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Rare oriental white ibis spotted at Majuli

 NORTH LAKHIMPUR, Feb 1 – Green Heritage, a frontline nature conservation group from North Lakhimpur recently spotted a near-threatened bird species called oriental white ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) in a wetland at river island Majuli in Jorhat district.

 A three-member team of Green Heritage comprising Bhaskar Bora, Sazzad Hussain and Palash Saikia spotted four oriental white ibis in a wetland near Dakshinpat Satra (260 55/ N and 940 15/ E) in the river island on January 25 last. Locally known as boga akohi bog in Assamese, the oriental white ibis or black-headed ibis belongs to the family of Threskiornithidae and was updated as near-threatened bird species in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Birds of India (MISTNET Vol. 15 No. 1 March 2014).

Photographed by Palash Saikia, the birds were spotted during Green Heritage’s routine migratory bird monitoring programme in Lakhimpur and Majuli. The oriental white ibis, a snow-white bird with naked black head and neck and down curved curlew like bill frequents marshy land, flooded fields and also rivers. It is overall uncommon and has a few records of spotting. Usually gregarious, this bird is seen in small to larger flocks.

According to noted ornithologist Dr Anwaruddin Choudhury, oriental white ibis was seen at Pobitora in December 1996 (four birds), at Rupahee Pathar in Sivasagar in 1996 (eight birds), twice in Kaziranga National Park in 1997 (seven to eight birds) and one at Sohola Beel in 1998-99 (The Birds of Assam, 2000, P-121.) in the last 20 years.

The bird was recorded as plentiful on the Brahmaputra between Mangaldoi and Singrighat in March 1909 by British ornithologist Stevens. Presently, the world population of oriental white ibis is estimated to be around 10,000, that too with a declining trend.

It may be mentioned that this bird species was not in the latest Bird Checklist of Majuli compiled by bird watcher Sanjay Das and his co-workers, which was published in Newsletter of Birdwatchers Vol. 53, No. 4 page 58-61 (2013). This was stated by Dr Prabal Saikia, honorary secretary general of Green Heritage, who is also an agricultural ornithologist.

Dr Saikia claimed that this is the first sighting of oriental white ibis at Majuli and this has to be included in the bird checklist of Majuli river island as a new species.

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