirrored across a range of wetlands in India as urbanisation, growing pollution and demands to feed India's billion-plus population place massive demands on water supplies. The shrinking water supply to Bharatpur meant that the migratory birds where flying to other wetlands in India, where hunters could stalk them as they lacked the same degree of protection. Even the alternative homes for the birds are dwindling fast.

Around 38 percent of the wetlands in the country have disappeared over a 10-year-period between 1991 to 2001, according to the results of a survey based on satellite imagery conducted by the Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad (news - web sites).

Municipal wastes are being dumped into them, wetlands are being converted into farmland and entire housing colonies are being built on them. The trend is dangerous because it rewards short-term economic gain at the cost of ignoring irreparable damage for recharging groundwater. "The ecosystem service value of wetlands is 20 times that of forests for the same unit area. Wetlands should not be treated as wastelands. They are the most productive units. We need a national policy for conserving them.

Problems faced by birds
Of the challenges faced by bird populations, the majority are related to human activities. Some of the most significant threats of the past century have been overcome due to increased advocacy for wildlife and the passage of numerous laws protecting birds and their habitats. However, major threats persist, putting numerous species at risk and requiring our attention and action. The fact is that despite the areas set aside for wildlife, some bird populations are still at risk from habitat loss. Much of the landscape continues to undergo degradation and conversion due to human development and disturbance.. In addition, growing numbers of birds are killed due to collisions with human structures and equipment, including power lines, communication towers, wind turbines, glass windows, and automobiles.

Some species of birds are still threatened by commercial exploitation; most notably, parrots targeted for the exotic pet bird trade. Trade in wild-caught parrots, coupled with habitat loss, has resulted in the parrot family having more globally threatened species than any other family of birds. The U.S. used to be the largest consumer of parrots, legally importing 250,000 mostly wild-caught parrots a year. This changed with the passage of the U.S. Wild Bird Conservation Act, which controls trade in parrots listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and with Mexico’s ban on exporting parrots. The Act also helped reduce smuggling, but illegally-caught parrots still flow across the border. The black market and the legal trade still occurring in many countries are cause for great concern. Consumers should take care to never buy a wild caught parrot: for every one that reaches a store, four will have died along the way. Birds are still victims of pesticide exposure. An estimated 7 million bird deaths are attributed to homeowner use of pesticides. These figures do not include birds that perish after a period of illness, that die after feeding on poisoned insects, rodents, or other prey, or losses due to failed reproduction (eggs left unhatched or nestlings left to starve).

Rapid Transit: the ins and outs of bird migration
Let's face it--when it comes to dealing with winter, most birds seem an awful lot smarter than humans. Instead of griping about the weather, they simply head for a warmer climate. Let's look at a few facts on bird migration:

The arctic tern flies a phenomenal round trip that can be as long as 20,000 miles per year, from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back. Other sea birds also make astounding journeys: the long-tailed jaeger flies 5,000 to 9,000 miles in each direction.

Arctic terns can migrate as far as 20,000 miles per year.

The sandhill and whooping cranes are both capable of migrating as far as 2.500 miles per year, and the barn swallow more than 6,000 miles. For the last word on bird migration, see the Atlas of Bird Migration.

Why do about 520 of the 650 bird species that nest in the United States migrate south to spend the winter ?
Because they get bored shivering in the dark. And because it's bleak in the winter. And because there's nothing to eat. And because their ancestors did it.

Why do some birds go north for the summer ?
Because there's more to eat. The 24-hour days near the Arctic Circle produces a fantastic flowering of life. This brief, but abundant, source of food attracts many birds (and mammals such as the caribou) to the Arctic for breeding purposes.

What influences migration patterns over the long term ?
Changes in climate (particularly ice ages), and shifts in the positions of islands and continents as a result of tectonic drift.

How do they keep going ?
Some birds store a special, high-energy fat before the trip. Soaring raptors, for example, may not eat for several weeks as they migrate. Other species eat along their migration routes.

How high can they fly ?
Higher than Mt. Everest. Bar-headed geese have been recorded flying across the Himalayas at 29,000 feet. Other species seen above 20,000 feet include the whooper swan, the bar-tailed godwit, and the mallard duck.
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