CHENNAI: Bird watchers in Chennai were in for a big surprise when they sighted a bar-headed goose at Pallikaranai marshland a fortnight ago. This is the first time that the bar-headed goose’s presence is recorded here, say the Chennai birders.
Founder of the Nature Trust K V R K Thirunaranan, who has been monitoring the movement of migratory birds at Pallikaranai in the past decade, said when the lone bar-headed goose was sighted at Pallikaranai, it was a total surprise for the birders in Chennai. In Tamil Nadu, this duck species come in large numbers only in Koonthankulam bird’s sanctuary in Tirunelveli district where more than 5,000 bar-headed geese used to arrive and spend their winter in the sanctuary. In other sanctuaries in TN, they come only in small numbers, he said.
Bombay Natural History Society deputy director and ornithologist S Balachandran, tracking these ducks’ movement, said a few years ago, when avian influenza threatened the globe, it was suspected that the bar-headed geese are the carriers of the avian influenza virus. To understand this, his team fitted Platform Transmitter Terminals in 10 bar headed geese that arrived in Koonthakulam. The data was received from the transmitters for two years, which helped in tracking the movement of the duck species, he said.
This is the largest duck species, which can fly at 27,000 feet. They normally migrate to the Indian subcontinent from Mongolia, China and Kyrgyzstan, flying several thousand kilometres to reach TN.
At present, the birders in Chennai recorded 193 species of birds at the marshland and they have come to spend their winter here. Of this, six species of ducks are also included. They are northern pintail, Northern shoveler, Gargeney, common teal, Eurasian wigeon and gadwall.