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Over 110,000 feathered guests of 107 species were recorded in a census in Himachal Pradesh's Pong Dam wetlands, officials said on Friday. Among them the bar-headed goose, the common coot and the northern pintails are the prominent species.
During the two-day census of waterfowl species -- birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding -- that concluded two days back, 110,203 birds were spotted in the Pong Dam wetlands, one of the biggest man-made wetlands in northern India, Divisional Forest Officer Krishan Kumar, who was associated with the census, told IANS.
The common shelduck (22), sarus crane (eight), osprey (seven), black-bellied tern (two) and the greater white-fronted goose (73), which are rarely observed in Indian wetlands have also been recorded at the Pong wetlands, he said.
The other noticeable species were the great crested grebe, greylag goose, red crested pochard, ferruginous pochard, common merganser, Eurasian spoonbill, greater white fronted goose, garganey, water pipits and the gull billed pipits.
In the last census conducted at the Pong wetlands in the last week of January last year, around 127,200 waterfowls from 93 species were recorded. Among them, greater flamingoes, a common migratory species in India's coastal areas, were recorded for the first time there.
Ornithologists attribute the decline in arrival of birds to one of the largest man-made wetlands in the foothills of the Himalayas in the picturesque Kangra Valley in northern India and to milder winter in the trans-Himalayas.
The influx of waterfowl in the Pong wetlands every winter is normally over the 120,000-mark.
Even the count of the bar-headed geese, regular and prominent winter visitors in the Pong Dam wetlands spread over 307 square km, has declined majorly this winter.
This year their number is 38,530, whereas 52,530 bar-headed geese, the world's highest-altitude migrant, were recorded in 2017. A staggering 71,800 bar-headed geese were recorded in 2015.
Flying thousands of kilometres from their native habitat in high-altitude lakes in Central Asia to avoid the extreme winter chill, the elegant shaped bar-headed geese, an endangered migratory bird species, regularly descend on India.
The Pong Dam wetlands have been emerging as their preferred wintering ground.
Listed under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the global population of the bar-headed geese is believed to be around 130,000, wildlife experts say.
The bar-headed geese can be spotted in marshy areas along the reservoir like Nagrota Suriyan, Nandpur Batoli, Chatta, Jambal and the Rancer island, say wildlife officials.
The Pong wetlands, some 250 km from Himachal Pradesh's capital, Shimla, and 190 km from Chandigarh, are home to many native birds like the red jungle fowl, large Indian parakeet, Indian cuckoo, bank mynah, wood shrike, yellow-eyed babbler, black ibis, paradise flycatcher, crested lark and the crested bunting.
A total of 423 species of birds, 18 species of snakes, 90 species of butterflies, 24 species of mammals and 27 species of fish have so far been recorded in the Pong Dam wildlife sanctuary.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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