After 29,000 km journey, Amur falcons return to Manipur

Satellite tagged Amur falcons fly back to Manipur village after 29,000 km migratory route

Siberian birds, Amur falcons, fly to India, especially to the Northeast at the onset of winter to rest for about two months before leaving for South Africa

Satellite tagged Amur Falcon bird in Tamenglong district in Manipur. Credit: Manipur forest department

Chiulon and Irang, two of the five Amur Falcon birds radio tagged last year in Manipur's Tamenglong district have come back for roosting after traversing over 29,000-km migratory route from Siberia to Africa. 

Chiulon, Puching and Phalong, named after Manipur villages and Irang and Barak, named after rivers in the state were satellite tagged and released on Ocotber 31 and November 1 respectively last year. Both reached their roosting site on Wednesday and Thursday respectively after completing the cycle of 361 days.

"They are now in Puching village where they were captured and released last year after satellite tagging," divisional forest officer, Tamenglong, Kharibam Hitler Singh told DH. "They are expected to stay here upto last week of November before further migration to South Africa. They generally stay in Africa up to March-April," he said.

"Villagers are very happy and excited to have a glimpse of the birds again. This is a very signicant development for all of us as we have been trying very hard to involve the community for conservation of the migratory birds. There used to be mass hunting of these migratory birds by the villagers a few years ago but people's attitude have changed a lot over the past few years," he said.

Barak, another bird named after a river was active till May 29 but lost contact with the satellite near a place in Meghalaya bordering Bangladesh. Three others, however, lost contact. 

Amur falcons are pigeon-sized migratory birds originating in Siberia where they breed in the summer. They fly to India, especially to the Northeast (Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Meghalaya) at the onset of winter to rest for about two months before leaving for South Africa where they stay for about four months.

"From Northeast India they traveled over China upto Siberian region. But while traveling back, they took the longer journey as they passed over Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar," Hitler said. 

"We are studying the satellite data to know the time they spend in breeding site, fuelling site and summer vacation site in South africa. And also the exact time they take in migration from one country to another country," he said. 

Mass killings of the birds prompted the conservation project in 2015 with funding from the union ministry of environment, forest and climate change. Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Manipur forest department is implementing the satellite tagging project with the support of local community. 

"Its a significant development towards success of our project," scientist of WII, Suresh Kumar said. 

Mordecai Panmei, director of Rainforest Club, Tamenglong said awareness drive helped convince the villagers to stop hunting the birds. "We have been trying to aware the villagers that conservation efforts can bring tourism opportunities. As these birds remain here for weeks, tourists will be very happy to visit their villages during this time. This will bring income for them," he said.