A comparison and comprehensive study
Fig: Isolated hills amid plains
MYSURU AREA BIRDS - is the outcome of intensive exploration of the area over two decades through well planned field trips and analyzing & compiling the earlier exploration reports since 1879. Different types of habitats spread over study area were studied during different seasons in addition to the locations previously visited by the eminent birders whose reports are thoroughly analyzed. Mysuru area represents three southern districts of Karnataka state, namely Mysuru, Mandya and Chamarajanagar. Bio-diversity rich forest reserves like Nagarhole and Bandipur National Parks; Nugu, Biligiri Rangaswamy and Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuaries situated on west- south-east boundary are excluded as their ecosystem are entirely different.
Present effort enlists the bird species, status and abundance of the three southern districts of Karnataka. Account of bird species encountered during our field trips, from published articles, internet based birding groups like ‘bngbirds’, ‘eBird’ and ‘indianaturewatch’, Aasheesh Pittie’s bibliography of South Asian ornithology, ‘southasiaornith’ provided rich input references related to present report.
Bio-diversity rich Nagarhole and Bandipur National Parks; Nugu, Biligiri Rangaswamy and Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuaries bordering west-south-east directions of present study area are not covered in the present study since not comparable with non-reserve areas which are under study. These bordering National Parks and Sanctuaries are well documented by Karnataka Forest Department, published regularly, and Davison (1883), Ali & Whistler (1942-1943), Zaveri et al. (1973, 1974), Gadgil & Sharatchandra (1974), Mahabal & Vasanth (2001), Rajkumar (2004).
The study area is spread between 11°30’and 13° 04’ North Latitude and 75° 45’ and 77°45’ East Longitude. Area is situated in southern Karnataka comprising Mysuru, Mandya and Chamarajanagar districts spread over 16,916 Sq. Km with a population of 80 Lakh (2009). The study area is located in southern plateau of Peninsular India and is part of river Kaveri basin. An average elevation of the area is 820 m ASL, Bettadapura hill (1338 m), Narayana Durga (1088m) and Chamundi hill (1074m) being highest peaks.
The climate is moderate. The summer season from March to end of May is followed by the south-west monsoon season lasting up to September end. October and November are retreating monsoon season. December to February is the dry season with generally clear bright weather. Most of the rainfall in the area is confined to April to November and October is the wettest month. The area has record of receiving on an average of 761.9 mm (Mysuru & Chamarajanagar) and 691.2 mm (Mandya) rainfall during last century (Anon, 1988 & 2003).
Fig: Transformed Grassland Fig: River Kaveri valley bordering Mandya district
Fig: Konannur habitat
Mysuru area is described as an undulating table land, fertile and well watered by perennial rivers whose waters dammed by anicuts (check dams built across rivers of different sizes) enrich their banks by means of canals. Mysuru area is situated in the angle where the Eastern and Western Ghat ranges converge into the Nilgiri hills. Cultivated area includes rain fed, irrigated, plantations and hedges. Many water-bodies in the form of various sized Tanks (1757 nos), Anicuts (22nos; Madhvamanthri, Chunchanakatte, Mahadevapura, Chikkadevaraya, Chandagalu, etc.,), Reservoirs (Krishnaraja Sagara, Kabini Dam, Nugu, Markonahalli, Taraka, Gundal) and rivers (Kaveri, Hemavathi, Kapila, Shimsha, Lakhmanathirtha, Suvarnavathi, Nugu, Lokapavani) are spread unevenly in the entire area.
The vegetation is described as thorn-scrub (Saldana 1984; Rao & Razi 1981) and non-forest habitat is due to prolonged disturbance of deciduous forest. Remnant Dry and moist deciduous trees scattered amid the stretches of shrub, herb and grass undergrowth is common. These thorn-scrub protected areas are located in the middle of vast open and fallow land, cultivated land, town and villages. Mysuru area flora is quite rich and diverse with 1601 species of flowering plants belonging to 170 families and 778 genera (Rao & Razi 1981).
Study was conducted during 1995-2015, using visual census techniques along the transects in varied vegetation covering water bodies, thorn-scrub, fallow lands, farm lands, garden, hedges along cultivated land and mixed combination of above. In addition, authenticated sighting records and data published elsewhere, related to present study area have been incorporated.
Reserved forests like Adichunchanagiri, Arabithittu, Halathi, Aloka palace surroundings, Arasanakatte, Baby betta, Bettadabeedu, Basavana betta, Chamundi hill, Chikkanahalli, Hulimavu gudda, Kari ghatta, Konanur, Kottegala, Kunthi betta, Madahalli, Mallikarjunaswamy betta, Malleswara gudda, Melkote, Mullur gudda, Vadgal Ranganathaswamy betta, Parvathi betta, Hulikalmaradi betta, Varakodu were visited in addition to lesser known places for avifaunal study. 220 Lakes & Tanks, 12 Anicuts, Krishnarajasagar & Kabini dams, Riverine locations were visited regularly during Midwinter waterfowl census and other times as well. In addition, mono-cultured plantations, botanical Parks, gardens, fallow lands, farm lands, hedges, and zoological garden were also visited for the study. Repetitive visits were made to locations from least to rich diversity.
Transects were visited regularly on all the seasons on an average 150 visits of 3 hours minimum, annually. Observations were recorded using binoculars, spotting scope, camera and call recording equipment. Birds were identified with the help of Ali & Ripley (1987), Grimmett (1998), Krys (2000), Rasmussen (2012) and in some cases with the help of web groups -‘bngbirds’ and ‘orientalbirdclub’.
Totally 361 bird species including 196 Residents, 114 winter visitors, 28 Passage migrants, and 23 Vagrants have been recorded. Thus, present study area accommodates 30% of 1225 species of Indian avifaunal diversity (Islam & Rahmani 2005) and 66% of entire Karnataka state (Praveen 2015). Excluding Vagrants, it amounts to 27% of Indian diversity & 64% of Karnataka. Present report of 361 species has an additional 31 birds compared to earlier report of 2010. This may be due to the increase in number of birders and their involvement in monitoring, visiting far off places and adding new birding locations.
Table 1: Status of Mysuru area birds
196 species of birds listed are Residents. Endemic Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus (Thejaswi 2004i) have been recorded at Arasanakatte state Forest, Bettadapura hill, Chamundi hill, Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, and Alathi Betta (Nagamangala Taluk). Its presence is not contiguous in all the chains of rocky hills. Unfortunately, Yellow-throated Bulbuls have disappeared from Arasanakatte state Forest and Chamundi hill within the present study period. However, a small population of them is surviving at Bettadapura, Halathi, Adi-chunchanagiri hillocks and Melkote Sanctuary. Endemic White-naped Tits Parus nuchalis have been recorded in Male Mahadeshwara hills (Sadananda et al. 2010), range beyond the present report, however, there is a lone sighting record at Santhemaralli by Tiwari (1999), Chamarajanagar district.
For the past 4-5 centuries, healthy population of Spot-billed Pelicans Pelecanus philippensis and Painted Storks Mycteria leucocephala are breeding in Kokkarebellur village (Neginhal 1977 & 1997; Manu & Sara 2000; Kannan V & Ranjit Manakadan 2005). After 1990’s, protection and food availability drove Pelicans to breed in Karanji and Kukkarahalli tanks (Neginhal 1997); in the last half decade, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary started hosting most number of breeding Pelicans. Earlier to that, Pelicans were not breeding in Ranganathittu. Decline in breeding population at Kokkarebellur & Karanji is conspicuous. Disappearance of trees supporting Pelicans’ breeding due to embankment dilution in constructed islands of Karanji tank kept away the breeding colony from 2011-2012. Lingambudhi tank used to attract large number of Pelicans for foraging. In April 2002, an average of 443 birds was found feeding in the tank for four weeks continuously. On 13/4/2002 the numbers reached all time high of 522. Though 1757 lakes exist on paper in Mysuru area, Pelicans have chosen only 132 water-bodies for foraging with regulars like Shettihalli, Gujjegowdana pura, Sule kere, Koppa, Karanji(Kishendas 2007), Kenchanakere, Bilikere (Rama 1996), Markonahalli etc.,
Marshall's Iora Aegithina nigolutea was recorded at Konanur Scrub Jungle, Nanjanagudu Taluk (Shivaprakash 2010) and later in Hulimavu Scrub Jungle, Nanjanagudu Taluk on 26/2/2011. Resident population of Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus is reported from here as early as 1929 (Betts 1929), however their population increases marginally during Monsoon. Brown Hawk-owl Ninon scutulata was first recorded in Kukkarahalli woods during 19/10/1996 to 14/12/1997. Re-sighted again on 14/11/2004 & 11/1/2011 and stayed over a week in the same location. Now it has been recorded in Kukkarahalli woods & Yennehole valley regularly. A pair of Indian Spotted Eagle Aquila hastata has been nesting (Shivaprakash 2005, Shivaprakash et al. 2006) since 16 seasons in Mysuru outskirts. Success rate of breeding is 87%. Single fledgling was raised in each brood except in 2010 when two were raised. A Total of three pairs have been recorded breeding in the study area. Nesting of Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus at four different locations and Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax at five locations have been recorded in the study area. All the above eagle-breeding locations are well separated from each other. There are regular sightings of adult and juvenile Crested Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus in Melkote Wildlife Sanctuary. Hawk-Eagle is sighted irregularly at Yennehole valley, Chamundi RF and Malleswara Gudda RF.
Fig: Indian Spotted Eagle Juvenile Fig: Painted Spurfowl
Fig: Small Pratincoles gallery Fig: Yellow legged Button quail by Michaelsen T
Sighting records are very few for the following resident birds -Brown Crake Amaurornis akool, Slaty legged Crake Rallina eurizonoides, Blue-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus (Thejaswi 2002), Watercock Gallicrex cinerea, Painted Spurfowl Galloperdix lunulata, Southern Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor, and Franklin’s/Savanns Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis. Quaker Tit-Babbler Alcippe poioicephala was met just once in Bettadabeedu forests on 22/8/2010. Endemic Painted Spurfowl Galloperdix lunulata was recorded in open fields near Chikkadevammana betta (Vishwanath, 2010) and at Melkote Wildlife Sanctuary (Shivaprakash 2012). Painted Spurfowl was elusive since its previous sighting from Gundlupete (Phythian-Adams, 1940). Red Collared Doves Streptopelia tranquebarica have been sighted twice in Mysuru outskirts on 27/8/1999 & 17/11/2000 and once in Yadavanne, Tumkur Dt on 10/3/2007 bordering Mandya Dt.
Indian White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis and Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus have disappeared from the region. At times, recorded congregation of Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus at garbage dump near Chamundi hill (66 nos in Nov 2014), dump of dead chickens/garbage near poultry farms at the outskirts of Mysuru city (9 nos in Oct 2013) and at open grasslands of Kenchana kere, Hunsuru (11 nos in Nov 2014). At garbage & dead chicken dump these birds were actively foraging whereas in Kenchana kere just idling/basking in sun. Emerging threat at Mysuru city garbage dump for these birds have been reported (Samson, et al. 2014).
Finding Quails is extremely difficult and observing them for identification still difficult. Presence of Common Button-Quail Turnix suscitator & Jungle Bush-Quail Perdicula asiatica have been confirmed from photographs (Raju 2008, Das 2007 & private album of Michaelsen T) initially, later by many photographers. A male Rain Quail Coturnix coromandelica has shown up in the grassland during summer (Ravishankar, 2012). Congregation of Streak-throated Swallows Hirundo fluvicola is common near bridges built across River Cauvery, Kapila, Laxmanathirtha and Shimsha where they build colonial nests.
On the rocky outcrops in perennial rivers - Cauvery & Kapila, Great Thick-knee Esacus recurvirostris are usually common. However, they are absent in river Shimsha. Probably the rocky platforms are not safe here, as the river gets dried up beyond rainy season. Breeding of Small Pratincole Glareola lacteal at Talkad (Worth 1951, quoting Phythian-Adams) is no more, due to hectic human activity. However, breeding is recorded in least disturbed locations like Rayasamudra (Mandya Dt), KRS backwaters (Mysuru –Mandya Dt), and Muthurayanakere (bordering Tumkur Dt). Large congregation of 1300+ Small Pratincoles on exposed mud-bar at KRS backwaters on 02/01/2011 has been recorded.
Shaheen Falcon Falco peregrinus peregrinator is sporadically distributed in cliffs of rocky hills and reported from plains during foraging sorties. Yellow-throated Sparrows Gymnoris xanthocollis have been sighted at different places spread over study area, but inconsistently. Winter population adds up with resident species like Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus, Black Drongo Edolius macrocercus, Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus, Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, Little-ringed Plover Charadrius dubius, Common Coot Fulica atra, Indian Spot billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha, Cotton Teal Nettapus coromandelianus and Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos, increasing their strength many folds. Comb Ducks have been sighted only thrice during non-winter in flight. Presence of Comb Ducks has been recorded as early as 1942 by Stoney (1942) & Phythian (1943). Attempts made to find their possible nesting location at KRS Backwaters and Yelandur sector tanks didn’t yield any positive result. Single largest congregation of 91 Comb Ducks was recorded in Kallur tank on 21/02/2010.
During non-winter, populationwise birds considered as pests - Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri and Rock Pigeon Columba livia dominates the region with Common Myna Acridotheres tristis, House Crow Corvus splendens and Black Kite Milvus migrans following the list. But in winter, arrival of migratory Eastern Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis & Common Coot Fulica atra mixed with local population dominates all the resident species and Common Myna Acridotheres tristis, Rock Pigeon Columba livia and Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus are next in line.
Sanderson (1879) stationed at Hunsur, Mysuru district describes the then avifauna as “Jungle fowl, Peafowl & Spurfowl are common in the woods; Bustard, Florican, Red-legged Partridge, Quail and Rock-grouse in the open country; Wild duck, teal, Snipe, Wild Geese, Flamingos, Pelicans, and Crakes in the lake and rice fields. Doves of several varieties are common both in the woods and open country”. Above statement seems to be much generalized one, since the book deals mammals mainly. Other than sighting of Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelicus at Hirikere, Chamarajanagara by Siddaramaiah & Jayadeva (1992) and an incubating bird in Mysuru region reported by Ravishankar (2013), Bustard, Florican, Sandgrouse and Flamingos have not been recorded in that last two decades.
All the three species of Bushlarks -Jerdon's Mirafra affinis, Indian M. erythroptera & Singing M. cantillans, have been recorded at 3-4 locations in Mysuru city suburbs and one particular location is photographically documented by Mike (2010). A study on how these three Bushlarks are sharing a common habitat would be an interesting and challenging. In immediate surroundings of Mysuru region beyond study area, Brown-headed barbets Megalaima zeylanica have been photographically recorded thrice. Though doubtful, sightings of this bird exist for Mysuru region, is not included in checklist.
List of regular winter visitors is impressive with 114 species. Mysuru area being part of central-Asian Flyway, hosts many migratory birds in large numbers. Presence of many species in large numbers is recorded during mid-winter waterfowl census being conducted by individuals and an NGO, Mysore Amateur Naturalists since 1986. In addition to the birds and habitats data, census generates new breed of birders since it acts as a capacity building exercise.
Migratory birds fly large distances in north – south axis from arctic and temperate regions where they breed, to non-breeding sites in temperate and tropical areas, twice a year. Indian sub-continent lies within Central Asian Flyway, one among eight well established migratory birds’ flyways and is shortest of all. This flyway happens to be within the Northern Hemisphere. Highest altitude flier Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus has been recorded successfully flying over formidable Himalayan barrier (8km height x 200km north to south stretches). Other migrants take east or west edges of this hurdle to enter Indian sub-continent. Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola and Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola arrives from west Palaearctic from western edge of Himalayan barrier. Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva, travels vast distances as far west as southern Sweden and Austria to winter in the Indian subcontinent. Many of the wader species, including the Curlew Sandpiper Erolia ferruginea and Little Stint Calidris minuta, seems to follow a loop migration, entering India through the north and north-west during early winter, before moving south-east to the east coast of India (Balachandran, 2006). After winter they move to north along east coast. Central Asian Flyway is used by more than 300 species. These include several species that undertake regular, seasonal movements within the Indian subcontinent. Among these are the Indian Pitta Pitta brachyura, and Pied Thrush Geokichla wardii all of which breed in the Himalayan foothills and winter in southern India and Sri Lanka (Birdlife factsheet, 2008).
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, once a rare winter visitor to the southern peninsula is now regarded as a local winter visitor (Thejaswi 2004c). Congregation of Rosy Starlings Pastor roseus fluctuates depending on success of monsoon in northern India(Thejaswi 2001); failure of monsoon in northern India drives huge flock of starlings to Deccan peninsula. Greater short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla, Red-headed Bunting Emberiza bruniceps, Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala and Common Rose-finches Erythrina erythrina features in ripen and harvested paddy-fields and these moves from place to place depending on harvesting activity, however, their appearance is quite uncommon. Local birds like Indian Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus, Streaked Weavers Ploceus manyar compete with them in moderate flocks.
Amur Falcon Falco amurensis and Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni have been recorded sporadically at Mandakalli, Chamundi hill, Hadinaru Gudda, Lingambudhi environ. At Mandakalli grassland, once a large congregation was observed (Thejaswi 2004k) in 2001. Three minor Harrier roosts involving different combination of Pallid Circus macrourus and Montagu's Circus pygargus, Western Marsh Circus aeruginosus, and Pied C. melanoleucos have been recorded (Thejaswi 2004d) at Mandakalli grassland, Yedathore and Yelandur. Now, a new airport is in place at Mandakalli where once large expanse of grassland and its avifauna existed.
Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea is found regularly at Ranganathittu and Chamundi hill (Shivananda & Shivaprakash 2004). Regular visit of Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus has been shown by photographs of Kulashekara (2007a), Vinay (2007), Das (2008a) & Ravinarayan (2007) at Lingambudhi environ, Mysuru outskirts and Kukkarahalli respectively. Orange-headed Thrush Ceokichla citrina is observed irregularly at Chamundi hill Reserve Forest and Melkote Wild Life Sanctuary during winter. Post Monsoon dispersal of Malabar Whistling-Thrush Myophonus horsfieldii reported from Chamundi hill (Praveen 2006), continues to exist. Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla- regularly and Spotted Crake Porzana porzana- very rarely are recorded (Thejaswi 2002) in periphery of reed covered tanks.
Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus collared in Mongolia provides strong evidence of migration of many waterfowl species from Mongolia to India (Madhukar et al 2009). These Geese have been recorded in many tanks every winter (Shivaprakash 2005); 996 Geese have been counted in single flock (Feb 2011). So far 34 Collared Geese have been sighted in Mysuru region.
Table 2: Collared Bar-headed Goose sighting details
One pair of Indian Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus [stentoreus] brunnescens, once attempted to breed in reeds of Lingambudhi tank during monsoon; otherwise it is found in every marshy reeds in winter, hence recorded as a winter migrant. Recently, congregation of 250 and odd European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster is reported by Subramanya (2012) near Kollegal. Presence of common winter migrants -Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus & Whiskered Terns Chlidonias hybrid seems to be recent trend, as these were not recorded during Salim Ali’s survey (1943). Sporadic sighting of Lesser Adjutant-Stork Leptoptilos javanicus is reported from Kabini backwaters and Uttara kannada district within the state boundary during winter in recent years.
Solitary Greylag Goose Anser anser has been sighted twice amid the flock of Bar-headed Geese Anser indicus, possibly arrived along with the Bar-headed flock from the nesting ground. These were not reported by Phythian-Adams (1948). Beyond their known distribution, Tickell’s Thrush Turdus unicolor was reported in 2000 and again sighted and photographed at Chamundi hills (Das 2011). Fulvous Whistling-duck Dendrocygna bicolor was recorded only once after the reporting of Phythian-Adams (1948).
Fig: Solitary Greylag amidst Bar-headed geese
Population wise migratory Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, Rosy Starling Pastor roseus, Garganey Querquedula querquedula, Northern Shoveller Spatula clypeata and Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus dominates the region.28 Passage migrants have been listed. During rainy days, a few Indian Hanging-Parrots Loriculus vernalis have been observed in woodlands nearby Nagarahole and Bandipura forests, they have even reached up to Lingambudhi tank. A few Plum-headed parakeets Psitacula cyanocephala have penetrated deep into the Mysuru city outskirts during rainy season. Brown-throated Needletail Hirundapus giganteus, Indian White-rumped Spinetail Zoonavena sylvatica, Crested Tree-Swift Hemiprocne coronate and Indian Swiftlet Aerodramus unicolor have been sighted in hillocks like Bettadabeedu, Malleswara Gudda, Chikkadevammana betta during monsoon and post monsoon. Incidentally these hillocks are situated 5-25 Km away from the western Ghat fringe areas like Nagarahole and Bandipura.
A Doubtful sighting of Silver-backed Needletail-Swift Hirundapus cochinchinensis at Malleswara Gudda is included in the list. Large Cuckoo-shrike Coracina macei, Black-headed Oriole Oriolus xanthornus, Malabar Lark Galerida malabarica and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Merops leschenaultia seldom move into bordering plains. Black Eagle Ictinaetus malayensis have been sighted several times in all seasons at different locations like Varakodu RF, Chamundi RF, Bettadabeedu & Malleswara Gudda. White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster, a coastal resident of peninsular India was once recorded in Maddur Lake on 23/1/2000 during Mid-winter Waterfowl census (Thejaswi 2004f). Gray-fronted Green-Pigeon Treron affinis sighting at Narasambudhi tank near Nanjanagudu, far away from known habitat in mid-summer has been recorded. This can be co-related with Green Pigeons visiting the swamps in hot weather mentioned by Phythian-Adams (1943) & Frend (1947).
Species chanced upon once or stayed for one complete season are listed here. Table provides observation detail. Totally 23 species have been recorded. Many of them might turn into rare or common visitors if birders frequent all type of habitats. A few species like Thick-billed Green-Pigeon Treron curvirostra, and Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel have been recorded beyond their natural habitat as escapees or storm-throwns and may not re-occur again. Beyond their known distribution, Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus at Kukkarahalli tank is recorded (Sapthagirish 2013). Winter migrant to coastal region, Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspie has appeared in inland waters. A smaller flock of European Starling Sterna vulgaris has appeared in the limit of Kukkarahalli where winter migrants and local birds roost. The other confirmed record of European Starling is from neighboring Bengaluru (Ghorpade 1974).Fig: Thick billed Warbler by Michaelsen T Presence of these 12 species noted in 1940’s (Ali & Whistler, 1942-43; Phythian-Adams, 1940)) have not been recorded during the study period. Table provides observation detail. Forest stretches that were contiguous and healthy have disappeared or drastically reduced driving Blue-bearded Bee-eater Nyctyornis athertoni, Spotted Babbler Pellorneum ruficeps, Red Spurfowl Galloperdix spadicea, Orange-breasted Green-Pigeon Treron bicincta, to restrict their movement within the available habitat. Similarly, very vast grass lands disappeared in order to support growing population causing Painted Sandgrouse Pterocles indicus & Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus, Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps, Lesser Floricon Sypheotides indica to fade away. Swinhoe's Snipe Gallinago megala & Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris, and White-eye Pochard Aythya nyroca are rare winter visitors, rendezvous of bird and birder might have not have taken place. Surprisingly four time visitor Tufted Pochard Aythya fuligula has not been met with since then and this calls for further investigation, what causes their movement restricted to central India.
Gadgil and Ali (1975) reported 59 species of common Indian birds involved in forming communal roosts. 21 species participation in communal roost is recorded here (Shivaprakash 2001). In winter, Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus, Blue-tailed Merops philippinus and Small Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis roosts in thick vegetation of Lingambudhi tank. Small Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis is already listed as a bird taking part in communal roosting.
Fig: Heronry in Tippur
Development of Jungle Crow’s intelligence is recorded by Deapesh (2006). Certain behavioral and foraging observations are documented on Rosy Starling Sturnus roseus (Thejaswi 2001 & 2002), Crakes Porzana spp (Thejaswai 2002), Baya Weaver-bird Ploceus philippinus & Rosy Starlings Sturnus roseus (Shivanand & Kumar 2004a & 2004b), Purple Sunbird (Shivaprakash 2002). And a report of breakaway heronry forced to breed and roost in small colonies depending on advancement of monsoon is reported (Chakravarthy 2004). Albino Common Swallow Hirundo rustica was recorded in Giribettada kere (Shivaprakash et al. 2006). Heronries have been recorded in the middle of human habitat at Devalapura, Tippur, Kommeralli, Thonnur junction and at tank margin in Markalu, Kaggalipura & Hadinaru, in addition to well known IBAs like Kokkare Bellur, Karanji and Kukkarahalli.
Based on conservation priority, 37 sites are identified as Important Bird Areas (Islam & Rahmani 2005) in Karnataka. Twelve among them are located in Mysuru area. They are – Kukkarahalli, Lingambudhi, Karanji, Narasambudhi, Kunthur-Kalluru, Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS), Sulekere, Adi-chunchanagiri, Arabithittu Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS), Melkote WLS, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary (BS) & Kokkare Bellur BS. Among them Ranganathittu, Sulekere lake, Krishnaraja sagar Reservoir & Kokkare Bellur in Mandya district; Karanji, Kukkarahalli Tank, Lingambudhi Lake, Narasambudhi in Mysuru district & Kunthur-Kallur in Chamaraja nagar district have been listed as potential Ramsar sites (Islam & Rahmani 2008).
The large islands of Devaraja, Ranganathittu and Gandehosahalli as well as a number of smaller islands in the Cauvery River were constituted as Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuaries in 1940. Salim Ali influenced the Mysuru rulers to establish Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary at Palahally islands near Srirangapattana after successful Mysuru State Bird Survey (1939-40). Activity and status of Sanctuary is well illustrated over time and again by Spillett (1968), Neginhal (1980, 1982, 1993), Subramanya et al (1991), and Thejaswi (2000). Resident Greater Grey-headed Fish-Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus and a rare Lesser Fish-Eagle Ichthyophaga humilis has been recorded here and also on river stretches with lofty trees on shores (Vinay 2008 & Das 2008). Pelagic specialist, Lesser Frigate Bird Fregata arie was reported here once (Huilgol 2007).
Out of 79 bird species endemic to India (Rasmussen and Anderton, 2012), 38 are found in Karnataka. Present report contains 12 endemics in Mysuru region. Among them, nine are residents -Rock Bush-quail Perdicula argoondah, Painted Spurfowl Galloperdix lunulata, Grey Junglefowl Gallus sonneratii, Mottled Wood-owl Strix ocellata, White-cheeked Barbet Megalaima viridis, Malabar Lark Galerida malabarica, Sykes’s Lark Galerida deva, Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus, White-naped Tit Parus nuchali, two are passage migrants -Grey-fronted Green- Pigeon Treron affinis & Small Sunbird Leptocoma minima, and one winter migrant -Malabar Whistling-thrush Myiophonus horsfieldii. Two endemic species out of 12 recorded in Mysuru region - Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus and White-naped Tit Parus nuchali are categorized as Vulnerable since facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.
Overall 12 species recorded in Mysuru region are considered threatened out of 82 threatened birds in India (BirdLife International, 2015). In the first category, highest order of threat - Critically Endangered, 3 out of 16 listed in India are resident Vultures: White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Indian Vulture Gyps indicus, and Red-headed Vulture Aegypius calvus. In the second order of threat - Endangered, 2 out of 16 listed in India are Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus and Black-bellied Tern Sterna acuticauda, both residents. In the last category, Vulnerable, 7 out of 50 listed in India, two are restricted range endemics (Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus and disjunct species White-naped Tit Parus nuchalis), two Spotted Eagles (one is resident, Indian Spotted Eagle Aquila hastata and the other regular winter migrant, Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga) and three have been recorded just once (Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, Bristled Grassbird Chaetornis striatus, Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca). Main cause of vulture population eradication is veterinary drug diclofenac’s effect and non-availability of carcass. Drastic change in crop pattern, people living standard; fragmentation, degradation and loss of habitat; and pollution are the major reasons for decline of other bird species. Birds with special habitat preferences and on the fringes of their geographical distribution have been noted to be particularly susceptible to exinction. In present case susceptible are -two restricted range endemics Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus and White-naped Tit Parus nuchalis which are under severe threat.
Erstwhile Mysuru State bird survey was conducted during 06/11/1939 - 25/2/1940 by Ali & Whistler (1942-43). Present study region was part of this survey and was studied during 15/11/1939 – 18/12/1939. During the survey, Ali & Whistler recorded 223 species from 11 locations that spread over three districts of Mysuru area (present study area), and were grouped as common/uncommon/regular depending on their presence However, Totally 346 species have been recorded from 62 locations from entire erstwhile Mysuru State covering evergreen, moist & deciduous biotope. The reason for observation of more bird species- current record of 361 against 223 species of 1940s – is best explained by Ali’s quote (Vol.43, page 131) ‘the studies over a long period covering all the seasons would yield fuller information than the one short seasonal survey’.
Salim Ali’s observations of White Ibises are less common than Black Ibises is now reversed. Absence of White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis in Mysuru State bird survey is conspicuous; which is now a common bird. It is still true that most of the time winter migrants, Garganeys Querquedula querquedula are always out-numbered Northern Pintail Anas acuta and Cotton Teals Nettapus coromandelianus. The statement like ‘not able to identify the Wooly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus breeding locations’, is now resorted . Vijayalaxmi Rao (2010) recorded unsuccessful breeding of this Stork from Nanjanagudu for the first time and later in 2013, same pair successfully raised the brood.
Related to Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps, an erroneous ‘Nelamangalam’ (near Bangalore) has appeared instead of Nagamangala in the paper described as, ‘One was shot by Mr. Van Ingen near Nelamangalam (40 miles distant from Mysuru City) in early January 1940. The male Bustard collected by Van Ingen, is now displayed at Regional Museaum of Natural History, Mysuru.
Phythian-Adam’s (1940) observations made during 1925 to 1939, within a radius of 40 miles from the Mysuru covering all the tanks and ground is considered more appropriate to compare with recent data. Mentioned as uncommon and strictly local, the Painted Sandgrouse Pterocles indicus and the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus is now not met with. Great Bittern Bataurus stellaris, and Lesser Floricon Sypheotides inidca that was chanced upon once is also not recorded in recent years. There are just three sightings from two locations of Painted Spurfowl Galloperdix lunulata, since then. Tufted Pochard Aythya fuligla, Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago megala are altogether missing now. Congregation of Demoiselle Cranes Grus virgo in 1000s at Kapila river near Nanjanagudu, Yelandur Tanks, and at confluence of River Kapila, Cauvery at T.Narasipura was a common feature during winter; and were flying over Mysuru city regularly is a mirage now. In recent years few individual Demoiselle Cranes were recorded twice at Maddur kere (Yelandur), Kallur (2014) and KRS backwaters (Shivaprakash 2002a). Sighting record of Large Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna bicolor and Gadwall Anas strepera (Buxton 1944) is presently same as in 1940s, just once.
In order to save Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigricepsin, a rare bird in all parts of its habitat at that period, from extinction Phythian-Adams suggested vehemently for complete protection both from professional snares and sportsmen after three rendezvous with Bustards. Stoney (1942) has also reported sighting of Bustard from Gundlupet on 30/11/1941. After over half a century, Karanth (1986) mentioned Yediyur & Bukkapatna (Tumkur), Jakkanahlli-Nagamangala (Mandya) and Dasanakoppal (Mysuru) as probable Bustard habitats. In the beginning of 1987 a trapper approached Mysuru Zoo with a male Great Indian Bustard that was used to pair with a female in Zoo for breeding but didn’t succeed (Krishnegowda 1987). The source of Bustard is said to be from Yediyur region, Tumkur Dt. These probable Bustard habitats mentioned by Phythian-Adams (1940) & Karanth (1986) were investigated thoroughly for remnants. Over and above the suggested locations, Potential habitats like Melkote-Nagamangala-Halathi-Tattahalli expanses, Santhemaralli-Kavalande, Vadgal plains and Grasslands all around the Mysuru city were surveyed in detail, but in vain.
Unprecedented loss of bio-diversity caused by rapid deforestation, exploitation of natural resources all over world is well known. Thus, current situation demands for more close and careful evaluation of this habitat. Present report provides data on bird status and diversity of Mysuru region, and compares with reported sightings since 1879 depicting the drastic change in local habitat. In addition to rich diversity of local species, the region hosts good numbers of migration species being part of Central-Asian flyway. Long term monitoring of bird populations is essential since many species are declining in numbers and some are showing up suddenly, so such data would be useful for monitoring, protection and conservation of Mysuru area environ.
I am very grateful to Sadananda KB (late), Guruprasad P, Vijayalaxmi Rao, Thejaswi S, Sampathkumar K, Sheshgiri BR, Deapesh Misra, Girija T, Mohan Kumar M, Kishen Das KR, Tanuja DH, and Sahana M for invaluable assistance during field visits spread out in three districts over two decades; and to Michaelsen T for providing valuable first hand information and sighting records specially on Cuckoos, Warblers and Larks. I am also most grateful to Kulashekar CS, Vishwanath MK, Das S, Vinay S, Ravinarayan CS, Ajit Huilgol, Raju Ak, Sadath Ali, Abhijith APC, Ravishankar GS and many other listed below; Manu K of Mysore Amateur Naturalists, Pravin of Zoo Print's Journal, the web groups- bngbirds, southasiaornith, indianaturewatch and eBird whose input enriched the present report. Sheshgiri BR made useful comments for which I am most grateful.
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