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Gujarat: Rare black-neck storks breed successfully in Dabhoi after a decade

Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary near Jamnagar city and the Marine National Park spread along the coast of Jamnagar and Devbhumi Dwarka districts is home to the largest population of BNS in the state.

Written by GOPAL KATSHIYA | Rajkot |
Updated: December 13, 2021 6:13:16 pm
The juvenile forages in Wadhwana wetland, in Vadodara on December 9. Photo by Uday Vora

After nearly a decade of failed attempts, the breeding of black-neck storks (BNS) has been successfully recorded this year at the Wadhwana wetland in Vadodara district’s Dabhoi. BNS (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) has been categorised as a near-threatened species on the Red List compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to a decline in its global population, largely on account of habitat loss.

“I have been observing a pair of BNS nesting regularly on a tree at Wadhwana since 2012. We recorded the pair even watering its nest in 2017; but we never recorded any chick, suggesting breeding attempts had not been successful. However, during my latest trip on December 9, we observed a juvenile – almost an adult – foraging with its parents. This is the first record of successful breeding of BNS in Dabhoi in at least a decade,” said Uday Vora, who retired from the Gujarat Forest Department as chief conservator of forests. He was speaking at a webinar on the state’s wetlands Friday.

Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary near Jamnagar city and the Marine National Park spread along the coast of Jamnagar and Devbhumi Dwarka districts is home to the largest population of BNS in the state and the birds have been breeding successfully in Khijadiya as well as in the coastal wetland area. Besides Vadodara, the storks are sighted in Bharuch district, Polo forest in Sabarkantha, Kutch, etc. They are occasionally sighted in Nal Sarovar, another Ramsar-listed wetland in the state. However, birdwatchers consider it to be a rare bird due to its minuscule population in the state.

Aradhna Sahu, Chief Conservator of Forests (in-charge) of Kevadiya Wildlife Circle, confirmed Vora’s sighting. “Our staff have been sighting the BNS pair with a chick for some time. This is the first time in recent years that we are seeing a BNS chick in Wadhwana,” said Sahu.

Wadhwana wetland is part of Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary in Vadodara division of Kevadiya Wildlife Circle. It came into being after an irrigation tank was constructed in 1910. Today, it is one of the richest wetlands in the state in terms of the avian diversity it supports. It was recognised by the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance in April this year.

“The wetland is internationally important for its birdlife as it provides wintering ground to migratory waterbirds, including over 80 species that migrate on the Central Asian Flyway. They include some threatened or near-threatened species such as the endangered Pallas’s fish-eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), the vulnerable common pochard (Aythya ferina), and the near-threatened Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), grey-headed fish-eagle (Icthyophaga ichthyaetus) and ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca),” the Ramsar Convention note on Wadhwana reads.

“In addition the red-crested pochard (Netta rufina), a duck which is otherwise rare in Western India, is regularly recorded here during winter. Resident birds include the vulnerable river tern (Sterna aurantia) and sarus crane (Grus antigone) and the near-threatened black-necked stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus). Almost 46,000 individual birds were recorded during a mid-winter waterbird census conducted in 2020. The Site provides a global example of how a wetland originally created for irrigation has come to serve as an important waterbird habitat and hub for ecotourism and nature education,” the note says.

Vora, who has been regularly visiting Wadhwana wetland, said it was difficult to predict what could have made the breeding attempt successful this time, but underlined that the pair had built a new nest. “The pair had its nest on a tall tree in the area and had been attempting to breed regularly there since 2012 but had no success. We don’t know what were the reasons for failure. But last year, that nest was destroyed after the tree was burnt by someone. Therefore, the pair built a new nest on another tree and it seems the change of nest has also brought it luck,” Vora told The Indian Express after the webinar, adding, “One of the storks in the pair was injured when someone disturbed it during their initial attempts at breeding.”

Besides the Indian sub-continent, BNS is seen in Sri Lanka, south-east Asia and Australia. Birds of this species are believed to be monogamous and breed between September and December in the Indian sub-continent. BNS pours water over its nests to keep the temperature down on sunny days during the breeding season. They are not migratory birds.

“During my visit to Wadhwana last year, we observed the nest and on December 9 we spotted the juvenile, which apparently is around a year old now,” said the retired IFS officer who is now among the prominent birders in the state.

Other birdwatchers too welcomed the news with joy. “It is exciting that BNS has successfully nested and bred in Wadhwana at a time when there is a concern about the conservation status of the species. It is a positive sign,” said Jagat Raval, a birdwatcher from Jamnagar. He added that three nests of BNS have been observed in Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary this season.

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