80 chicks of the rare bird, Indian skimmer (Rynchops albicollis) have been seen on the banks of river Chambal in the past few days. Authorities at the National Chambal Sanctuary are delighted to note the presence of the baby birds in such large numbers.
The Indian Skimmer is a beautiful bird found in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and occasionally in Nepal. The birds are known for their unique bill, which has a much longer lower mandible (lower beak) and is perfectly adapted to their specialised feeding technique of skimming the water’s surface for prey. Together with the bright orange bill, long red legs and black and white plumage on the body, these birds are a visual treat.
The skimmers prefer to live on sand beds on rivers and the wetland habitat. In India they are found mainly around the Chambal river, frequently seen in National Chambal Sanctuary in Etawah.
Sujoy Banerjee, deputy conservator of forest of the sanctuary says that the Skimmer population is estimated to be between 6,000 and 10,000 and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has marked them as vulnerable. He adds that the birds breed in the months of February till May and produce three to five eggs.
“This year, 125 Indian skimmer, whose population is estimated to be 6,000 to 10,000, have been recorded in the National Chambal Sanctuary. Around 82 eggs were laid in around 30 to 35 nests. Of these, two eggs were found to be damaged and nearly 80 hatchlings have been recorded,” said another senior National Chambal sanctuary official.
He added that because the birds prefer to live and breed on the sand beds, with the water of the river receding, the nests become vulnerable to attack by dogs and other animals. This year therefore the patrolling officers ensured that the Skimmer’s were disturbed the least by these animals.
The frequent sand mining along Chambal river bed has also resulted in habitat loss for the birds. Hopefully, the chicks that have hatched now will continue to soar the skies and delight with their acrobatic dashes into the water to catch prey, for a long time to come.
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