Curlew Sandpipers and Plovers, which are wetland birds commonly spotted in the city, were seen recently after they made their way from Arctic Russia to Mumbai.
Researchers from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) had tagged over 1,500 birds (400 Curlew Sandpipers) between November 2015 and December, last year, of which four Curlew Sandpipers and a few plovers were identified with BNHS tags at Navi Mumbai and Sewri wetlands on April 24.
Bird ringing studies help understand the flight paths used by birds over long migrations, their stop-overs and preferences.
Dr Raju Kasambe, bird expert with BNHS (at Sewri) and birders S Krishnan and Ashwin Mohan (at Navi Mumbai), had used colour tags for the ringing and spotted some of them recently.
“These birds were not spotted by us last year but documenting them this year is very significant as it tells us that they are alive and can travel long distances,” said Kasambe. “We can confirm that they arrived from Arctic Russia as that is their breeding ground during summer.”
He added that with the rise in temperatures in Mumbai, these birds will now be leaving again to their summer breeding sites.
Experts said that the sightings highlight the birds’ site fidelity, where they choose to spend winters (wetlands in this case) every year. “The sighting assumes great significance as it shows how they are not casual visitors to Mumbai,” said Dr Deepak Apte, director, BNHS. “We urge the birding community inform us if they sight any ringed or colour tagged birds. This will help us in filling the information gaps in habitat preference and movement of long distance migratory birds.”
BNHS was recently designated as the state’s nodal agency for bird ringing studies by the state forest department. From September 2017, BNHS will start large scale bird ringing along the coastal areas of Maharashtra.
HT had reported in March that BNHS will be developing satellite maps of bird migratory routes across the country within a year. “The study of flyways helps us understand the challenges birds face during migration. Identification of movement routes and stopover sites is important to develop appropriate strategies for conservation,” said Dr Apte.
Why Mudflats are important for birds?
Mudflats offer a valuable food source derived from their high productivity and the resultant high quantity of prey items for fish and water birds. This makes mudflats significant as feeding and roosting grounds for local as well as migratory birds. Birds gain the body mass required to complete their migratory movements here along with being resting, roosting and feeding sites for birds.