Greater Flamingo in Najafgarh, Delhi

Fizala Tayebulla

On 22 June 2018, the CUES team visited Najafgarh jheel and marshland in the wee hours of the day to record the sighting of Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) flocks that have started to migrate here, skipping traditional stop-overs: Okhla and Sultanpur Bird sanctuary. The Greater Flamingo is a resident of West Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean regions, Southwest and South Asia (especially Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the coastal belt of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Odisha in India). In India, it migrates to Maharashtra (Sewri Mudflats, Bhigwan), Gujarat (Thol Lake, Flamingo city, Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary, Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary),  Rajasthan (Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Jawai Dam), NCR-Delhi (Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, Najafgarh jheel and marshland), Andhra Pradesh (Pulicat Bird Sanctuary), Odhisa (Chilka Lake), Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh (Chambal) and east India. However, Greater Flamingos were not generally migratory birds but it is speculated that their behaviour change can be attributed to climate change (and water level change), where the birds seek warmer areas (for more details, click here: https://seaworld.org/en/animal-info/animal-infobooks/flamingos/habitat-and-distribution).

The male Greater Flamingo can measure up to 61 inches tall and weigh 3.6 kg (approx.), making them strikingly light weighted given their towering stature. The species has a large range and does not approximate the category of Vulnerable (under IUCN Red-list of Threatened Species).

Najafgarh

A flock of Greater Flamingo across Najafgarh jheel (Credit: Fizala Tayebulla/CUES)

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Researchers conducting Bird Count Survey (Credit: Vijaylakshmi Suman/CUES)

On reaching the Najafgarh Lake, we combed for a suitable spot to set the equipment up for the bird count; selecting a spot from where birds were visible from the closest range from across the channel (GPS location: 28° 30’ 18.54’’ N, 76° 56’ 56.67’’ E). Clocking our observation time (two and half hours) from 5:45 am to 8:15 am, we used double observation (for more details on population estimation methods, click here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2516598/) method to accurately estimate the Greater Flamingo population present there. The researches used survey instruments like Spotting scope and binoculars. Using rangefinders, we spotted the birds at the range of 200 – 350 m. After calculating the average of two rounds of double observation, we tallied a total count of 565 Greater Flamingo individuals. During observation, we noted several other birds (aquatic and non-aquatic) like Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus), Sarus Crane (Antigone antigone), Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis), were present on site, the recorded list of which is available on Ebird website (ebird.org). Furthermore, among Greater Flamingos, the team observed several juvenile individuals.

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CUES research team on site

Every year, Greater Flamingos migrate to India around November and stay on till the arrival of monsoon in June. The visit and successful count of 565 individuals of Greater Flamingo was a remarkable encounter, and the team looks forward to more such experience.

 

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