The Madhya Pradesh Forest Department has some delightful news for bird lovers. 7 pairs of the Critically Endangered Lesser Florican birds were seen in the protected Sardarpur Kharmor Sanctuary after a gap of 8 years. The sanctuary is a known breeding ground of this rare bird but after failed sighting of the floricans for the last few years, this year the forest officers had planted pulse crops in the sanctuary hoping that the birds would be attracted to the worms and insects that feed on the crops and thus visit the area. It seems the experiment has been successful.
The Sardarpur ‘kharmor’ sanctuary (Lesser Florican is called Kharmor in Hindi) was first declared as a reserve in 1983 after noted birding expert Dr. Salim Ali identified this area as an ideal habitat of the grassland birds. The birds spend the months from July to October here, which is their breeding season. However, there have been hardly any sightings of the birds for the last decade in the area. Experts believed it was due to lack of rains as well as food for the birds. In 2017 only one lesser Florican had been sighted but none between 2010 and 2016. Last year there also had been reports of the bird being seen outside the reserve area but because this could not be authenticated, it increased the worry of the forest department.
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This year, therefore the department thought of the experiment of planting crops that would attract insects and in turn the lesser floricans who feed on these bugs.
According to Forest Department’s Sardarpur Range SDO Rakesh Damor, the deparment planted ‘moong’ and ‘urad’ pulse crops in an area of 30 hectares in the sanctuary. These crops were chosen because they are easily infested with crop pests. Unlike farms where pesticides are sprayed to control the infestation, these crops were allowed to be bug infested. The experiment worked with starting July, the first Lesser Floricans appeared in the sanctuary. By last week the forest department confirmed the sighting of not one but 14 Lesser Floricans showing that they indeed found the environment as well as the access food supply suitable at the Sultanpur Sanctuary this time to visit and breed here.
A Big Relief
Lesser Floricans are birds of the bustard family that are found in India. There are less than 250 of the birds in the world today making them very very rare. The other two birds of the same family found in India are the Great Indian Bustard and the Bengal Florican both critically endangered.
Lesser Floricans or Kharmors are beautiful birds with a black body and shimmering white wings. Their best known feature is the mating ritual where the males jump high up in the air about hundreds of times in a day to attract the females and probably tell them where they are amidst the tall green grass.
20 years ago there were an estimated 3500 Lesser Floricans in India, but with the decline of suitable environment and the grassland ecosystems that the birds require, their numbers declined, so much so that now they are in the verge of extinction.
It is therefore a huge win if they are returning to Sardarpur Sanctuary and the crop experiment of the forest department is working.