Halfway through the winter season, when the world is done with Christmas and all set to welcome the new year, we have a number of international winged visitors here in our surroundings – who travel great distances in search of the right living conditions. Let's check some of the popular migratory birds of winter. Some of these birds which breed here, have made Kerala their permanent home and are staying cordially among the crows and common sparrows of our area.
Many of these birds are being spotted in Kerala throughout the year. Sharp switches in the weather, changing climatic conditions and receding waterbodies restrict their possibility of migration and force them to continue in mid-way halts for long, far away from their homelands.
Greater flamingos are the largest specie of the Pheonicopterus roseus family. Largely found in Africa, Asia, Southern Europe and Middle East, greater flamingos migrate across the globe in search of favorable climate, water levels and breeding areas. Though non migratory in nature, flamingo colonies are never found in a permanent spot. Flamingos usually return to their homeland for breeding. They prefer saline lakes and lagoons to larger waterbodies. There are around 1.5 to 2 million flamingos around the world.
Better known as Spot billed pelican, this bird breeds across southern Pakistan, India and Indonesia. Coastal waters and large lakes are their favorite hangouts. They can also be seen beside ponds and village tanks. They feed on fish and smaller birds. Spot billed pelicans migrate locally for feeding grounds and water bodies.
Black tailed godwit
Black tailed godwit or Limosa limosa breed along the wet stretches of Iceland, central Asia, Europe and West Africa. These large wader birds, will have bright orangey-brown chests and bellies in summer, but change color to greyish-brown texture in winter.
Garganeys (Spatula querquedula) are small duck species that are found beside shallow ponds and small waterbodies. They feed on aquatic plants, weeds, seeds, root, small fish and frog. Garganeys are highly migratory in nature. They move southwards during July for wintering and return homeland in February. Garganeys prefer flight during night and they feed and take rest during the day. Europe and western Asia are home to Garganeys.
Dendrocygna Javanica or Lesser whistling duck is seen in Southeast Asia. Fresh water lakes with plenty of vegetation is the favorite habitat of Whistling ducks. Measuring around 35cm in length, they are more of nocturnal feeders.
Gulls usually come from chillingly cold regions and they prefer warmer waters to rest. Brown headed gulls face threat of extinction under rapidly changing climatic conditions. Siberia and Mediterranean regions are home to Gulls. Gull colonies are large and noisy. They have a complex mode of communication and are highly social in nature.
Spot billed duck
Spot billed duck (Anas poecilorhyncha) breeds in tropical eastern Asia. A bird of lakes, marshes and fresh water, spot bills feed on grass and insects. They migrate locally in search of water sources and feeding grounds.
Cotton pygmy goose
Cotton pygmy goose or Netapus coromandelianus breeds in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They often take long flights towards south during winter. Vegetable matter, water lilies and insects are its main food.
(Photos and inputs: Jimmy Kamballur, he is a professional photographer based in Kottayam. Click here to visit Jimmy's Facebook page).