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Birds of Mysore Area

A comparison and comprehensive study

                                                                                                                               Fig: Isolated hills amid plains

Introduction:

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 reports since 1879. Different types of habitats spread over study area were examined 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 Mysore, Mandya and Chamarajanagar. Biodiversity-rich forest reserves like Nagarhole and Bandipur National Parks; Nugu, Biligiri Rangaswamy, and Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuaries situated on the west- southeast boundary is excluded as their ecosystem are entirely different.

Previous explorations:

Sanderson (1879) briefly made a remark on the avifauna of the Mysuru area. Extensive Mysuru Bird-survey conducted by Ali (Ali & Whistler, 1942-43) during one winter (Nov 1939 to Feb 1940) spread over four months is very exhaustive, and the report is elaborate. Ali infers that other than the article of Phythian-Adams (1940 &1948), no literature is available extensively on birds from the present study area. Sanderson apparently deals a few memoirs (1879), Davison (1883), Betts (1929) and Buxton (1944). Phythian-Adams accounted species worth ‘game hunting’ elaborately in Mysore and Chamarajanagar districts. There exists a wide gap of 75 years after Ali’s study, particular to the present study area. Since the time of old Mysore region survey conducted by Salim Ali, a resurvey has not materialized. A Few individual bird reports associated with present study area are Karanth (1986), Thejaswi et al. (2000, 2000m), Misra et al. (2007), and Guruprasad et al. (2007).

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 generous input references related to the present report.

The three districts studied- Mysore, Mandya & Chamarajanagar borders with biodiversity-rich Nagarhole and Bandipur National Parks; Nugu, Biligiri Rangaswamy, and Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuaries. These 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).


Location and vegetation characteristics:         

The location of study area lies between 11°30’and 13° 04’ North Latitude and 75° 45’ and 77°45’ East Longitude. Situated in southern Karnataka comprising Mysore, Mandya and Chamarajanagar districts spread over 16,916 Sq. Km with a population of 80 Lakh (2009). The study area is located in the 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 the end of May, and then southwest monsoon season starts till the September end. October and November are retreating monsoon season. December to February is the dry season with the clear bright weather. The rainfall occurs from April to November and October is the wettest month. The area has the record of receiving on an average of 761.9 mm (Mysuru & Chamarajanagar) and 691.2 mm (Mandya) rainfall during last century (Anon, 1988 & 2003).

Mysuru area is 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 using canals. Mysuru area situated in the angle where the Eastern and Western Ghat ranges converge into the Nilgiri hills. The cultivated area includes rainfed, irrigated, plantations and hedges. Wetlands are present in the form of various sized Tanks (1757 nos), Anicuts (22nos; Madhvamanthri, Chunchanakatte, Mahadevapura, Chikkadevaraya, Chandagalu, and others), Reservoirs (Krishnaraja Sagara, Kabini Dam, Nugu, Markonahalli, Taraka, Gundal). Also, the rivers (Kaveri, Hemavathi, Kapila, Shimsha, Lakhmanathirtha, Suvarnavathi, Nugu, Lokapavani) are spread unevenly in the entire area.

The vegetation found here is 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. The remnant 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 wealthy and diverse with 1601 species of flowering plants belonging to 170 families and 778 genera (Rao & Razi 1981).









Fig: Transformed Grassland                                                Fig: River Kaveri valley bordering Mandya district


                                                                           Fig: Konannur habitat

Observation pattern: 

The 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 the mixed combination of above. Besides, authenticated sighting records and data published elsewhere, related to present study area is incorporated.

Visited following reserved forests regularly in addition to lesser known for avifaunal study. They are -Adichunchanagiri, Arabithittu, Halathi, Aloka palace, 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, and Varakodu. Regularly visited 220 Lakes & Tanks, 12 Anicuts, Krishnarajasagar & Kabini dams, Riverine locations during Midwinter waterfowl census and other times as well. Also, visited mono-cultured plantations, botanical Parks, gardens, fallow lands, farm lands, hedges, and zoological garden for the study. Repetitive visits were made to locations from least to rich diversity.

Transects were regularly visited on all the seasons on an average 150 visits of 3 hours minimum, annually. Observations were made using binoculars, spotting scope, camera and call recording equipment. Birds identified with the help of Ali & Ripley (1987), Grimmett (1998), Krys (2000), Rasmussen (2012) and in some cases web groups -‘bngbirds’ and 'oriental bird club'.

Results and discussion:

Totally recorded 372 bird species including 195 Residents, 117 winter visitors, 26 Passage migrants, and 34 Vagrants. 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. The present report of 372 species has an additional 42 birds compared to the earlier report of 2010, may be due to the increase in birders and their involvement in monitoring, visiting far off places and adding new birding locations.

 

Table 1: Status of Mysuru area birds

 

Very Common

Common

Uncommon

Rare

Very Rare

No. of species

Resident Birds

57

37

49

24

28

195

Winter Migrants

15

18

35

13

36

117

Passage Migrants

00

00

04

03

19

 26

Vagrants

 

 

 

 

 

 34

Total Birds species

 

 

 

 

 

372


Residents: 

195 species of birds listed are Residents. Endemic Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus (Thejaswi 2004i) recorded at Arasanakatte state Forest, Bettadapura hill, Chamundi Hill, Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, and Halathi 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, Adichunchanagiri 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 at Kokkarebellur & Karanji is conspicuous. The disappearance of trees supporting Pelicans’ breeding due to embankment dilution in constructed islands of Karanji tank kept away the colony from 2011-2012. Lingambudhi tank used to attract a 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 their strength reached the 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, others.

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. The 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 recorded for the first time 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. The success rate of breeding is 87%. Raised single fledgling in each brood except in 2010 with two. A Totally three pairs are breeding in the study area. Nesting of Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus at four different locations and Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax at five locations. 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.

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/Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis. Quaker Tit-Babbler Alcippe poioicephala was met just once in Bettadabeedu forests on 22/8/2010. Recorded endemic Painted Spurfowl Galloperdix lunulata in the 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, once in Yadavanne, Tumkur Dt on 10/3/2007 bordering Mandya Dt and at Narasambudhi by Syed Muzamil, Syed Ateeq regularly from January to March 2016.










Fig:  Indian Spotted Eagle Juvenile                                                              Fig: Painted Spurfowl 














            Fig:  Small Pratincoles gallery                                             Fig: Yellow-legged Button quail by Michaelsen T


Indian White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis and Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus have disappeared from the region. There are very few flock sightings of Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus. They were sighted near Chamundi Hill (66 nos in Nov 2014, waste dump), a dump of dead chickens near poultry farms on the outskirts of Mysore 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 the sun. Emerging threat at Mysuru City for these birds have been reported (Samson et al. 2014).

Finding Quails is tough and identification still difficult. The presence of Common Button-Quail Turnix suscitator & Jungle Bush-Quail Perdicula asiatica has 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). The 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, in the least disturbed locations like Rayasamudra (Mandya Dt), KRS backwaters (Mysuru –Mandya Dt), and Muthurayanakere (bordering Tumkur Dt) breeding is recorded. Recorded a large congregation of 1300+ Small Pratincoles on exposed mud-bar at KRS backwaters on 02/01/2011.

Shaheen Falcon Falco peregrinus peregrinator is sporadically distributed in cliffs of rocky hills and reported from plains during foraging sorties. Inconsistently recorded Yellow-throated Sparrows Gymnoris xanthocollis over the entire study area. Winter population adds up with resident species increasing their strength many folds. Those are 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. Comb Ducks have been sighted only thrice during non-winter in flight. The 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 did not yield any positive result. The Kallur tank on 21/02/2010 hosted the single largest congregation of 91 Comb Ducks.

During non-winter, population wise 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. However, in winter, the 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, Mysore district described the then avifauna as “Junglefowl, 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 primarily. Other than the sighting of Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelicus at Hirikere, Chamarajanagara by Siddaramaiah & Jayadeva (1992) and an incubating bird in Mysuru region reported by Ravishankar and also by Sashidhara respectively in 2013 & 2016. Bustard, Florican, Sandgrouse and Flamingos did not reoccur in that last two decades. However, Rajesh reported a Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (2016) from an undisclosed location.

All the three species of Bushlarks -Jerdon's Mirafra affinis, Indian M. erythroptera & Singing M. cantillans, have been registered at 3-4 locations in Mysuru City suburbs and one particular place is photographically documented by Mike (2010). A study on how these three Bushlarks are sharing a common habitat would be an exciting and challenging. In immediate surroundings of Mysuru region (beyond present report), photographically recorded Brown-headed barbets Megalaima zeylanica presence thrice. Though doubtful, sightings of this bird exist for Mysuru region, is not included in the checklist.

Winter Migrants:

List of regular winter visitors is impressive with 117 species. Mysuru area being part of central-Asian Flyway hosts many migratory birds in large numbers. Mid-winter waterfowl census conducted by individuals and an NGO, Mysore Amateur Naturalists since 1986 proved the presence of many migratory species in large numbers. In addition to the birds and habitats data, census generates a new breed of birders as it acts as a capacity building exercise.

Migratory birds fly vast distances in north – south axis from arctic and temperate regions where they reproduce to foraging 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 the 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 arrive from West Palaearctic from the western boundary of the 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 northwest during early winter, before moving southeast to the east coast of India (Balachandran, 2006). After winter they move to north along the eastern seaboard. More than 300 species use the Central Asian Flyway. 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 a common winter visitor (Thejaswi 2004c). The congregation of Rosy Starlings Pastor roseus fluctuates depending on the success of monsoon in northern India (Thejaswi 2001); failure of monsoon in the north of India drives the 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 Rosefinches Erythrina erythrina features in ripening 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 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 the large expanse of grassland and its avifauna existed.

Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea regularly visits 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 observed (Thejaswi 2002) in the periphery of reed covered tanks.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus collared in Mongolia provides substantial 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); In a single flock contained as many as 996 Geese (Feb 2011). So far 36 Collared Geese have been sighted in Mysuru region.



Table 2: Collared Bar-headed Goose sighting details

Sl No

Month & Year of sighting

Collar no.

Observer

Sl No

Month & Year of sighting

Collar no.

Observer

1

Dec 2007

E6

NM

13

Feb 2014

D9, F09, K63, K85, P6, P7, Y39 & Y72

VKS

2

Jan 2009

C7

MS, TG, KRKD, PK, MKM, KM & ASP

14

Jan 2015

K43, Y 54, PS

MKV

3

Jan 2010

D9, T6, JU & H38

CSK

15

Jan 2015

Y2

KB

4

Feb 2011

SF, 99 & 97

MKM, RK, NVR, ASP & TG

16

Feb 2015

UF, E7, A31

-PG

5

Feb 2011

xx

BRS & CSS

17

Feb 2015

F 58, RF

DC

6

Feb 2012

97

BRS, SA & KB

18

Feb 2015

K81

JSK

7

Nov 2012

xx

VLR & MS

19

Feb 2015

D9

DPM

8

Dec 2012

K83 & K87

BRS

20

Feb 2015

K81

AHR

9

Dec 2013

Y 29

MKV

21

Mar 2015

E07, P07 & P06

VLR

10

Jan 2014

Y29 & K14

MKV

 22

Dec 2015 

E7

MKV 

11

Jan 2014

Y24

ARS

 23

Dec 2015 

PD 

VLR, RH 

12

Feb 2014

D9, PO6 & PO7  

SMK

 24

Dec 2015 

Collar No. unclear 

VLR, RH


One pair of Indian Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus [stentoreus] brunnescens, attempted to breed in reeds of Lingambudhi tank during monsoon a decade back, gradually their activity increased considerably; otherwise, they were treated as a winter visitor to reed beds. Recently, the congregation of 250 and odd European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster is reported by Subramanya (2012) near Kollegal. The presence of regular winter migrants -Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus & Whiskered Terns Chlidonias hybrid seems to be a recent trend, during Salim Ali’s survey (1943) these were not recorded. 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 reported Tickell’s Thrush Turdus unicolor 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).

Population wise migratory Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, Rosy Starling Pastor roseus, Garganey Querquedula querquedula, Northern Shoveller Spatula clypeata, and Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus dominate the region.


                                             Fig: Solitary Greylag amidst Bar-headed geese


Passage migrants:

The list contains 26 Passage migrants. During rainy days, a few Indian Hanging-Parrots Loriculus vernalis reaches woodlands close to Nagarahole and Bandipura forests; they have even reached up to Lingambudhi tank, Mysore City. A few Plum-headed Parakeets Psittacula cyanocephala have penetrated deep into the Mysuru city outskirts during the rainy season. Brown-throated Needletail Hirundapus giganteus, Indian White-rumped Spinetail Zoonavena sylvatica, Crested Tree-Swift Hemiprocne coronate and Indian Swiftlet Aerodramus unicolor are common 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.

The checklist contains a possible sighting of Silver-backed Needletail-Swift Hirundapus cochinchinensis at Malleswara Gudda. 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. There is a record of White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster, a peninsular coastal resident in Maddur Lake on 23/1/2000 during Mid-winter Waterfowl census (Thejaswi 2004f). Recorded Gray-fronted Green-Pigeon Treron affinis at Narasambudhi tank, far away from known habitat in mid-summer. Phythian-Adams (1943) & Frend (1947) reported similar activity, Green Pigeons visiting the swamps in hot weather.

Vagrants:

Species chanced upon once or stayed for one complete season are listed here. The table provides observation detail. Totally 34 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-thrown and may not re-occur again. Beyond their known distribution, Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus at Kukkarahalli tank is sighted (Sapthagirish 2013). Winter migrant to the coastal region, Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspie has appeared in inland waters. Observed a smaller flock of European Starling Sterna vulgaris in Kukkarahalli along with other winter migrants and local birds visits regularly. The other confirmed record of European Starling is from neighboring Bengaluru (Ghorpade 1974).

 

                                                            Fig: Thick-billed Warbler by Michaelsen T

Conspicuously absent:

The presence of these 12 species noted in 1940’s (Ali & Whistler, 1942-43; Phythian-Adams, 1940)) have not been recorded during the study period. The 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 grasslands disappeared to support growing population causing Painted Sandgrouse Pterocles indicus & Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus (just a single sighting in 2016), Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps, Lesser Florican 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 not have taken place. Surprisingly four-time visitor Tufted Pochard Aythya fuligula is absent since then, and this calls for further investigation, what causes their movement restricted mostly to central India.

Roosting and behavioral observation: 

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 spend nights in a flock under thick vegetation of Lingambudhi tank.

                                                              Fig: Heronry in Tippur

Development of Jungle Crow’s intelligence is recorded by Deapesh (2006). Documented few individual behavioral and foraging observations 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). Moreover, Chakravarthy (2004) reported a breakaway heronry forced to breed and roost in small colonies depending on the advancement of monsoon. Albino Common Swallow Hirundo rustica was recorded in Giribettada kere (Shivaprakash et al. 2006). In the middle of human habitat at Devalapura, Tippur, Kommeralli, Thonnur junction and at tank margin in Markalu, Kaggalipura & Hadinaru, Heronries exists. These are in addition to well-known IBAs like Kokkare Bellur, Karanji, and Kukkarahalli.

More productive bird locations:

Identified 37 sites as Important Bird Areas (Islam & Rahmani 2005) in Karnataka, based on conservation priority. Mysore area hosts twelve among them. Kukkarahalli, Lingambudhi, Karanji, Narasambudhi, Arabithittu Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) are in Mysore District. Sulekere, Adi-chunchanagiri, Melkote WLS, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary (BS) & Kokkare Bellur BS are in Mandya District. Kunthur-Kallur is in Chamarajanagar District. One IBA, Krishnaraja Sagar Reservoir is spread in both the two districts, Mysore & Mandya. Considered following IBAs as potential Ramsar sites (Islam & Rahmani 2008) -Ranganathittu, Sulekere lake, Krishnaraja Sagar Reservoir, Kokkare Bellur, Karanji, Kukkarahalli Tank, Lingambudhi Lake, Narasambudhi & Kunthur-Kallur.

Constituted Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary (1940), clubbing the large islands of Devaraja, Ranganathittu, and Gandehosahalli, as well as some smaller islands in the Cauvery River. Salim Ali influenced the Mysuru rulers to establish Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary at Palahally islands near Srirangapattana after successful Mysuru State Bird Survey (1939-40). Spillett (1968), Neginhal (1980, 1982, 1993), Subramanya et al. (1991), and Thejaswi (2000) have well illustrated the activity and status of Sanctuary. 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).
Endemic species:

Karnataka state has 38 out of 79 bird species endemic to India (Rasmussen and Anderton, 2012). The 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 considered Vulnerable since facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Threatened species:

Overall 12 species recorded in Mysuru region are considered threatened out of 82 threatened birds in India (BirdLife International, 2015). In the first category, the 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. 7 out of 50 listed in India under category- Vulnerable. Among them, 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). Moreover, three have been recorded just once (Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, Bristled Grassbird Chaetornis striatus, Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca). The prime cause of vulture population eradication is veterinary drug diclofenac’s effect and non-availability of the carcass. Drastic change in crop pattern, people living standard; fragmentation, degradation and loss of habitat; and pollution are the primary reasons for the decline of other bird species. Birds with unique habitat preferences and on the fringes of their geographical distribution have been noted to be particularly susceptible to extinction. In the present case, susceptible are -two restricted-range endemics Yellow-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus xantholaemus and White-naped Tit Parus nuchalis which is under severe threat. 

Comparison with Salim Ali’s observations:

Erstwhile Mysore State bird survey was conducted during 06/11/1939 - 25/2/1940 by Ali & Whistler (1942-43). Present study region was part of the investigation during 15/11/1939 – 18/12/1939. During the survey, Ali & Whistler recorded 223 species from 11 locations that spread over three districts of Mysore area (present study area). Birds recorded were grouped as common/uncommon/regular depending on their presence. Totally recorded, 346 species from 62 locations from entire erstwhile Mysore State covering evergreen, moist & deciduous biotope. The reason for observation of more bird species- the current record of 372 against 223 species of the 1940s – is best explained by Ali’s quote (Vol.43, page 131) ‘the studies over an extended period covering all the seasons would yield fuller information than the one short seasonal survey.' 

Present study proved White Ibises density is more compared to Black Ibises, this is in contraction to the report of Salim Ali’s observations, may be due to change in land use pattern, irrigation succeeding rain-dependent agriculture. The 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 resolved by Vijayalaxmi Rao (2010) recording successful breeding over the years from Nanjanagudu.

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 Museum of Natural History, Mysuru.

Comparison with Phythian-Adams observations:

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 seen. Only once recorded Great Bittern Bataurus stellaris and Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica is also not resighted 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. The congregation of Demoiselle Cranes Grus virgo in 1000s at Kapila river near Nanjanagudu, Yelandur Tanks, and at the 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 the 1940s, just once.

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 a 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. At 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 presumed Bustard habitats mentioned by Phythian-Adams (1940) & Karanth (1986) were investigated thoroughly for remnants. Over and above surveyed in detail the suggested locations, Potential habitats like Melkote-Nagamangala-Halathi-Tattahalli expanses, Santhemaralli-Kavalande, Vadgal plains and Grasslands all around the Mysuru City, but in vain.

Conclusion:

Unprecedented loss of biodiversity caused by rapid deforestation, exploitation of natural resources all over the world is well known. Thus, current situation demands more close and careful evaluation of this habitat. The present report provides data on bird status and diversity of Mysuru area and compares with reported sightings since 1879 depicting the drastic change in local habitat. In addition to the rich diversity of local species, the region hosts good numbers of migration species being part of the 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.

Acknowledgement:

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. Moreover, to Michaelsen T for providing valuable first-hand information and sighting records especially 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 for their photographic documentation. Special thanks to Manu K of Mysore Amateur Naturalists, Pravin of Zoo Print's Journal, the web groups- bngbirds, southasiaornith, India nature watch and eBird whose input enriched the present report. Sheshgiri BR made useful comments for which I am most grateful. 

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