Pong Dam (Himachal Pradesh), Feb 2 (IANS) Flying thousands of miles from their native habitat in high-altitude lakes in Central Asia to avoid the extreme winter, the bar-headed geese, an endangered migratory bird species, regularly descend wetlands across India.
The Pong Dam wetlands, one of the largest man-made wetlands in northern India, are one their preferred wintering grounds.
This time their number in the Pong wetlands has spiked by 68 per cent compared to previous year, state Chief Wildlife Warden Savita told IANS on Sunday.
At the annual two-day waterfowl estimation coordinated by the state wildlife wing along with specialised institutions from January 31 in the Pong Dam wetlands, spread over 307 sq km, a 49,496 bar-headed geese were recorded.
She said the bar-headed geese were the largest influx of any winter migrant in the Pong wetlands, some 250 km from state capital Shimla.
In 2015, a staggering 71,800 bar-headed geese were recorded by the wildlife wing, a new mark till date.
Over 1,15,701 birds of 114 species have been spotted in the Pong wetlands, among them the bar headed goose, the northern pintail (12,881), the Eurasian coot (10,860), the common teal (7,334), the common pochard (3,988), the northern shoveler (2818), the great cormorant (2,121), the Eurasian wigeon (1,350) and the ruddy shelduck (1,028).
Wildlife officials said the influx of the bar-headed geese, known for two distinctive black bars across their neck, could be spotted in the Pong dam''s Nagrota Suriyan and Rancer Island areas.
The gregarious goose, which start arriving in October and stay till March-end, feeds at night in grasslands on riverbanks and breeds in high-altitude lakes in Central Asia, was also in Tibet and Ladakh.
Listed under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the global population of the bar-headed geese is believed to be around 130,000, wildlife experts told IANS.
According to the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the Pong wetlands are the one wintering grounds in the globe to hold such a large congregation of bar-headed geese.
Most of the wetlands in India have been regularly getting bar-headed geese every winter. But Pong is the only habitat that holds the largest influx of bar-headed geese every winter, a BNHS ornithologist said.
Even their breeding grounds spread over Tibetan plateau do not support such a large number of the geese at one point in time.
Barring 2001, when only 5,500 birds were spotted, numbers have ranged between 28,000 and 23,000 in the past few years.
The other bird species recorded in the Pong during the waterfowl estimation were the common shelduck (75), the northern lapwing (32), the common ringed plover (20), the pied avocet (nine), the osprey (five), the black-bellied tern (five), the common merganser (four), the Sarus crane (two), the Eurasian curlew (two) and one bird each of the white-tailed lapwing, the water pipit, the lesser white-fronted goose and the buff-bellied pipit.
A few noticeable species are the great crested grebe, the red crested pochard, the ferruginous pochard, the mallard, the tufted duck, the Eurasian spoonbill, the curlew sandpiper and many other species of larks & Pipits.
The total population of birds as well as species of birds have shown an increase over last year.
The population has shown marginal increase from 1,15,229 to 1,15,701 where as species have increased from 103 to 114.
The number of migratory water dependent species as well as resident water dependent species have also show an increase over the last year from 58 to 60 species and 29 to 30 species respectively, said the wildlife wing.
The 307-square km Pong wetlands are also home to many native birds like the red jungle fowl, large Indian parakeet, Indian cuckoo, bank mynah, wood shrike, yellow-eyed babbler, black ibis, paradise flycatcher, crested lark and the crested bunting.
A total of 425 species of birds, both migratory and local, 18 of snake, 90 butterfly, 24 mammal and 27 of fish have been recorded so far in Pong.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: IANS