Our Avian Guests

they come irrespective of barriers

CELESTIAL TRAVELLERS

DR ZUBAIR AHMAD WAR

Well! Bird migration has fascinated mankind from times immemorial and Young (1958) calls them, the masters of air, since they are armed with wonderful flight adaptations. Birds travel huge distances; the arctic tern spends summer and breeds in Arctic Circle and travels a distance of 11,000 miles to reach its winter home in Antarctica. Some bird species even cross the Andes and Himalayas at altitudes of 20,000 feet. Birds usually travel 5-6 hours a day, but golden plover holds the world record with longest nonstop flight of 2400 miles. Average flight velocity of most small birds seldom exceeds 30 miles per hour, but in India two species of swifts travel at a speed of 171-200 miles per hour.
The passage of the migratory birds is a marvel of navigation unparalleled even by the most hi-tech aircraft. Leading by the homing instinct, the birds cover thousands of miles and are mostly nocturnal migrants and navigate by following visual landmarks, telluric currents, earth’s magnetic field, and celestial bodies. The discipline and formation in which the migratory birds fly is a sight to watch. The eldest bird pilots the flock while others fly behind. Usually the leader bird is one that is acquainted with the aerial route. If for some reason the pilot fails to lead, the second in line takes over the navigational responsibilities.
Lakhs of birds also visit our state particularly in winter season from Siberia, Central Asia, China and Europe to avoid the harsh climatic conditions. These birds mostly visit various wetlands and other water bodies including Dal and Wular lakes of our state. Migratory birds also use wetlands in Kashmir as their transitory camps between September and October and again around spring. These wetlands play a vital role in sustaining a large population of wintering, staging and breeding birds.
While most of the birds prefer the shallow waters of wetlands, some species such as the coots (kuvlar) prefer the deep waters of the Dal. There are 24 wetlands in our state and the most important among them is the Hokersar wetland. Hokersar is 14 km north of Srinagar, and is a world class wetland spread over 13.75 km2 including the main lake and adjoining marshy area. Every year lakhs of migratory birds (6 lakh in 2011 and 7 lakh in 2012, Greater Kashmir 12 January 2012) come to Hokersar and its satellite wetlands like Hygam, Shalibug and Mirgund.
Birds found in Hokersar and other water bodies include mainly migratory ducks and geese and other species like Brahminy duck, Tufted duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, White-eyed pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, Egrets, Wigeons, Coots and  Little cormorants.
Paying a visit these beautiful birds is a wonderful experience. Their presence in our valley attracts hundreds of tourists which come here exclusively for bird watching. Moreover, they have been doing this practice for centuries and thus this movement has got an ecological and cultural importance. These birds also act as messengers of peace, and they are the rare lucky ones who cross all the barriers, no fence or barbed wires stop them and they can utilize the air space of any region without any manmade hurdles of visas and passports. Presently they are facing a threat of poachers and their habitat is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Stringent punishment and habitat restoration and preservation are the need of the hour.
Feed back at zubi744@rediffmail.com  

Lastupdate on : Mon, 17 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 17 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 18 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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