Around 95,000 waterfowl roosting in Himachal’s Pong Dam: census

By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

Pong Dam (Himachal Pradesh) : Around 95,000 birds, both migratory and local, are roosting and feeding in the Pong Dam area in Himachal Pradesh these days, according to a census.

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Nestled in the sylvan surroundings of the snow-capped majestic Dhauladhars, the Pong wetlands have the distinction of being one of the important winter grounds for local and migratory species from China and even far-off countries like Russia and Poland.

According to the census of waterfowl species (birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding) conducted by the state Forest Department from Jan 30 to Feb 1, around 95,000 birds of 89 species are ‘on holiday’ in areas along the Pong Dam.

“During the three-day dawn-to-dusk exercise, around 95,000 waterfowl were recorded,” Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) S.K. Guleria told IANS Monday, adding they included the bar-headed geese, coots, common pochard, red-crested pochard, great cormorant, northern pintail, river tern and the spotbill duck.

Guleria said 23 teams, comprising staff of the forest department, the Wildlife Institute of India, the Zoological Survey of India and the Kangra Bird Club, were involved in the census.

“Like previous years, this time too the largest influx is of the bar-headed geese,” he said.

As per the census, around 23,000 bar-headed geese were recorded, followed by the northern pintail (15,000), the coot (14,000), the great cormorant (8,000), the common pochard (8,000) and the common teal (5,000).

However, Guleria said the numbers of the bar-headed geese had declined compared to the previous year record of 28,160.

“The arrival of the bar-headed geese is less this time. It may be due to decline in marshy areas along the reservoir or due to less harsh winter,” he said.

However, this time five local migratory species were recorded for the first time. These are the Nordmann’s greenshank, the pied avocet, the spoonbill, the jacana and the greater scaup.

“Five local migratory species have been recorded for the first time in the Pong area since the beginning of the annual census in 1999,” said range officer (Pong wetlands) D.S. Dadwal.

The influx of these birds can be seen at Nagrota Suriyan, Sathana, Sansarpur Terrace, and Rancer island site areas, he said.

Forest Minister J.P. Nadda said the government would improve the habitat of the area as it is an important site of biodiversity.

Himachal Pradesh is known as a storehouse of biodiversity, with its lush green valleys hosting 36 percent of India’s bird species.

Of the 1,228 species of birds that have been reported in India, 447 have been recorded in the hill state alone by the Himachal State Council for Science, Technology and Environment in its biodiversity report.