Europe freeze extends sojourn of migratory birds

Long stay

Migratory birds from Europe and Siberia landed at the Sultanpur National Park in September as usual, but are expected to stay around for longer this year. 

The reason -- unusual snowfall in their homelands. Over 250 species of birds are currently seen in the park, say ornithologists. The birds, which start returning to their homelands by the third week of February, are likely to remain at the park - over 35 km from Delhi - for some more time.

Wildlife conservator Satya Bhan said the migratory birds start returning by the third week of February, but this time they are not showing any such signs yet. Agreed birdwatcher Suresh Kumar saying “The unusual snowfall in various parts of Europe may have alarmed the seasonal guests. The variety of species of migratory birds has decreased, but the number of birds seems to have gone up. In the current season, unusually, the number of common teal and whistling teal has dipped from around 6,000 and 150 to 300 and 50 respectively. But numbers of coot - 1,000 to 4,000 - and shovellor - 100 to 800 - has increased. That is rare.

This season only 47 species of migratory birds, including from Central Asia, were noticed in the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. Last year, the number was 56. According to retired conservator R P Balwan: “Birds understand nature better than humans. They leave a place once the temperature starts rising. The temperature is still below average here; so they are expected to stay a bit longer. Regarding the decreasing number of migratory species, Balwan said birds live in groups and while returning to their homes they carry a message with them. If the eco system does not suit them or there is inadequate water and food, they do not visit the same place.”

Another bird enthusiast, Prasanna Murty, who has visited from Mumbai, said: “Besides the Sultanpur park here, the birds had started moving from their transit camps, the Bharatpur bird sanctuary in Rajasthan and Chilika bird sanctuary in Odisha. When the birds sense fresh heavy snowfall in their native places, they may delay their plans for some time. That is the reason behind the unusual increase and decrease in the number of migratory birds,” he said.

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