India, a Home to Migratory Birds
India is fortunate to be blessed with migratory birds that make this land their home every winter, many times to escape the severe cold of Siberia or the Arctic as the winter in tropical India is more pleasant.
Migratory Birds that make India their home at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
Some of the well-known, migratory bird sanctuaries of India are,
1. Ranganthetu, an island in the Cauvery River near Mysore
Ranganthetu Bird Sanctuary
Image courtesy – The Hindu, Nov 2, 2012
- Vedanthangal, a huge lake south of Chennai
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
Image Courtesy – LiveChennai
- Point Calimere, on the coast of Bay of Bengal in Tamil Nadu
Point Calimere Bird Sanctuary
Image Courtesy – IRCTC Toursim
- Chilka lake along Orissa coast
Greater Flamingos and ducks flying at Chilka Lake, Odisha – largest wintering ground for migratory birds in India.
Image Courtesy – The Hindu, April 4, 2014, Photo by K.Ramnath Chandrashekar
- Kokrebellur in Karnataka, is a 2 level village. Villagers live at one level and birds at another level.
The main species of birds found in this sanctuary are Spot-billed Pelican, Ring Necked Parkeets and Painted Stroke. The name Kokrebellur means Village of the Storks.
Pelicans at Kokrebellur
Image Courtesy – Koshy Koshy, Wiki Commons , Flickr
Painted Stork at Kokrebellur
Image Courtesy – WildTrails
Apart from these bird sanctuaries, there are many villages through the country, visited by migratory birds.
In Rajasthan, the villagers of Kichan, feed the cranes, as a part of their culture.
In Tamil Nadu, in south, near Tirunelveli, we have the Koodankulam, which is now better known for the new Atomic power plant. Migratory birds have been visiting this place since time immemorial.
Painted Storks in Koodankulam / Koothankulam
Image Courtesy – Praveen Muralidharan, The Hindu, Oct 17, 2014
Pelicans in Koodankulam / Koothankulam
Image Courtesy – M.B.Ramesh, The Hindu, Oct 17, 2014
Koodankulam Atomic Plant
The Care the Villagers show
What is interesting to note is that, in all these bird habitated villages, the villagers resist from bursting firecrackers during Deepavali, not to scare away the birds.
This shows the concern villagers have shown, even before the modern laws came into force.
For, all these villagers, look at these birds as harbingers of good luck.
The bird droppings are natural fertilizers for their fields.
Like these, there are innumerable places, the migratory birds have chosen, to make their homes for few months in a year.
Wildlife protection laws have been enacted to ensure the conservation of these water bodies and sanctuaries so that these birds have their immediate environment.
These migratory birds fly long distances in a corridor, which we now term as ‘flyways’.
Migratory flyways of birds through India
Image Courtesy – Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISC, Bangalore
For example, the Bar tailed godwit bird, is tracked to fly non-stop for about 10,200 kilometres. What avionics, what energy!
Bar tailed godwit bird
Photo Courtesy – Nick Chill (Flickr)
But what stuns everyone, including scientists is the migratory Flyway or should we say “FlyHeight” of the Bar Headed Goose, called Paramahamsa in India. Hamsa means a goose, swan. It is characterized by the presence of 2 distinguishing bars on the back of its head.
A Bar Headed Goose – Anser Indicus, Paramahamsa of India
Photo Courtesy – GoPetsAmerica.com
This bird, whose binomial name or scientific name is Anser Indicus, breeds in Central Asia, especially Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Tibet etc. during the summer there.
As winter starts to descend there, it flies across the Himalaya, at 20000 ft, over the heights of some of the highest Himalayan peaks and finds comfort in South Asia, especially India. This has earned it the name Anser Indicus.
It is a common sight in many parts of India, including in southern parts of India, during the months of Indian winter.
The ability of this bird to rise up to such great heights where the air is rarified with hardly any pressure, oxygen is low and temperatures are biting cold and fly without damage, all the way to southern parts of India, is a mystery that continues to baffle scientists even today.
The bar headed goose, Paramahamsa, Anser Indicus, can certainly be regarded as a veteran migratory bird.
Isn’t it amazing that birds, from times going back, beyond mankind, have been coming to these places, travelling long distances, year after year, to nest, to roost?
Generation after generation, these migratory birds have it in their genes, to take this seasonal annual journey.
International Migratory Bird Day
International Migratory Bird Day is observed on the second Saturday of May, every year.
This day is dedicated to bringing awareness for the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. Various programs are held the world over towards involving and empowering people to take up causes, to protect migratory birds in the environment where they live.