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Rare migratory bird spotted after 113 years in Himachal

Last Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 19:23

Dharamsala: Rare migratory bird Whooper Swan has been spotted in Pong Dam lake of Himachal Pradesh`s picturesque Kangra valley after a hiatus of 113 years, a wildlife official has claimed.

"Whooper Swans have been spotted in the Beas river basin of Himachal after a gap of 113 years," said Devinder Singh Dhadwal, an Assistant Conservator of Forests in Dharamsala.
Dhadwal, also an ornithologist, photographed a pair of them at the Pong lake on Tuesday.

Whooper Swans, which come from Central Asia and Europe and are rare migrants to India, were last spotted in the country in 1900 near river Beas by British civil servant E H Aitken, Dhadwal said.

The Whooper Swans were earlier recorded in the notes of A O Hume`s book `Swans of India` in 1878.

Whooper Swan, national bird of Finland and features on the Finnish 1 Euro coin, is one of the heaviest flying birds with an average body weight of 9.8?11.4 kg for males and 8.2?9.2 kg for females.

The swans stay in large bodies of water as their legs are unable to support their weight for long periods. They spend much of their time swimming and feeding.

The reappearance of this swan in the Pong Dam lake after such a long gap show that the man-made lake on river Beas is fast growing as a favourite among migratory birds, a wildlife official said.

Whooper swan has now become the 418th bird species to be recorded at the Pong lake, a significant number considering that the entire known bird diversity for the Indian sub-continent is around 1250 species, he said.

Earlier on January 20, experts from the forest department spotted another new visitor to the area, Ruddy Breasted Crake, in the periphery of the Pong Dam wetland.

However, they said that the sighting cannot not be termed as the bird`s first arrival this season as it usually hides in long grass and is difficult to spot.

"We have first recording of this (Ruddy Breasted Crake) species at the lake. We have clicked some photographs of the bird for evidence," said Dhadwal said.

At 20-23 centimetres in length, the Ruddy Breasted Crake has a flattened body which allows easier passage through the reeds. It has long toes and a short tail. Its colouring includes a pale brown back, chestnut head and under parts.

"The crown is olive green while under tail coverts black with very fine white barring," Dhadwal said adding that its bill is yellowish and its eyes, legs and feet red. It can also be identified by its voice.

The bird is resident of East Asia including China, Japan and Indonesia while in Indian subcontinent it is found in swamps of north east.

Around 418 species of migratory birds have flocked to the Pong Dam lake over the past 10 years. It was constructed on Beas River in 1960 and was declared a bird sanctuary in 1983. In 1994, it was given the status of wetland of national importance.

Currently, Pong Dam Lake is on ninth spot in attracting the most number of migratory birds, wildlife officials said.

Over 1.50 lakh migratory birds of about 90 species from Siberia and Central Asia had visited the Pong Dam lake last year, they said.


First Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 19:23
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