A dalliance with small, elusive birds

A dalliance with small, elusive birds

According to the guides at Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, early morning hours is the best time to observe the different species of birds.

Even though a long boat ride around the Sanctuary would be a costly affair for few tourists, it is however, the only time to spot all the exotic birds present here.

Since painted storks, pelicans and spoonbills are spotted in their hundreds during the mating season, they have been the poster birds of the Sanctuary for several years. But, it is the presence of other small, rare species of birds that marks the importance of the Sanctuary.

According to Murugesh, a guide at the Sanctuary from 1999, only two pairs of Indian River Terns that have been spotted at Ranganathittu in the past few years. Only one pair of River Terns are nesting at the Sanctuary this year.

“Their numbers are relatively more along the banks of Tungabhadra river in the State. The birds are swift and aggressive,” he said. If one could wait and watch the birds long enough, it is easy to spot the male River Tern chase away a Brahmini Kite, if it hovers around its nest.

The colony of Indian cliff swallows has to be seen to be believed. Around 50-60 mud-nests are being built by these small birds presently alongside big boulders in the river.

The colony is abuzz with activity, as the swallows have chosen their mates and are in a process of building their nests. While some of the nests, made out of mud are complete, others are close to completion. The swallows can only be observed during the mornings and late evenings, as they leave the nests during most part of the day.

Even though there are several species of eagles present in the region, fish eagles, though found around the country, are rarely spotted. “It is easy to distinguish the shrill cries of the bird from other eagles. However, they are very elusive,” Murugesh noted.

There are other unique aspects of these birds, which go unnoticed among tourists. For instance, the Eurasian Spoonbills display an attractive crest only during the breeding season, while the number of pelicans arriving at the venue during the season has increased only in the past few years.

Myth
There is a popular myth that many species of birds that arrive at the Sanctuary are from different countries. It is not true, say local guides. Most of the birds are from neighbouring States which gather in such numbers only to breed. After breeding season, they are either solitary or live in small groups, they added.

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