Pratincoles return to B'lore after a decade

Theyre back

Bird watchers in the City are thrilled with the spotting of the sparrow-sized Small Indian Pratincole. The birds were sighted in large numbers on the banks of Thippagondanahalli (TG Halli) reservoir. 

The migratory bird has arrived in hundreds and they were found wading along the sands of the reservoir. “These are tiny birds just 16.5-18.5 cm in length, with a 15–16 cm wingspan. It is indeed a surprise for us because they disappeared suddenly in the late nineties,” said Manjunath P, a bird watcher and Secretary, Green Cross, a city-based birding group.

Confused because of their tiny size as swifts or swallows, Pratincoles are migrant species, which used to arrive in the City between October and  March and migrate to distant Afghanistan and Indus valley region during summer.

With the scientific name of Glareola lactea, the bird prefers sand banks and shingles near water bodies, large rivers and forages over cultivation or marshes, fresh water or coastal. They gather at estuaries after breeding.

“This is also a species of open country, and is often seen near water in the evening, hawking for insects,” explains Manjunath.

Manjunath says that the birds used to arrive in the City in large numbers in the 80s and early nineties. “TG Halli was an ideal place to sight these birds. We could have counted at least two thousand of them. But they stopped coming here over the last decade,” he said, adding that at least 200 of them had been sighted at the reservoir now.

Manjunath feels that the ongoing rampant sand quarrying and activities disturbing the birds might be the reason for the bird abandoning TG Halli as its destination.

This pale sandy grey, unmarked bird, with dark wings and bills has short legs, long pointed wings and a short tail and is adapted for aerial feeding.

The most unusual feature of the pratincoles is that although classed as waders, they typically hunt their insect prey on the wing, like swallows. But they can also feed on the ground.

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