Birds ringed in India spotted in China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan

Study reveals fascinating insights into their ability to fly down thousands of kilometres

A Northern Shoveler, a medium sized bird, which flew down to Odisha’s Chilika Lake for wintering in February 2018 was spotted at Yazyavan in Uzbekistan in April 2021. Three years after a Terek Sandpiper was tagged at Gujarat’s Gulf of Kutch, it was spotted in Jandola in Pakistan’s Khyber in May.

Similarly, a Curlew Sandpiper spotted and tagged in March 2019 at Navi Mumbai was sighted in Tangu saltpans, China’s Tainjin in May.

The mysterious ability to fly down thousands of kilometres defying international boundaries was documented by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), one of India’s oldest wildlife research organisations, recently.

The BNHS, a veteran in ringing study, had initiated the study in 1927 and since 1959 it has carried out systematic and large scale studies.

Need for international collaboration

The recent study reveals fascinating insights into migratory birds. According to the BNHS, the Indian Skimmer is a striking black and white bird with a bright orange beak. “The known breeding population is in India, making India’s conservation efforts crucial for the survival of this species. Tagging of the Indian Skimmer revealed the movement between India and Bangladesh, highlighting the need for international collaboration,” it says.

Based on these recoveries, the breeding zones, migratory routes, and stopover sites of more than 40 species were well documented. The information obtained through these intensive studies was pivotal in delineating the boundaries of Central Asian Flyway (CAF) and the overlap of East-Asian, Australasian (EAAF) and African Eurasian flyways with the CAF, said the BNHS in a release.

“With increased interest in birds among the general public coupled with some of the highly popular citizen science programmes and wise use of social media, we expect to get more and more records of these tagged birds,” said Dr. Bivash Pandav, Director of the BNHS.

Dr. Pandav said the BNHS was looking forward to active involvement of its members in reporting more such tagged birds from different corners of India.

BNHS scientist Mrugank Prabhu and his team have been studying the birds and their routes through ringing and colour flagging in Mumbai since 2018 and have so far tagged 10,000 birds of 36 species.

The research organisation says bird ringing is a conventional study involving banding a bird with a light-weight metal ring, with a unique alpha-numeric code.

International flyway protocols

The BNHS also uses colour-flags, colour-bands and neck-collars on certain species. These colour combinations are in accordance with the international flyway protocols. Most tagged individuals are identified through high-resolution photographs.

Chilika is one of the oldest sites for ringing study where it has been going on for the past 30 years. India is the current President of the Convention on Migratory Species.

Each year, an estimated 50 billion birds undertake such migrations across the globe. It is fascinating to know the birds’ route, timing and ecology of migration. Bird ringing-recapture or resighting method is the robust way to study them, the BNHS says.

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