South Wayanad bird survey records 166 species

A comprehensive bird survey conducted jointly by the State Forest Department and the Hume Centre for Ecology and Wildlife Biology on the mountain ranges of the South Wayanad Forest Division recorded 166 species of birds, including 13 species endemic to the Western Ghats and two globally threatened species.

The survey, conducted after almost 15 years, recorded, for the first time, the nesting of Asian brown flycatcher, a migratory bird from central India found breeding in the shola forests of Camel’s Hump mountain complex. Usually, the bird arrived in the Western Ghats during October for wintering, returned by the end of April and bred in northern India, said Hume Centre director C.K. Vishnudas.

As many as 40 bird enthusiasts from across the State participated in the survey. A similar survey was conducted in the region in 2007, said Mr. Vishnudas.

The survey covered most mountain tops on the Western Ghats, including Kurichyarmala, Vannathimala, Ambmala, Mandamala, Lakkidi, Kargil, Chembramala, Vellarimala, Aranamala, Thollayiram, and Kattippara. It recorded 15 species of raptors, including rufous-bellied eagle, white-eyed buzzard and Bonelli’s eagle.

Besides 11 species of flycatchers, the survey also recorded seven species of woodpeckers, seven species of owls, six species of bulbuls and eight species of babblers. Rare bird sightings include long-billed Pipit from Chembra and bright-headed cisticola from Kurichyarmala and Chembra.

Banasura Chilappan (Montecincla jerdoni), an endangered forest bird, was spotted in good numbers from the shola forests above 1,800-m elevation in the Camel’s Hump mountains. The global distribution of the species is limited to the three mountain ranges of Wayanad, and that too in an area less than 50 sq. km.

The endemic birds recorded include grey-headed bulbul, Malabar grey hornbill, Nilgiri wood pigeon, white-bellied treepie, flame-throated bulbul, white-bellied blue flycatcher, black and orange flycatcher, crimson-backed sunbird and Malabar barbet. As many as 14 species of migratory birds were also found.

The survey was coordinated by Rathish R.L. and Shahil of the Hume Centre, and supervised by South Wayanad Divisional Forest Officer P. Ranjith Kumar.

“Considering the small range of habitat of the Banasura Chilappan, the Camel’s Hump mountain ranges should be elevated to a national park status to protect the remaining habitat of one of the rarest birds of India,” said Mr. Vishnudas.

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