Shreyashi DasGupta talks to S Balachandran, Assistant Director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai and Head of the BNHS Bird Migration Study Centre at Point Calimere, Tamil Nadu, to find out more about migratory birds in Maharashtra
WHICH BIRDS CAME TO MAHARASHTRA IN THE PAST?
Maharashtra is a large state and it is bestowed with a variety of habitats that include coastal areas, sea, estuarine mud flats, saltpans, inland wetlands, rivers, dams, cultivated lands and different types of forests. This wide variety of habitats offers different kinds of breeding and homing grounds to a wide variety of birds. In the past, many types of birds have visited the state including the cormorant, pelican, stork, egret, heron, bittern, coot, moorhen, rail, duck, goose, sandpiper, plover, tern, gull, kite, harrier, eagle, buzzard, vulture, sparrow-hawk, pigeon, dove, quail, partridge, cuckoo, cuckooshrike, shrike, hoopoe, roller, myna, starling, sunbird, munia, tree-pie, peafowl, flycatcher, leaf warbler, reed warbler, bunting, wagtail, laughing thrush, ground-thrush, creeper, nuthatch, parakeet, pipit, lark, bustard, barbet, wood-pecker, crow, robin, chat, pitta, sparrow, swift, swallow, owl, nightjar, flowerpecker, bee-eater and crane. In Maharashtra alone, more than 800 species of birds are visible.
WHAT SORT OF WEATHER CONDITIONS BEST SUIT THESE BIRDS?
The requirements of the birds vary depending on the area they breed in. For example, species that breed in the tundra belt of the Arctic zone prefer a tropical climate during the winter. Those birds that breed in temperate climates, prefer a desert habitat during winter. Generally, coastal mudflats and shallow marshes attract a large variety of migratory birds.
Migratory shorebirds prefer intertidal mudflats and shallow marshes as they cannot swim to exploit deeper areas Terns mostly feed on fish from the sea. Cranes prefer cultivated lands. Ducks prefer lakes, dams, ponds and other inland wetlands. Wagtails, pipits and larks prefer grasslands and cultivated areas. Flycatchers and warblers frequent forests with open areas.
WHAT DO MIGRATORY BIRDS LOOK FOR?
Birds look for a habitat that will best suit their needs. Most birds fly to areas with familiar land-use patterns based on the geographical location (proximity to the breeding location), climate and rainfall. As Maharashtra has a wide variety of habitats, it attracts a diverse group of migratory birds.
WHAT KINDS OF THREATS DO MIGRATORY BIRDS FACE?
Most threats are due to human intervention. Habitat degradation due to various developmental activities, encroachment, changes in land use patterns, pollution, land reclamation and deforestation are some of the main threats.
Shorebirds are one of the most affected bird species. The spoonbill sandpiper, spotted greenshank and sociable lapwing are some of the threatened shorebirds. Siberian cranes are also on the end angered migratory bird list.