Jalpaiguri/Kolkata: The demoiselle crane, a migratory bird native to central Euro-Siberia, has been spotted arguably for the first time in Bengal along the Teesta riverbed in Jalpaiguri town. While the Covid lockdown and resultant low pollution levels may be contributing factors, birders are not ruling out other reasons such as “wrong route”.
Sujan Chatterjee, the secretary of Birdwatchers’ Society, said birds from western Eurasia usually spend the winter in Africa while those from Asia, Mongolia and China visit the Indian subcontinent. “These cranes undertake one of the toughest migrations in the world and may have landed here (in Bengal)following a wrong route. In late August through September, they gather in flocks of up to 400 individuals and prepare for their flight. They reach altitudes of 16,000-26,000ft (4,900-7,900 metres), along with their arduous journey over the Himalayas, to get to their over-wintering grounds in India — mainly Rajasthan and Gujarat,” he said.
In March and April, the demoiselle cranes begin their long spring journey back to their northern nesting grounds.
Animesh Bose of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation said climatic conditions at their native place also impact migration. “Such lo-ng-distance migratory birds often take rest during the course of their journey. We may not see them a few days later. As of now, I won’t link the cranes’ arrival directly to the lockdown. However, during lockdown, people had more time to observe nature and photograph birds,” he added.
Chatterjee said in Khichan, Rajasthan, villagers fed the cranes and their congregations had become an annual spectacle. “These birds are known as ‘koonj’ in local parlance and figure prominently in poetry and prose of the region. Women are often compared to the ‘koonj’ because of its slender frame and grace,” he added.
Refusing to divulge the exact location of sighting in Jalpaiguri, a senior forester said they were keeping a close watch on the area.