BNHS radio-tags six flamingos at Thane Creek to study migration | Nagpur News

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NAGPUR: Even as various organizations and NGOs will mark May 14 as World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) to raise awareness about the conservation and habitats of migratory birds, scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) have captured and tagged six flamingos at high tide roosting sites for the past four months. This is the first time the experiment has been conducted in Maharashtra.
Deployed with solar-powered GPS-GSM radio beacons, all birds are currently roaming the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary (TCFS) and adjacent wetlands.
A pioneering institute of bird migration studies in India, the BNHS has been studying migratory birds for 95 years and has a permanent center for it at Point Calimere, Tamil Nadu. Currently, he monitors migratory birds through bird banding and telemetry surveys in 20 states and two union territories in the country.
The TCFS is home to around 2.5 lakh of migratory birds. The mudflats of Thane Creek and Sewri, dotted with thousands of migratory birds at low tide, including flamingos, have become a popular destination for birdwatchers in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
At high tide, the adjacent wetlands such as Panje, the non-residential Indian compound and the Chanakya training ship are also crowded with flamingos and other migratory birds. However, all these sites are seriously threatened by development projects.
There are six known species of flamingo in the world, two of which – the lesser (minor) flamingo and the greater flamingo – are found in India. The IUCN Red List classifies Lesser Flamingos as Near Threatened and Greater Flamingos as Least Concern.
About 1.3 lakh flamingos visit Thane Creek from September to May. The breeding and migration of flamingos in the Indian subcontinent has been a mystery since the 20th century. Breeding of the flamingo in the Rann of Kutch was first observed by Maharao Shri Khengarji-III in the last decade of the 19th century. He reported it to Capt CD Lester. It took ornithologist Dr Sálim Ali another seven decades to confirm Lester’s 1974 presumption that the lesser flamingo also breeds in Rann of Kutch.
About 25 flamingos ringed in Iran and Kazakhstan have been recovered from India. Interestingly, no such information is available for flamingo breeding in Kutch; this could be due to low ringing efforts. Therefore, systematic and rigorous banding and satellite telemetry studies at breeding and non-breeding sites across India were necessary to unravel the mystery of flamingo migration.
Therefore, the BNHS initiated a satellite telemetry study as part of its Mumbai Trans Harbor Link (MTHL) Impact Assessment Project to understand the migration and habitat use patterns of flamingos. and dwarfs at Thane Creek to suggest management measures for their conservation.
BNHS scientists captured six flamingos at roost sites at high tide from January to April 2022 and deployed solar-powered GPS-GSM radio beacons. The BNHS team, including Deputy Director P Sathiyaselvam and Scientist Mrugank Prabhu, deployed the satellite beacons. Assistant Curator Sameer Bajaru handled the telemetry study design and technical details.
The Maharashtra Forestry Department and the Ministry of Communication provided the necessary permissions to conduct this study. The Mumbai Metropolitan Area Development Authority (MMRDA) funded this study and the Mangrove Foundation is monitoring this project.
Bivash Pandav, the Director of BNHS said, “The BNHS has banded more than 7 lakh birds over the past 95 years and deployed 175 satellite transmitters on 15 species of birds to study their migration. Over the past four years, our scientists have deployed rings on more than 18,000 birds in and around TCFS.
“The information generated by this study is essential for understanding the migration of birds and their status in the Central Asian Flyway (CAF). BNHS has renewed its bird banding activities at its permanent banding centers in Chilika, Bhagalpur and Bharatpur with the support of state governments and bands 7,000 to 9,000 birds every year,” Pandav said.
“Wildbirds, one of the fragile bird groups known for their long-distance migration, are facing a rapid decline. To study their precise migration routes, the BNHS launched satellite telemetry on this group for the first time in India. Black-tailed Godwit and Eurasian Curlew were deployed with GPS beacons,” Pandav said.
Rahul Khot, Deputy Director and Head of this study, said, “There are a few ways we can study bird migration and migration routes. First by sightings, then by displaying bird rings and colored flags. Although traditional methods have several advantages, they also have limitations. Telemetry beacons circumvent these limitations as they can record a variety of parameters and provide access to this data in real time.
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