Birdwatchers are ecstatic over the first sighting of the Pallid harrier ( Circus macrourus ), a long-distance migratory bird, at the Vellayani-Punjakari wetlands near here.
The bird which migrates from the northern regions is known to winter mainly in tropical Africa, but also in India and Myanmar in response to changing weather conditions.
It prefers dry to damp grasslands associated with open floodplains or open areas in woodland.
The bird was spotted by Linda John, Principal Scientific Officer, Kerala State Biodiversity Board during an exploratory visit to the Punjakari wetlands.
The Pallid harrier feeds on small mammals like rodents, birds, reptiles, frogs and large insects. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the species as “Near Threatened.”
“Apart from the Pallid harrier, 29 species of migratory birds and 66 resident species were spotted at the wetlands,” says K.P.Laladhas, Member Secretary, KSBB.
These include the Common Stonechat ( Saxicola torquata ), Blue-tailed Bee-eater ( Merops philippinus), Whiskered Tern ( Chlidonias hybrida ), Barn Swallow ( Hirundo rustica ), Glossy Ibis ( Plegadis falcinellus ), Marsh Sandpiper ( Tringa stagnatilis ), Red Shank ( Tringa totanus ), Pacific Golden Plover ( Pluvialis fulva ), Brown Shrike ( Lanius cristatus ), Rosy Starling ( Sturnus roseus ), Brahminy Starling ( Sturnus pagodarum ), Oriental Darter ( Anhinga melanogaster ) and Common Coot ( Sturnus pagodarum ).
The sighting of the Common Stonechat which prefers dry regions, could be an indicator of severe drought in the coming months, according to Dr.Laladhas.
The water-logged fields and marshy places in the Vellayani-Punakari wetlands have already dried up and the level of water in the lake has dropped.