Never built to be ornithologists’ delight, Punjabi University here has turned into the refuge of rare birds such as threatened Egyptian vulture.
The scavenger on the International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species is breeding on the campus. Its nests were spotted on top of the Academic Staff College building and the trees around. Onkar Singh Brraich, assistant professor of zoology and environmental science, and Delhi-based ecologist TK Roy were first to notice Egyptian vulture and captured it in camera. “Also known as white scavenger, it is the only member of the genus Neophron breeding on this campus,” said Onkar Singh.
“In the 1970s, this bird was a common sight in Delhi and around, and then it almost vanished,” said Roy, adding: “Maybe it migrated to Ropar (Rupnagar) or Dhar Kalan. A campus marsh giving refuge to the migratory birds is home to common redshank, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper, common sandpiper, citrine wagtail, grey wagtail and white wagtail.”
This little swamp, to the rear of the university, attracts water birds such as Indian spot-billed duck, common moorhen, white-breasted water hen, black-winged stilt, purple swamphen, red-wattled lapwing, and comb duck, while cattle egret, little egret and pond heron nest in the surrounding trees.
Recording the bird diversity on the campus for the past three years, Brraich has found sewage claim almost 80% of this marsh where these birds used to breed. “The tiny marshland, where water birds roost and breed, has turned into stinking ground. The university should consider restoring and conserving it with the help of science students,” said Roy, adding that the university’s tree cover has motivated the birds to stay, and a greener campus would give the winged visitors an even better second home.