A Painted Stork, tagged as part of a wild bird monitoring programme, was recently sighted by bird watchers for the first time in six years. The wild bird monitoring programme was part of a surveillance system for bird flu.
On February 2, the Painted Stork (wing tag No. A 40), was sighted by birdwatcher Sandeep Nagare.
The sighting is crucial as it helps understand the bird’s movement patterns, said ornithologist Dr Satish Pande. “This is also vital to prevent any possibility of the disease spreading,” said Dr Pande, founder of the Ela Foundation, an NGO that is involved in creating awareness about nature conservation.
The foundation, along with the National Institute of Virology and state Forest department, has been conducting the Wild Bird Monitoring programme for bird flu (avian influenza) surveillance since 2008.
In 2014, two bird flu survey studies were carried out in Bhadalwadi Wetland, near Bhigwan in Pune district. A total of 51 birds of several species were studied. These included Painted Storks, Black-headed Ibis, Grey Herons, Night Herons, Pond Heron, Little Egret and Small Cormorant.
Cloacal and tracheal samples, as well as blood samples, were taken for tests. The wing length, tail length, leg, toe and talon (nail) lengths of the birds were measured. The weight of all the birds was recorded and their overall health status was examined.
All birds were either ringed and/or wing tagged, with numbered light-weight red tags on both wings. After the birds tested negative for bird flu, they were released into the wild.
After one year, one Black-headed Ibis (wing tag A 27) was re-sighted at a distance of 4 km from the ringing site, said Dr Pande. Another bird — Painted Stork (wing tag A 47) — was sighted after four years, at Bhigwan in 2017.
Now, six years after the tagging exercise, one more Painted Stork (wing tag No. A 40) was re-sighted on February 2, which also is observed as World Wetland Day. The stork was seen about 4.5 km from the site where it was first tagged.
At the time of the tagging exercise in 2014, the stork was nearly six weeks old, 2.5 kg in weight and about to fledge. When it was sighted recently, it was found to be healthy and seen feeding with other Painted Storks, Grey Herons and Ibises. The Painted Stork was seen in the same general area, indicating the importance of Bhadalwadi-Kumbhargao wetlands for these aquatic birds, said Dr Pande.
“They not only breed here but over the years, they also visit the same site. The necessity of conservation of such wetlands is therefore scientifically proved from ring-wing tag data. Long-term studies are very important. More studies like telemetry are needed to understand their movements in the interval between tagging and re-sighting,” said Dr Pande. He also urged birdwatchers to look for tagged birds and report the sightings to the study’s researchers.
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