Not just rebel MLAs, this flamingo too flew to Gujarat from Mumbai

Published on Jul 03, 2022 09:56 PM IST

Every year, an estimated 1.5 lakh lesser and greater flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor and Phoenicopterus roseus, respectively) visit the Thane Creek and surrounding to spend the winter

The flamingo in question has been named Humayun, after one of India’s foremost naturalists and ornithologists, Humayun Abdulali (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
The flamingo in question has been named Humayun, after one of India’s foremost naturalists and ornithologists, Humayun Abdulali (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
ByPrayag Arora-Desai

Mumbai In a first, researchers at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) successfully mapped the flight path of a flamingo from Mumbai to Gujarat last week, as part of a radio-telemetry study to assess the birds’ migratory routes, breeding grounds and stopover sites on their way to and from Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

Every year, an estimated 1.5 lakh lesser and greater flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor and Phoenicopterus roseus, respectively) visit the Thane Creek and surrounding wetlands to spend the winter.

Earlier this year, BNHS researchers fitted six flamingos (of both species) with solar-powered Global Positioning System (GPS) – Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) radio tags. The birds were tagged from their roosting sites at Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS), and from the TS Chanakaya wetland complex at Nerul, between January and April. Now, one of these birds has migrated to Gujarat, providing critical data that has so far been lacking.

The flamingo in question has been named Humayun, after one of India’s foremost naturalists and ornithologists, Humayun Abdulali. Besides his immense specimen collection and taxonomical contribution to Indian ornithology, Abdulali published a wealth of literature on Mumbai’s (then Bombay) natural history and avian biodiversity with his cousin Salim Ali, in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society (JBNHS) from 1936 to 1945.

Humayun started his journey from Trombay in eastern Mumbai on the night of June 28, departing at 10:28pm. He arrived at the Nawa Bandar wetlands near Bhavnagar Port on June 30 at 6:13pm. “From Trombay, Humayun flew northward, stopping in Vasai on June 28 for eight hours. He then resumed his journey along the west coast and arrived at Tena Creek in Gujarat on June 2. He stayed at Tena CreeK for about 16 hours, and then from there flew straight to Bhavnagar,” said Rahul Khot, deputy director, BNHS. The journey was completed in just under 32 hours.

“We will plan to go visit the sites where he has stopped over so we can get a sense of the habitat and availability of food. We are expecting him to spend the next few months in Gujarat, during the breeding season, before returning to the habitat in Thane Creek. But we cannot be sure about anything just yet,” Khot added.

Meanwhile, the remaining five flamingos who have been selected for the radio telemetry study, have not yet embarked on any migratory journey, and are still moving within the TCFS and nearby wetlands in Navi Mumbai. Like Humayun, they too have been named after prominent figures in the field of conversation.

“This project was in the pipeline for three years, awaiting clearance from various departments. We also had to finalise the kind of technology to be used as it is mandatory that the tags cannot be more than 3% of the bird’s body weight,” said Mrugank Prabhu, scientist involved in tagging of the birds. For example, one has been named ‘Khengarji III’, after Maharajadhiraj Mirza Rao Shri Khengarji III Sahib Bahadur, Rao of Kutch, who first discovered the Greater Flamingo breeding in India.

Another has been named Lester, after British naturalist and ornithologist Captain CD Lester, who published books and research articles on birds of Kutch in the late 19th and early 20th century. Another has been named McCann, after eminent naturalist Charles McCann, who visited the flamingo breeding ground in Rann of Kutch in 1939, and published a detailed account of his observations in JBNHS. McCann also served as an assistant curator at BNHS.

Another flamingo has been named ‘Salim’, after renowned ornithologist and founder of BNHS, Salim Ali. Ali was the first to confirm the breeding of Lesser Flamingos in Kutch, and published several accounts of their breeding biology in the region, between the 1940s and 1970s. Just one specimen of the lot has not been named after a historical personality, but has been christened Navi Mumbai, as it is now popularly known as a ‘Flamingo City’ and harbours one of the largest congregations of flamingos in Asia.

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