The annual bird survey at Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary has recorded, apparently for the first time in the state, the breeding of the Great-eared Nightjar, a highly-elusive, nocturnal species. An extremely shy creature and a true forest-dweller, this bird (Eurostopodus macrotis bourdilloni) is one of the five nightjar species in Kerala and is characterised by its pronounced ear tufts.
Though not a particularly rare bird - the IUCN Red List puts it under ‘Least Concern’ - it is incredibly difficult to get a sighting for two reasons - it is a nocturnal bird and its camouflage renders it practically invisible.
And what has excited the Shendurney survey team - comprising members of the city-based nature lovers group Warblers and Waders, and Kerala Forest Department - is the fact that they were able to record the breeding of the species.
“According to the recent book ‘Birds of Kerala: Status and Distribution’, the breeding of this nocturnal bird has not been reported from Kerala,” said C Sushant of Warblers and Waders, adding that an earlier sighting in the region was in May 1995 from Siruvani foothills in Tamil Nadu.
The survey at the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, an annual affair for the past 19 years, was conducted to revise and update the checklist of birds there along with their status, abundance and distribution. According to the report by Warblers and Waders, around 194 bird species were recorded from six areas in the Sanctuary - Kattilappara, Kallar-Rockwood, Umayar, Rosemala, Dharbhakulam and Pandimotta.
At Pandimotta, the breeding of the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, a threatened species endemic to the Western Ghats, was recorded. The same region also played host to the Tytler’s Leaf Warbler, “an uncommon winter visitor to Kerala.”
Other endemic and endangered species recorded in the present survey included Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Grey-headed Bulbul, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher and Rufous Babbler, the report said. The important “absentees” in the survey this year included Osprey, Lesser Coucal, Long-tailed Nightjar, Grey Heron and Hair-crested Drongo.
The highest number of species recorded was at Kattilappara - 124 species - while the lowest was at Dharbhakulam (51), where the summer showers disrupted the survey. The survey was led by C Susanth, S Rajeevan, R Jayaprakash, K A Kishore, C Harikumar, P B Biju and S S Ratheesh, and was assisted by 20 bird-watchers from around the state.