In a first, a Grey Heron that was ringed and tagged as part of the bird flu surveillance programme was sighted again after four years at Bhadalwadi tank in Indapur tehsil of Pune district in March this year. The sighting, four years after the surveillance programme was launched by the state forest department, National Institute of Virology and Ela Foundation, throws light on the so-far unknown movement pattern of the Grey Herons and their longevity in the wild.
“This is the first long term recovery of a ringed nestling Grey Heron from the ringing programme. Earlier, Grey Herons tagged in Bhadalwadi were recovered at Pedgaon (Pune district), Ujani Dam backwaters and in Neelambur, Kerala, one year after tagging,” Dr Satish Pande, founder trustee of ElA foundation, told The Indian Express.
These encouraging results show that the ongoing ringing programme needs to be continued and extended to obtain scientific data for conservation of the birds. Bhadalwadi tank is an important breeding ground of herons, storks, egrets and ibises and needs long term conservation by maintaining appropriate water levels during the months of January till May for successful breeding of birds, Pande said.
The bird flu surveillance programme had included a total of 52 birds from six species like Painted Stork, Grey Heron, White Ibis, Black Cormorant, Little Egret and Night Heron. Biometry, ringing and wing tagging of birds was carried out. Cloacal and tracheal swabs and serum were examined for avian influenza virus. All birds were released after the study.
As part of the study, one juvenile Grey Heron was fitted with a leg ring number 158 and wing tags on both sides with tag number A58. During tagging the Grey Heron was 9 to 10 weeks old and healthy. The bird had tested negative for bird flu. The same Grey Heron was re-sighted on March 3 at Bhadalwadi tank in Indapur and recovered at Sangamner after four years.
It had travelled a distance of 207 km, Dr Pande said. The Heron was found on March 3 by Mahendra Gunjal, a college student, who rescued it. The heron was exhausted and was perched on the ground. The telephone number of Ela Foundation was inscribed on the ring and wing tag. Gunjal informed Dr Pande on phone and sent pictures via his mobile phone. After being guided on how to care for the heron, the bird later flew away.