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Author Topic: Winter visitors  (Read 364 times)
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« on: June 30, 2011, 05:30:47 pm »

If you are interested in migrant birds, the ideal time to look for them is during the last two months of the year; for by the middle of November the vast majority of our winter visitors may have arrived in the island.

They generally start arriving here in August or early September, when cold winds from the Bay of Bengal begin to blow over, heralding the onset of the North-East Monsoon. But it will be not until October and November that the main influxes take place. During these two months large numbers of wintering birds arrive from their breeding grounds in distant parts of Asia and Europe.

There are in the island today roughly 427 different species and subspecies of birds, and approximately 160 of these are migrants. And, except for a few species of sea birds, all of them fall into the one category; Winter Visitors.

Detailed studies on the subject of bird migration in Sri Lanka have shown that a third of all the birds that winter in Sri Lanka are waders and nearly as many belong to the Order Passeriformes.

From which countries of the world do these migrant birds come and how? What are their migratory routes?

General observations made by ornithologists in this country and elsewhere have disclosed that the majority of our feathered visitors come from countries within the Temperate Zone.

Almost all the migratory waders seen in Sri Lanka have their breeding grounds in Steppes and Tundra in the north of Europe and Asia. Such birds as the Turnstone, Mash Sandpiper, Sanderling, Long-toed Stint and the Caspian Plover may reach Sri Lanka from the breeding grounds in Northern and Southern Russia, or even from places within the Arctic circle.

The Brown-headed Gull and the Herring Gull, definitely come from the larger lakes in Central Asia or from Russia, including Siberia, while their smaller relative the Whiskered Tern come entirely from Kashmir.

The pintail, Garganey, Shoveller and Gadwall are some of the wild ducks most of us know or some time or other have seen. But how few seem to know the great distances they fly to reach our shores? The vast majority of them come from places in the far northern regions of Europe and Asia, and a few from Tibet and Mongolia.

The two commoner snipes, i.e. Pintail and the Fantail, hail from places situated thousands of miles far apart. The first come in their thousands from the East Siberian marshes, while the others come from Northern Europe in moderate numbers.

The migratory waders - as many as eleven are known in Sri Lanka - almost certainly come from breeding grounds in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia.

The Indian Blue Chat, Pied Ground Thrush, Northern Orange - headed Ground Thrush and Indian Blue Rock - Thrush would appear to come solely from the Himalayan foot-hills.

So do some of the migratory flycatchers i.e. Blue-throated Flycatcher, Layard's Flycatcher, and the Brown Flycatcher. It is certain that the Indian White Wagtail, Eastern Grey Wagtail and the Yellow-headed Wagtail too, come from their Himalayan nesting grounds. The commoner Forest Wagtail arrives from its distant nesting grounds in north-eastern parts of Asia.

The Indian Plaintive Cuckoo and Asiatic Common Cuckoo certainly breed in the same localities as the above mentioned flycatchers and use the same routes along the west coast of India to reach Sri Lanka.

The hawks and eagles visiting Sri Lanka during the North-East Monsoon come from a variety of countries in Europe and Asia. The Siberian Honey Buzzard has its headquarters in Eastern Siberia, while the Desert Buzzard comes in from Japan or perhaps Burma.

The four species of harriers that occur in Sri Lanka have their breeding ranges in northern parts of Asia and Europe. The Osprey and the Short-eared Owl are birds of the Temperate Regions. The Red-legged Falcon arrives in moderate numbers from breeding places to the north-east of Asia, and the Kestrels fly into Sri Lanka from the Western European countries, Japan and Northern China.

The Purple Wood Pigeon obviously comes from Bengal and Indo-China, and the two Turtle Doves seen here during winter have their nesting haunts from the Himalayas to Central Asia. The Blue-capped Kingfisher and Tiger or Malay Bittern are considered as rare visitors, whose nesting grounds have been traced to Western Sumatra, Burma and Malaysia to China.

The arrival of a few other migrants is Sri Lanka is looked forward to with more enthusiasm by the local bird watchers than the arrival of the Common Swallow. It is one of the first to appear in our shores, scattered flocks having been spotted as early as the third week of August. It is also one of the last to leave the country.

The Blue-tailed Bee eater is also an early arrival. But it is not always advisable to take for granted that every flock which one sees are winter migrants, since this bee-eater lately been suspected to breed in the wilder parts of the Eastern Province. However, the majority of this bee-eater seen here in winter is probably migrants from the Indian mainland.

The Eastern Grey Wagtail, perhaps the commonest and the most welcomed visitor in the Central Hill Zone, may be yet another forerunner in the long train of winter visitors. Immediately on arrival in the island it betakes itself to the hill country and as a result its first arrival is rarely or never recorded in the lowlands.

The sandpipers, curlews and plovers too, arrive in the late August to early September. many of the smaller Passerine birds too, arrive in September and early October. The Pintail Snipe generally comes in from September onwards, but there have been instances when it had been seen here earlier than this.

« Last Edit: June 30, 2011, 05:32:36 pm by indunil » Report Spam   Logged

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