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Climate hits migration pattern of water birds

KANNUR: The changing climate and environmental factors are reflecting on the habitats of the birds too, especially a variety of water birds, that come to the Malabar region.

In the recent years, some varieties have made the place their regular habitats, say experts.

According to the local bird enthusiasts, they have seen some bird species that go away from Malabar region after their 
migration season, deciding to nest and breed here itself.

Almost eight varieties have made the region their permanent habitat and these include Grey Heron, 
Purple Heron and Openbill Stork to mention a few.

Normally many of them used to go to the neighbouring states after winter. "Though we cannot claim that this is due to the change in the pattern of migration, this local habitat migration could be a reflection of the climate change and also the shrinking of wetlands in other places," said renowned bird enthusiast, naturalist and botanist from Kannur, Khaleel Chowwa.

"Last year we had located black-winged stilt nesting in Chempallikkundu, Ezhome Wetland and Kottakkeel in Kannur but this year apparently due to heavy rains, we could not spot them."

One of the interesting bird sightings in the recent years in Malabar region is the presence of open bill stork, said Chowwa.

According to experts, more than 12% of the total global population of this bird is in the north Kerala. Similarly 
grey heron is also seen breeding in many places in Malabar and it was spotted a few years ago in Thalasserry.

Normally these birds used to leave Kerala towards the end of winter but now they are seen to be dwelling here itself, which arises the curiosity of the bird watchers.

Though such changes are apparently considered minor, as the change happens over the years, a serious study of the same could help analyse the climate change, he said.

According to C Sasikumar, a researcher on migratory birds, this trend of birds staying back is seen as an expansion of habitats in south India as most of the birds we see here are actually inhabitants of south India only.

"We should also see that the varieties like black drongo are no longer breeding here and we should study the change in the pattern of migration of many varieties of birds," he said.

Similarly, cattle egret, which are abundantly seen in Malabar are not nestling or breeding here nowadays.

Though the wetlands are shrinking in Malabar region, the 
water birds preferring to stay back here could also be an indication that some of their earlier habitats are no longer habitable and this should be studied because that would help understand the impacts of climate change better and also the destruction of wetlands in south India.

The Times of India (19-07-2013)