Coorg is a haven for nature lovers and bird watchers. In a place like Coorg, watching birds is an enjoyable pastime, and could be a forerunner to a scientific study of the faunal world. Aesthetically, what is more beautiful than a bird? Also, bird watching is an invigorating activity requiring walks in treed areas and sometimes expeditions to trace rare species.
Here’s why Coorg remains a haven for birds and therefore, for bird watchers. Most of Coorg lies in the Western Ghats, in the path of the South-West Monsoon. The annual rainfall in Coorg ranges from 4000 to 8000 mm over the Western Ghats decreasing in the plains to the east to about 2000 mm. It is one of the 34 environmental hotspots with rich bio-diversity in the world. The total number of bird species that inhabit the earth has been estimated to be about 8600. The Indian subcontinent itself is home to over 2060 species and sub-species. It is amazing to note that nearly 25% of these are found in Coorg alone! However, deforestation, tree felling, submergence and encroachment of forestland gravely threaten the rich flora and fauna of Coorg. Forest fires and clearing forests for ginger cultivation are fast becoming major threats to the survival of plant and animal life of Coorg.
Among the Coorgs (Kodavas), there is a unique way of protecting small forest areas: From time immemorial, Devarakaadus (sacred forests) have been set apart and designated for worshipping various deities. Felling trees in these sacred groves is strictly prohibited and hunting is restricted. A reported number of 1214 Devarakaadus covering a total area of 3,650 sq. kms have been earmarked as bio-buffers in Coorg. These Devarakadus reflect the concern for preservation of the flora and fauna among the Coorgs.
Recent related awareness projects undertaken by the Forest Department, NGOs and other research organisations have brought new hope to conservationists and nature lovers. They have motivated local public to form their own committees to preserve their own Devarakaadus. These Devarakadus reward bird watchers with sights of not less than 50 bird species at a time! Birds like the Malabar Trogon, the Nilgiri Laughing-Thrush, the Great Black Woodpecker, and the Malabar Whistling-Thrush can be considered as keystone species for the Coorg district.
The other flagship species are the Great Pied Hornbill, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Wynaad and Grey-breasted Laughing Thrushes, Blue-winged Parakeet, Grey-headed Bulbul, White-bellied Treepie, the Nilgiri and White-bellied Blue Flycatchers, Black Eagle and Ceylon Frogmouth.
There are names for nearly 80% of birds found in Coorg in the Coorg dialect! These include names for birds like House Sparrows (mane pakshi), Mynas (kuruli), Bulbuls (kottumbudcha), Herons (poley), to migratory birds like Wagtails (balaatimonni) and rare birds like Laughing Thrushes (telibaaya).
SOME IMPORTANT DATA REGARDING BIRDS OF COORG:
- Number of bird species in India: over 1250 (in 96 families)
- Number of bird species in India including sub-species: Over 2060
- Number of bird species in Coorg: 307 (in 62 families)
- Number of birds that migrate to Coorg during winter: 43 (Bar-headed Goose, Pintail, Sandpipers/Snipes, Rosy Starling, Golden Oriole, Wagtails, Warblers etc.)
- Number of critically endangered species: 2 (Indian White-backed Vulture and Niligiri Laughing Thrush)
- Number of vulnerable species: 28 (Darter, Storks, Grey Junglefowl, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Forest Eagle-Owl, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Grey-headed Bulbul, Broad-tailed Grass Warbler etc.)
DOS AND DON’TS FOR BIRD WATCHERS:
- Equip yourself with a copy of “Feathered Jewels of Coorg”, a camera and a pair of good binoculars
- Wear dull coloured clothes that blend with the surroundings. Avoid bright, gaudy clothing.
- Walk slowly and quietly. Avoid running, making unnecessary noise and talking loudly.
- Learn to spot small movements in foliage from the corners of your eyes.
- Learn to observe bird activities from a distance. Do not go too close to the birds; they may fly off, hide in foliage or stop singing or calling.
- If you see a bird’s nest, eggs or young, do not touch or disturb them. Birds keep a watch on the movements of intruders, including bird watchers, and thereafter eat or destroy their own eggs or chicks.
- Birds are busiest during mornings and evenings, when they return to their nests. These times are the best for watching birds and hearing them sing.
The content for this article has been contributed by Dr S.V. Narasimhan, a medical practitioner of Virajpet and author of the book “Feathered Jewels of Coorg”.
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