In the Lower Gangetic Plains, a number of micro to meso scale bird watching spots are found throughout the southern districts of West Bengal. But there are so many lacks of awareness and environmental consciousness, mainly in the section of bird watching spot demarcation and preservation. There is an urgent need to demarcate the potential region of bird watching in the urban and rural areas of West Bengal for the sustainability and awareness of ideal birds’ habitat conservation to local people. Currently in the phase of rapid urbanization the green habitat of birds is gradually shrinking. This article is framed to highlight a similar spot (newly grown site) of high density birds’ activity in the floodplain of Damodar River, mainly in the urban area of Barddhaman.
The Barddhaman or Burdwan town (23°12´30´´ to 23°20´05´´N and 87°46´ to 87°58´ E) is about 90 km far from Kolkata (capital of West Bengal) on the NH-2 and this town is well connected through the Eastern Railway (i.e. important junction of eastern India). The town is recognized as one of growing urban centres in West Bengal and its history dates back to sixth century when great Mahabir Jain (599 – 527 BC), the 24th Trithankar of Jainsim, spent time at this place. Established in 1865, Barddhaman municipality (26.03 km2 of area) now consist of thirty five municipal wards and have population of 3,14,638 according 2011 census. Geographically the town is situated on the left-side floodplain of Damodar River, having mean elevation range of 35 to 40 metres from mean sea level. The sub-humid monsoon climate persists here with mean annual rainfall of 1400 – 1600 mm. Within the administrative boundary of municipality, the approximate areas of vegetation cover (including vegetation of residential area) and water-bodies (including wetlands) are 12.88 km2 and 8.59 km2 respectively. In this environmental set-up, there are few pockets or zones (inside and outskirts of town) which have high density of vegetation with clam – mild environment than noisy and clumsy urban life. It has been identified that these selected zones are storehouse of different species of birds and butterflies. These zones can grow as fascinated sites for ornithologist, nature lover, bird watcher and wildlife photographer. If we observe minutely the branches of trees, wetlands, ponds and hanging electric weir, we shall surely find more than one beautiful birds which shall attract ourselves though their unique activities in their ecological niches. Availability of birds is an important indicator of healthy and stable environment in this urban area. The activity of bird watching can be categorized as a way of environmental consciousness and conservation of species in their vigorous and sustainable habitats. With the development of fast growing cities and towns the green space of urban area is gradually vanished from the earth and alongside environmental quality is deteriorating through step by step. In this critical situation the habitats of birds are threaten from the anthropogenic activities, like cutting of trees and conversion of wetlands to multi-stored building site. Emphasizing on this crucial issue of environmental sustainability and environmental ethics, this article is focused on the identification of important birds and demarcation of bird zones in and around Barddhaman town. Before going into main section, it should be remembered that the ideal time of bird watching is early morning and afternoon (when the heat of sun is less) and the ideal period of bird activities (both resident and migratory birds) is started in post-monsoon and ended in late spring, basically from October to March. On the basis of availability of birds, sighting of birds and ideal environment, four distinct bird zones are identified in and around Barddhaman town. The spatial information of these zones is depicted as follows (figure 1).
Bird Zone 1 – Approximately 6 km far away from the rail station of Barddhaman, a siphon dam of DVC (Damodar Valley Corporation) Eden canal (also linking Banka River through lock gates) is located in between Rathtala and Kanchannagar. The 3 – 4 km long stretch of both-side canal road with dense vegetation, bushes and grass cover is categorized as the best bird watching spot in Barddhaman. Just east of canal, a contiguous place of Garh Talit (behind Renaissance Township) is another beautiful place for birds’ habitat (having less human interference). The good balanced combination of water, land and vegetation (making mild micro bio-climate) is found here. At least sixty three types of important birds are still recorded in this zone and gradually the checklist of birds is increasing.
Bird Zone 2 – Combing four spots, viz., Golapbag and Tarabag campus of The University of Burdwan, Ramnabagan Mini Zoo, Burdwan Science Centre and Krishnasayar Park, the bird zone 2 is demarcated. This zone is an ideal example of man – nature hale and hearty interaction. The dense vegetation cover with lots of water-bodies is quite sustainable place for the particular bird species which are less worried about human activity. In winter moths the Lesser Whistling Ducks (Saral in Bengali) are more commonly observed in the large Krishnasayer pond.
Bird Zone 3 – Towards south of Barddhaman town, the wide channel of Damodar is flowing from west to east, developing numerous bars and islands in between Hatsimul and Belkash. If we visit this place along embankment at time of winter, specifically in Hatsimul, Becharhat, Sadarghat, Idilpur and Belkash, we shall surely take great snaps of migratory birds and raptors.
Bird Zone 4 – Approximately 5 km north from Nawabhat, along the Barddhaman – Bolpur Highway (NH 2B), the meandering stretch of Khari River crossed the Haldi bridge. This spot is popularized as ‘Kharir Gandi’, a picnic spot. There are few places of dense and sparse vegetation cover with ample water availability along the river floodplain. This zone is ideal for grassland bird species and raptors.
Now we have briefly summarized the key information of recorded bird species in following section. Most of these species are found uniquely in these found bird zones. Importantly the sighting of these birds is still unknown to many residents of Barddhaman. Little information of the key birds is depicted here because these beautiful birds are less sighted or occasionally found in these zones.
1. Asian Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi) – It is renowned as Dudhraj in Bengali language. This beautiful flycatcher is a medium-sized passerine bird (uttering sharp skreek calls) native to thick forests and well-wooded habitats from Turkestan to Manchuria, all over India and Sri Lanka to the Malay Archipelago on the islands of Sumba and Alor. Their heads are glossy bluish-black with a black crown and crest, their black bill round and sturdy, their eyes black. Female are rufous on the back with short tail and a greyish throat and underparts. Two types of long-tailed (up to 30 cm long) males are found – (i) rufous male and (ii) white morphs. They are insectivorous and hunt in flight. This bird is uniquely sighted in Bird Zone 1 only.
2. Black-naped Monarch (Hypothymis azurea) – It is a blue, slim and agile passerine bird belonging to the family of monarch flycatchers. They are sexually dimorphic with males having a distinctive black patch on the back of the head and a narrow black half collar ("necklace") while the female is duller and lacks the black markings. The black-naped monarch breeds across tropical southern Asia from India and Sri Lanka east to Indonesia and the Philippines. This species is usually found in thick forests and other well-wooded habitats. This bird is only sighted in Bird Zone 1 in the months of winter.
3. Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis rubeculoides) – It is one of lesser known birds (passerine bird of flycatcher family) of Indian sub-continent, all through the Himalayas, the Ganga Plains and the Western Ghat in the cold months. Just before monsoon, they fly in the Himalayas for breeding. This bird is uniquely sighted in Bird Zone 1 for one time only.
4. Orange-headed Thrush (Geokichla citrina) – The thrush bird is known as Dama in West Bengal. It is common in well-wooded areas of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The species shows a preference for shady damp areas. The species shows a preference for shady damp areas. The male of this small thrush has uniform grey upperparts, and an orange head and underparts. The females and young birds have browner upper parts. This bird is also uniquely sighted in Bird Zone 1 for one time only.
5. Taiga Flycatcher (Ficedula albicilla) – This flycatcher bird is a winter visitor in the Bengal Plain. The female has brown upper parts with a blackish tail flanked by white. The breast is buffish with underparts mostly white. The male has ear coverts and sides of the neck blue-tinged grey with breeding males having orange-red coloration on the throats. Its natural habitat is taiga forest. Taiga flycatchers are wide found in all zones in winter period.
6. Indian Blue Robin (Luscinia brunnea) – This illusive bird was earlier called as Indian Blue Chat. Blue Robin is winter visitors to the Bengal Plains. These birds arrive in the Himalayan breeding grounds in May and leave in September. Southward migration begins in August. During the migratory season they may be found as passage migrants all over peninsular India. The habitat in which they are found is usually dense and dark forest with undergrowth and leaf litter. This bird is also uniquely sighted in Bird Zone 1 (specifically in Garh Talit) for one time only.
7. Raptors – The most wide seen raptors, i.e. the birds of prey, are Osprey (in Bird Zone 4), Black Kite, Oriental Honey Buzzard (Moubaz in Bengali) and Shikra in these bird zones. They are usually fly in the sky and their flight usually draws alarms among fishes, smaller birds and squirrels.
8. Warblers – The recorded winter visitor warblers are Greenish Warbler and Tickell’s Leaf Warbler in the bird zone 1. They are widespread leaf warblers throughout their breeding range in northeastern Europe and temperate to subtropical continental Asia.
9. Parakeets – The four identified parakeets, viz. Rose-ringed Parakeet (Tiya in Bengali), Alexandrine Parakeet (Chandana in Bengali), Plum-headed Parakeet (Fultusi in Bengali) and Red-breasted Parakeet (Madna in Bengali), are found mainly in bird zone 1 and 2. Plum-headed and Red-breasted parakeets are generally found in the foothills of Himalayas. It has been found that due to habitat loss the Alexandrine and Red-breasted Parakeets are categorized as ‘Near Threaten’ species according to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
10. Barbets – If we want take snaps of three Indian barbets, viz. Lineated Barbet (Boro Basantabouri in Bengali), Blue-throated Barbet (Nilkantho Basantabouri in Bengali) and Copper-smith Barbet (Basantabouri in Bengali), the bird zone 2 is ideal place for that. In the time winter and spring, we regularly observe the flight of Lineated Barbets from one tree to another.
11. Orioles – In these zones only Black-hooded Oriole (Benebou in Bengali) and Indian Golden Oriole (Sonabou in Bengali) are observed. Their loud and sweet calls are heard throughout season, but mostly heard in spring. The Black-hooded Oriole lives in common contact with humans in rural and urban India but Indian Golden Oriole lives in isolated woodlands like bird zone 1.
12. Kingfishers – At least four types of kingfishers, viz., Stork-billed Kingfisher (largest kingfisher of Indian sub-continent), Pied Kingfisher (Fatka in Bengali), White-throated Kingfisher (Machranga in Bengali) and Common Kingfisher (Choto Machranga in Bengali), are found around the water-bodies and wetlands of these bird zones.
13. Others – Beside the above records, in these bird zones other sighted and enlisted important birds are Yellow-footed Green Pigeon (Harial in Bengali), Common Hawk Cuckoo (Papiya in Bengali), Asian Koel (Kokil in Bengali), Greater Coucal (Kubo in Bengali), Red-wattled Lapwing (Hatiti in Bengali), White-breasted Waterhen (Dahuk in Bengali), Bronze-winged Jacana (Jalpipi in Bengali), Spotted Dove (Tilee Ghughu in Bengali), Eurasian Collared Dove (Kanthi Ghughu in Bengali), Spotted Owlet (Kuture Pancha in Bengali), Common Hoope (Mohanchura in Bengali), Chestnut-tailed Starling, Plain Pirnia, Green-bee eater (Baspati in Bengali), Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker (Kaththokra in Bengali), Brown Shrike (Kajal Pakhi in Bengali), White Wagtail (Khanjana in Bengali, winter visitor), Grey Wagtail (winter visitor), Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike (winter visitor), Rufous Treepie (Harichacha in Bengali), Black Drongo (Fingee in Bengali), Red-whiskered Bulbul (Sipai Bulbul in Bengali), Red-veneted Bulbul (Bulbuli in Bengali), Orinetal Magpie Robin (Doel in Bengali), Purple Sunbird (Durga Tuntuni in Bengali), Purple-rumped Sunbird, Baya Weaver (Babui in Bengali), Common Tailor Bird (Tuntuni in Bengali), Little Swift, Barn Swallow, Little Cormorant (Pankouri in Bengali) and Cattle Egret (Gobak in Bengali) etc.
These birds’ habitats are not free from human intervention. There is ample evidence of tree cutting in Bird Zone 1. The wetlands of Garh Tailt are used as garbage dumps in recent decades. The intentionally triggered fire has been destroyed few green places (mainly bushes and grasses) of zone 1 along the canal road. The local people of this zone are quite aware about the fact that few migratory bird species are not readily observed in the winter months due to habitat destruction. The numbers of sparrows are decreasing day by day in the town. The recent renovation of water-ditches in the Golapbag Campus has displaced the birds, like Jalpipi, Dahuk and Pankouri, and many butterflies. If this region is popularized as bird watching centre or birds’ hotspots, the remnant habitats will get protection from the ornithologists and environmental conservationists. It is very crucial issue that if these four zones are degraded then the existed important birds (including migratory birds) will surely leave these places for lifetime. At last it can be said that these identified bird zones of Barddhaman are recommended as excellent and emerging spots for amateur bird photography and ornithology.
1. Ali, S. (2012). The Book of Indian Birds (13th edition). Mumbai, Bombay Natural History Society.
2. Grimmett, R., Inskipp, C. and Inskipp, T. (2011). Birds of Indian sub-continent (2nd edition). Oxford, Oxford University Press.
3. Sanyal, P. and Raychaudhuri, B. (2012). Paschim Banglar Pakhi. Kolkata, Ananda.