Two more species added to Sikkim checklist of birds
Birds have been the centre of attraction for study in understanding various complex ecological factors. They have been fairly well studied in India and outside. Sikkim (27° 03' to 28° 07' N and 88° 03' to 88° 57' E), a state of B 2 India with a total geographical area of 7096 km, is a part of Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and Endemic Bird Area. Due to the geographical location, topography, elevational variation, and marked zonation of vegetation, Sikkim harbors high avifaunal diversity compared to its small geographical area.
According to the Database of birds of Sikkim based on literature and field studies during 2003-2006 with special reference to elevational distribution, endemism and threat, during the collection of the data the researchers divided the state into six zones based on vegetation types and altitudes and then generated database of birds of Sikkim which shows a total of 574 species belonging to 253 genera and 55 families under 16 avian orders.
While adding to the checklist a group of researchers during the month of December added two species of migratory birds in Sikkim expanding checklist. The new species such as Brown-headed Gull and Ferruginous Duck was first time encountered from High altitude wetlands of East Sikkim, Indian Himalaya. A team of researcher cum scientist, Mr. Prem Kumar Chhetri (Sikkim Forest & Environment Department), Kusal Gurung (Deputy Director, Rongli Sub-Division, East Sikkim), Thinlay Namgyal Lepcha (Assistant Director, HRDD, Govt. of Sikkim), and Mr. Bijoy Chhetri (Assistant Professor, SRM-University), has recently published their findings in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
The species encountered from the High altitude wetland of East Sikkim at altitude 4,237m m asl. So far many wetland migratory birds are reported from Sikkim Himalaya viz.: Osprey Pandion haliaetus (Linnaeus, 1758), Little Grebe Podiceps ruficollis (Pallas, 1764), Common Coot Fulica atra (Linnaeus, 1758), Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus (Latham, 1790), Northern Pintail Anas acuta (Linnaeus, 1758), Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Linnaeus, 1758), Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri (Radde, 1863), Tufted Duck Aythya ferina (Linnaeus, 1758) Pallas’s Gull Larus ichthyaetus (Pallas, 1773) Common Pochard Aythya ferina (Linnaeus, 1758), Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo (Linnaeus, 1758); Goosander Mergus merganser (Linnaeus, 1758), and Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis (Brehm, 1831).
Thinley Namgyal Lepcha, Assistant Director, HRDD, Govt. of Sikkim said,“ We were conducting a Bird survey of High Altitude wetland, for the department of forestry Government of Sikkim when we encountered two Spices of migratory bird that is Brown-headed Gull and Ferruginous Duck at Hangu lake and Elephant lake of East Sikkim which is above 4000m from the sea level. These two birds are migratory and migrate in winter in the high altitude sides from the month of October to April mostly from Siberia and Russia and after winter gets over the birds then moves towards the Tibetan Plateau”
“Along with Brown-headed Gull and Ferruginous Duck we encountered 13 more bird spices, Ferruginous Duck is a Near-threatened spice of birds, It is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds ( AEWA) applies and Brown-headed Gull is the least concern spices meaning that it has been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as evaluated as not being a focus of species conservation.”
According to the author's many migratory birds have been recorded from the Sikkim Himalaya indicating that the Sikkim HAWs offer potential suitable breeding and winter grounds. Brown-headed Gull and Ferruginous Duck first reported from the high altitude wetlands is a new record to the state. Worldwide, most migratory birds are threatened by wetland habitat loss on their breeding and winter grounds.
Appreciating the importance of globally threatened birds found in the Eastern Himalaya, 11 Important Birds Area or IBAs across the Sikkim Himalaya have been recognized by the government of Sikkim in 2003 for the conservation initiative. Such actions will help to conserve the high altitude wetlands of Sikkim Himalaya and migrating birds as well.
By Prem Baniya Chettri
Pic credit: Kushal Gurung