Birds of Osmanabad District of Maharashtra, India
Sujit Narwade 1 & M.M. Fartade 2
1 Scientist-in-Charge, ENVIS Centre on Avian Ecology, Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001, India
2 Principal, Shree Sivaji Mahavidhyalaya, Barshi, Solapur District, Maharashtra 413401, India
Email: 1 firstname.lastname@example.org (corresponding author), 2 email@example.com
Pioneering study of the birds of the Deccan has been done by Davidson & Wenden (1878). Through an annotated checklist of the birds of western Maharashtra, Prasad (2003) compiled one for Solapur District which is the neighbouring area of our interest. Bharucha & Gogte (1990) studied the avian profile of a man-modified aquatic ecosystem in the backwaters of the Ujjani Dam while separate lists of birds of Solapur District are available in Rahmani (1989) and Mahabal (1989). Avian ecology of Solapur District, has been well studied, but the Marathwada region of Maharashtra has not yet been explored thoroughly. Through this paper we would like to draw attention towards the least known avifauna of the Osmanabad District.
The study area comes under the Marathwada region of Maharashtra (Fig. 1). The forest types are semi arid biotope, open scrublands and southern tropical thorn forest (Champion & Seth 1968). It lies on the plateau at an average of 600m above sea level. Osmanabad District comes under the low rainfall region, with about 600mm annual precipitation.
We covered a total of 300km2 area in three blocks of 10x10 km2 areas at the following selected places.
(i) Yedshi grassland: This includes grassland area spread between northeast of Osmanabad City and Yedshi Town (18015ÕN & 75059ÕE).
(ii) Terna Lake: One of the largest dams of Osmanabad District, located 20km northwest of Osmanabad City, near Dhoki Town (18019ÕN & 76005ÕE).
(iii) Masla: This village is located 38km northeast from Solapur City and 20km south from Osmanabad City. Data was collected from a small wetland, agricultural area as well as from near human habitation (17058ÕN & 76005ÕE). We also covered the areas of adjoining villages named Dahivadi, Pangardarwadi, Savargaon, Kemwadi and Malumbra.
Bimonthly surveys were carried out in the above mentioned selected areas from March 2007 to July 2008. The areas were surveyed using binoculars and digital cameras for proper bird records. Direct observations and species noting was made by walking on the roads, tracks, grassland and agriculture areas. The observations were carried out at different points around the large wetland. Birds were identified following Ali & Ripley (1983), Grimmett et al. (2000), and Rasmussen & Anderton (2005). The list of birds was arranged family wise following Manakadan & Pittie (2001). Current status of threatened categories was adopted from BirdLife International ( ). Habitat wise species count was carried out in four different habitats such as agriculture, wetland, grassland and near human habitation.
A total of 165 bird species were recorded during the above mentioned survey. Out of them 109 were resident birds species, 15 were local migratory, 41 species were migratory and eight species were under the threatened category. Fifty families represent the 165 bird species with Muscicapidae comprising small birds at the top, following Accipitridae (raptors) and Anatidae (mainly ducks), showing a healthy bird diversity in the region (Table 1). Relative commonness of a species has been given as common if species was sighted 7-8 times out of eight visits, fairly common if sighted 4-5 times, uncommon if sighted 2-3 times and rare if sighted 0-2 times out of eight visits. It was observed that out of 165 species, 112 found were common, 11 fairly common, 31 uncommon and 11were rare (Table 2). The detailed information on the threatened birds observed during the surveys has been provided separately in Table 3.
General observations: Threatened birds such as Pallied Harrier Circus macrourus and European Roller Coracias garrulous (Image 1) were found over all the areas in winter. The Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps, an endangered and endemic bird of India and Pakistan was also observed. Three bustards were seen feeding in a farmland area on the boundary of Kemwadi and Savargaon villages in November 2007. This area is just 8-10 km away from the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Nannaj, Solapur. The sanctuary covers an area of 150km from Nannaj towards Ahmednagar District, but part of Osmanabad which is just 10km from the core area is still unprotected. A couple of nests and juveniles of ibises and storks found on large trees in Masla Village hinted at a heronry nearby (Images 2 & 3). We observed a colony of 12 nests of Little Tern Sterna albifrons within a 200m2 area in the summer of 2007 at Masla Lake. It is important to note that only two confirmed breeding records of Little Tern in Maharashtra are available till date (Ali & Ripley 1983; Bharucha & Gogte 1990).
Habitat wise seasonal changes in species count: A pie chart of habitat wise species count was prepared (Fig. 2) which indicates the use of the habitats by the birds. The highest number of bird species was found in wetland areas following agricultural and grassland areas. Eleven species were found using all four habitats commonly. The highest number of species i.e. 130 in winter, indicates that the area provides suitable ground for many migratory birds. In summer many birds found in the afternoon, roosting near the edge of the water body to escape from the high temperatures, used to disperse into nearby areas in the evening. Juveniles and subadults of the ground nesting birds observed in winter indicate that the period of late summer and monsoons was the major breeding season. The population of some of the birds such as Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus was found high in winter, but a couple of birds observed in summer and the monsoons confirmed that some of the birds are residents. Birds such as lapwings and larks were found using wetland habitat extensively for nesting in their breeding season (Narwade et al. in press). In winter, large flocks of small birds such as buntings, larks, weavers and sparrows were observed in agricultural areas. Seasonal variations observed in the species count at different habitats needs to be studied in detail for the bird conservation.
The major cropping season here is during the monsoon, from July onwards and harvesting is carried out in October-November. Farmers cultivated short term crops such as Urid in monsoon followed by Jowar Sorghum vulgare as one of the major Kharif crops. Harvesting was carried out during January-February after which a large area of cropland becomes fallow due to the high temperatures and scarce water supply. This lean time was used by the people for social interactions such as weddings, which thus resulted in fewer disturbances to the wildlife. But the hunting communities got active in summer because of poor income resources which again put pressure on the wildlife. It was observed that hunters usually hunt for blackbuck, hare, quail and partridge. Rapid developmental activities are continuing to increase the crop yield, as well as, the sources for income. Factors such as use of machines in farming activities, irrigation facilities, use of fertilizers and pesticides are responsible for rapid changes in the cropping patterns throughout the area. Agricultural practices in the study area were found affecting the breeding success of ground nesting birds (Narwade et al. 2010).
Due to the developmental activities the entire habitat of this district has become vulnerable to the upcoming changes. The ambitious lake linking programmes by the Godavari Marathwada Irrigation Development Corporation (GMIDC) has been launched by the Government of Maharashtra. This may be beneficial to the farmers and wetland birds, but the existing grassland avifauna is under great threat.
The area still provides some potential habitats for the declining population of the threatened birds. It is the need of the hour to monitor these areas systematically in the rapidly changing environment with a focused study on status, distribution and conservation of the avifauna of the region. This can be achieved only through strengthening public participation in the study of status, distribution and conservation of birds of Marathwada region, Maharashtra. Once recorded as common birds of the Deccan, the Lesser Florican (EN), Black-necked Stork (NT), Red-headed Vulture (CR), White-rumped Vulture (CR), Sociable Lapwing (CR), Greater Adjutant, Lesser Adjutant (VU) were not sighted during our surveys. There is a great need to carry out proper and systematic surveys in the large geographical area of the Marathwada region of Maharashtra, India.
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