Avian species count reaches 1,340 as new bird found in Himalayas
While observing a flock of white-browed rosefinch (a common bird in the area), the researchers happened to notice a male three-banded rosefinch among their study population. “
Scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) have recorded the presence of new bird in the eastern Himalayas, taking India’s avian biodiversity count to a total of 1,340 species. The rare sighting of a three-banded rosefinch was made in the hilly, coniferous forests of the Sela Pass in Arunachal Pradesh on February 8, about 3800 meters above sea level.
This particular finch, experts said, is a resident of southern China and has also been seen as a vagrant in Bhutan. “There are multiple species of finches that migrate from south-western China to India during the winter. We are currently in the midst of a study to determine the population distribution of 10 kinds of finches in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, and assess the impact that climate change may have on them,” said Girish Jathar, a lead author on the upcoming paper.
While observing a flock of white-browed rosefinch (a common bird in the area), the researchers happened to notice a male three-banded rosefinch among their study population. “It is a very distinctive bird, especially the male. It’s a small creature but its red and gray colours stood out and we decided to take pictures. We realised that there were actually a male and female both,” Jathar added.
An assessment of the photographs earlier this week confirmed this was a new species for India. Since 2016, India’s tally of avian biodiversity has grown by 104 new species. Experts said that this finding underscores the importance of conducting more intensive wildlife surveys in the eastern Himalayas, which are still relatively under-explored.
Atharva Singh, another lead author of the paper, said that little is known about the ecology of this species. “The Three-banded Rosefinch may be using the high altitude temperate coniferous forest of Arunachal Pradesh as a passage while migrating from China to Bhutan. Thus this landscape is a potential corridor for this species,” he speculated, adding that the team is also on the lookout for the species in Sikkim, at similar altitudes. So far they have not seen it anywhere else.
Pankaj Gupta, of the Delhi Bird Foundation, said that the finding does not surprise, though it is exciting. “Arunachal Pradesh is a generally under-birded state, and with good reason. The terrain is quite difficult to navigate even for seasoned experts. There are likely several other species waiting to be discovered, particularly those that are native to south and south-west China.”