EVEN as tourists from all parts of the country have started flocking to Kutch for the annual Rann Utsav,the greater flamingo,the state bird of Gujarat,has given a miss to Flamingo City,a prime breeding site of the bird.
This is the second consecutive year that the birds have given a miss to Rann,leaving ornithologists and forest-officers wondering about the cause of the phenomenon.
Flocks of greater flamingos start descending on Flamingo City,an island called Anda Bet,in the Greater Rann of Kutch (GRK) from October onwards. The island is the largest nesting site of the the species in the country. In 2011,around 10 lakh flamingos were recorded here,forest officers say.
But during her visit to Flamingo City last week,scientist Nita Shah,who is working on habitat occupancy and distribution of flamingos,did not find a single bird on the island.
The birds are not there and we dont know if they will come or not. I am afraid it is too late for nesting this year, Shah,who visited the isolated island on December 10,told The Indian Express. Shahs research project is funded by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest in co-ordination with the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India and WWF-India.
Flamingos breed in ideal conditions only. The level of water should be ideal and the availability of food should also be in right amounts. While they can also breed once in three years,the reason for their not arriving this season is a matter of research, Shah added.
Flamingos are waders which filter-feed on crustaceans,molluscs and insects in wetlands.
The Anda Bet gets marooned during monsoon as water from rivers of north Gujarat flows into the GRK,which is part of Thar desert. But water recedes by winter,drawing the birds to this secluded place for breeding. However,flamingos did not nest at this site last year as water level had remained low due to drought-like situation in the state. This year,too,good rainfall was recorded towards the fag end of monsoon in September.
However,Shah says some flamingos did breed successfully near Khadir Bet towards the eastern periphery of the GRK. During our visit in October,we found fledgling of flamingos foraging near Khadir island,suggesting successful breeding. We also found eggs of the birds washed away as water levels rose after heavy rains in the last week of September, Shah said,adding that she had observed around 1 lakh birds. She also made aerial survey of the areas as part of the project.
Prima facie,it has been observed that flamingos peak in two cycles: July-August-September and October-November-December, said Shah,who has also worked extensively on conservation of vultures and wild asses.
Local forest officers also concede that the birds have not been found. However,they have hope. It is not too late for the arrival of flamingos. We shall go on a field visit in the last week of December to ascertain the situation, said Dinesh Sharma,Chief Conservator of Forest,Bhuj Circle. Flamingos arrive in Gujarat for breeding and wintering.