Exactly a year after a pair of black-necked storks gave birth to two chicks atop a date palm tree at the Surajpur wetlands, the same pair returned to the same spot to give birth again this year. According to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), black-necked storks fall under the “near threatened category”, and the population trend indicates that their number is decreasing.
The rare sight of the birds breeding has been recorded by ecologist T K Roy, who was accompanied by Ramavtar Singh, a forest guard of the Surajpur Reserve Forest, Greater Noida. “The storks returned to the same tree and laid eggs at the same spot in October this year. The chicks are growing and seem healthy. They will be ready to fly out by January,” said Roy, who also recorded the breeding in 2017 — an event that took place after many years at the wetlands. A similar breeding was reported at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary two years ago, which failed, said Roy.
“Black-necked storks breed in isolated, secure places that are at a height, and that’s why the date palm is the chosen tree. Another pair wouldn’t breed on the same spot. It has helped us realise it’s the same pair that has returned,” said Roy.
Black-necked storks are native to India and are wetland-dependent. Apart from India, they are resident birds of Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. They primarily feed on fish, crabs and molluscs.
According to the IUCN, the global population of black-necked storks is estimated to be between 15,000 and 35,000, and “…the Asian population has declined… much of it in the last 60 years.” The decline in their population, said Roy, can be attributed to “habitat loss, encroachment, felling of nest trees and food shortage.”
Singh (52), who has been a guard at the forest for two-and-a-half years, said the pair of black-necked storks was spotted in October last year, atop the date palm.
“This year too, it has followed the same time-table. Every year, only four-five black-necked storks are seen at the Reserve. This breeding is hopeful,” said Singh. Usually, the black-necked stork breeds between late-summer and monsoon. But at the wetlands, the time has moved to autumn-early winter.
In June, a black-necked stork was spotted with a rubber ring stuck around its beak in Gurgaon’s Basai wetland by birder Manoj Nair. After six days of struggle to free it of the rubber ring, a team of eight — comprising birders, Haryana forest guards, Nature Conservation Foundation and Bombay Natural History Society — rescued it.