BIRDS OF INDIA
India has nearly 500 species of mammals, 2000 birds and 40,000 insects. This is apart from the reptiles and fishes found in various parts of the country. The weather patterns range from the extreme cold of the Himalayan belt, wet spells in western and northeastern mountainous terrain to the torrid heat of the Thar Desert. This wide biodiversity would not have been possible had the Himalayan mountain range not existed. In its absence, the cold winds of Siberia would sweep through the subcontinent, making India a totally different place. This hub focuses upon the fauna of India, more specifically birds and mammals that have many unique characteristics.
India has about 20 of the 27 orders of avifauna of the world. There are about 1700 species, which are resident of India, some of which are found everywhere and others in select spots.
Point Calimere inTamilnadu, Chilka lake in Orissa (now Odisha) and Nalsarovirin in Gujarat are places were waterfowls congregate in large numbers. In places like Great And Little Rann of Kutch we find Flamingos and for storks, egrets or Herons the best place to find them is Ranganathittu (near Mysore) and Vedanthangal (Tamil nadu).
Game birds with beautiful colors, like Black patridge (Francolinus franclinus), Monal pheasants (Lophophorous impejanus), painted grouse (pteroceles indicus) can be found in plenty, and some like the Indian roller having exotic metallic and pastel colors. Among exotic birds, it is the peacock (Pavo critatus), which holds the pride of the place. It is so closely intertwined with Indian folklore and mythology that it has been declared the national bird of India. Its colorful tail feathers, metallic blue neck and graceful gait add to its elegance. Another indigenous bird of exotic variety is the Great Indian Bustard (Choriotis nigriceps)
The common birds of prey are Hawk eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) crested serpent eagle (spilornis cheela) Tawny eagle (Aquila ropax) Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraaetus faciatus) marsh harrier (circus aeruginosus) and lagger falcon (falco jugger)
During various seasons, there are large number of winged visitors from abroad who leave their homes during the long and intense winter. Some of the most common ones are White Stork, which normally breeds in Central Europe and West Asia and fly nearly 6000 miles to India during September. By the end of April they return home.It is usually seen in the marshlands of Northern and Central India.
Another winged visitor is Rosy Pastor. Seen mostly in Eastern Europe, this bird migrates to India in August and is usually found in the North West and the Deccan plateau. It returns home by the middle of April.
Brown headed Gull found mostly in Central Asia and Tibet arrives in India by September and returns by April. Its common habitat in India is Western and Eastern seacoasts.
The Spotted Sandpiper which is a native of Europe and Norther Asia migrates to India In September and returns by April. It is found throughout India near Island waters and paddy fields.
Rapid devlopment and depletion of natural habitats have resulted in many birds being on the verge of extinction. One bird which has been saved is the Great Indian Bustard,but there which are in the endangered list
For example the fast vanishing wetlands in and around Guwahati has posed a major threat to the survival of Greater Adjutant Stork. Guwahati, incidentally has the largest concentration of these birds in the world
The population of White winged wood duck ‘Cairina scutulata’ which is mainly found in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh is also declining and this is largely attributed to the destruction, degradation and disturbance of riverine habitats
THE ‘BIRD MAN OF INDIA’
No write-up on Indian birds would be complete without mentioning the contributions of Salim Ali (1896-1987) whose works contributed immensely to the development of Ornithology in India. In his autobiography “The fall of a Sparrow” he describes how shooting down of a yellow throated sparrow with his toy gun led him to ornithology and his life long love with that subject. He was a prolific writer and contributed to THE JOURNAL OF BOMBAY NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY and his magnum opus the ten volume HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF INDIA AND PAKISTAN. Some of the few other ones are A PICTORIAL GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF THE INDIAN SUB-CONTINENT, ABOUT INDIAN BIRDS, FIELD GUIDES TO THE BIRDS OF NORTH EASTERN HIMALAYAS, THE BOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS etc. In his honor the former City Forest National Park in Jammu and Kashmir has been renamed as SALIM ALI NATIONAL PARK