//Migratory birds disappearing in Kerala

Migratory birds disappearing in Kerala

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

New Delhi – Migratory birds are fast disappearing in Kerala, touted as ‘God’s own country’ because of its lushness, with many being on the fringe of extinction because of pollution and poaching, a noted Indian ornithologist said here.

Bird-lovers here were in for a treat Tuesday evening as well-known ornithologist P.K. Uthaman talked about the birds in Kerala in a lecture titled ‘Song of Rain’ at the India International Centre.

Uthaman, who is a birdwatcher-cum-photographer, not only described in detail the characteristics and behavioural patterns of birds in the state but also shared with audience rare photographs and recording of bird calls.

‘Many migratory birds are on the fringe of extinction in Kerala due to factors like pollution, habitat destruction and poaching,’ said the bird expert who is an environmentalist at heart.

‘People in Kerala are also fond of bird meat, and so, many species are fast disappearing,’ he added.

He noted that the Silent Valley – the tropical rainforests in the Western Ghats – in Kerala’s Palakkad district, the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Idukki district and the grasslands near the Nilgiri were the only few remaining pockets that could be called a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Uthaman’s passion for birds has taken him into these jungles and backwaters. He has to his credit a number of new species’ records. He has also documented the life history of around 300 bird species in Kerala.

The photographer had captured several high-altitude birds in his camera, which included the Nilgiri Pippet, the Kerala Laughing Thrush and Blackbirds among many others.

A black-winged kite cuddled with its young ones in their nest, the purple-rimmed sunbird sucking nectar from a flower and a baby pigeon taking digested milk from its parent’s throat were some photographs that Uthaman enthralled the audience with.

Uthaman described in minute detail the breeding patterns of Hornbills, where the female of the species shuts herself up in a tree-hole during the gestation period. At this time, it is the responsibility of the male to collect food for the mother and the offspring, when it is born.

Interestingly, the female sheds her coat of feathers during this period and emerges with a shiny new coat at the end of 3-4 months.

The birdman also played a few recorded birdcalls and the melodious whistle of the Malabar Whistling Thrush sure did linger in the minds of people. He, however, admitted that most of them had been recorded by his close friend P.S. Shivaprasad, a collector of birdcalls and animal sounds.

Rare photographs of different kinds of eagles, vultures, kingfishers, owls, parrots and myriad other birds in their natural environs were also displayed.