Rare sighting thrills bird watchers

Rare sighting thrills bird watchers

Sitting pretty: European Roller, spotted on the Tumkur Road by some of the bird watchers in the City. Photo by Vinay K

The European Roller (Coracias garrulus), is a regular migrator to some parts of the State every year.

However as a first record, it has now been sighted by three bird watchers, Vinay K, P Manjunath and Clement Francis.

The bird, sighted near Dasanapura enroute to Nelamangala, is a first sighting in the City and has thrilled the bird watchers.

“As per my knowledge, this is the first sighting of this bird. It is indeed a surprise,” said Dr M B Krishna, well-known ornithologist in the City.

The stocky bird, the size of a pigeon measures between 29–32 cm in length with a 52–58 cm wingspan.

It is mainly blue with an orange-brown back and perch prominently on trees, posts or overhead wires, like giant shrikes, watching for the large insects, small reptiles, rodents and frogs that they eat.

This species is striking in its strong direct flight, with the brilliant blue contrasting with black flight feathers. The call is a harsh crow-like sound. It gives a raucous series of calls when nervous.

“European Roller is a long time migrator and arrives by the end of summer in India,” said Manjunath, Secretary, Green Cross.

Endangered

“The population breeds in Europe, spends winter in Africa and comes to India through middle east. It enters India through Gujarat, Kutch and Rajasthan,” he added.

Clement Francis, bird expert and well-known photographer says that since 2004, the bird has been classified as ‘near threatened’ and now listed as ‘critically endangered.’

“Due to over hunting in Oman and other Gulf countries, their population has dwindled. Also due to the extensive use of pesticides since  the 1990s in farming areas all along their migratory path, the insect population they prey upon, especially the locusts and grasshopper, has  reduced in number,” he explained.

The birds, with a population of almost a million breeding pairs 20 years ago, have now reduced to 50,000- 75,000 breeding pairs in Europe, adds Francis.  Clement said that he had sighted this bird in Ranebennur in Haveri district and places like Tilakwadi on the outskirts of Belgaum, a few years ago.

Similarity  

A common man who sees this might confuse it with Blue Jay, which is the State bird (Nilakanta in Kannada).

However Clement and Manjunath, explaining the difference, say that Blue Jay or Indian Roller has lilac colour marking on its face, while the European Roller has a blue head.
It has no marking on the head and possesses chestnut colouration on wing and
back.

In addition to this, the Indian Roller has bluish, lighter and darker blue wing colour combination.

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