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Thursday, March 04, 2021

Around 60 thousand chicks emerge from new nesting ground of lesser flamingos

Between August and September 2020, around 1,00,000 nests were found by forest officials and experts during their visits to the Kuda area in GRK in eastern Kutch where their breeding attempt has been successful for the second consecutive year, they said.

Written by Gopal Kateshiya | Rajkot |
Updated: January 24, 2021 8:43:12 pm
Flamingos with their chicks in Great Rann of Kutch, in Kutch district. (Photo courtesy Gujarat forest department)

After the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), lesser flamingos have found a new exclusive nesting ground in Kuda stretch of the Great Rann of Kutch (GRK) from where around 60,000 chicks have emerged this season, according to forest officers and experts.

Between August and September 2020, around 1,00,000 nests were found by forest officials and experts during their visits to the Kuda area in GRK in eastern Kutch where their breeding attempt has been successful for the second consecutive year, they said. A majority of them have become juvenile and have already flown to foraging grounds.

LRK is a known nesting site of lesser flamingos while Anda Bet, also known as the Flamingo City in GRK, has been an exclusive nesting site of greater flamingos.

“We have been observing nesting in Kuda in GRK for the past four years. But it was unique this year as out of the estimated 1,00,000 nests, only around 2,000 to 3,000 were of greater flamingos. The rest were of lesser flamingos. This is a marked difference from the previous years. For example, out of the estimated 63,000 nests observed at this site last year, around 40 per cent were of greater flamingos. But this year, it has reduced to just a fraction,” Uday Vora, a retired forest officer who has been visiting GRK and LRK for the past two decades, told The Indian Express.

Vora said that the phenomenon needs to be studied before one can draw any conclusion about more number of lesser flamingos preferring new site for nesting and the number of nests of greater flamingos going down.

Anita Karn, chief conservator of forests (CCF) of Kutch territorial forest circle, agrees. “Anda Bet has been there for decades as a recognised nesting site of greater flamingos. But recently, we have been observing lots of lesser flamingos nesting in Kuda. The birds have been using a road abandoned by BSF (border security force) for nesting and it is developing as a very good site,” Karn said adding, by recent, she meant four to five years.

The GRK and LRK are believed to be the largest nesting grounds of flamingos in Asia. Flamingos breed only when ideal conditions such as water levels in the rann, availability of food prevail in and around their nesting colonies. “But breeding attempts have remained successful for the past two seasons as monsoon has been good,” the CCF added.

Vora said that in the traditional nesting sites such as Flamingo City, the hatching ratio is around 80 per cent but in Kuda, it was around 60 per cent this breeding season.

Flamingos are very sensitive and abandon their eggs if their nest is disturbed. Some eggs also get washed away due to flooding in the desert. It takes around four weeks for the eggs to hatch. Once a hatchling emerges from the egg, one parent leaves for foraging while the other stays behind, caring for the young one. Chicks of an entire colony go foraging with a handful of adults guiding them until they become able to fly themselves, according to forest officials.

In December 2020, the forest department had to intervene and rescue around 250 flamingo chicks after they were separated from the flocks, apparently after being attacked by some raptors and were trapped in mud.

“Most of the chicks have migrated to near Dholavira where there is water but around 2,000 that hatched later in the season are still near the colony. They are roaming in small groups,” a forest officer said.

As water in Kuda is fast evaporating and the remaining smaller pools becoming extremely saline, forest department has been creating artificial ponds in the area.

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