Guwahati, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
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Once an abode, city now becoming uninhabitable for chilonis
AJIT PATOWARY

Photo: Samarendra Sarma
 GUWAHATI, Oct 2 - Chiloni, a bird species of the raptor group, was commonly found in every locality of the city a few decades back. Although this particular bird species is still found in the city, their numbers are fast dwindling due to different factors. Interestingly, these birds have undergone an attitudinal change that made them roost in the man-made structures, leaving the comforts of sturdy and tall trees.

During the past few decades, the city has lost most of its tall trees due to natural factors and growing urbanisation.

Some years back, there were 250 species of birds found in and around Guwahati and the chiloni was one of the major bird species, according to eminent zoologist and environmentalist Professor Parimal Chandra Bhattacharjee.

Bhattacharjee, former head of the Department of Zoology, Gauhati University, is regarded as one of the few environmentalists who initiated the environment conservation movement in the State about four decades back.

In the Panbazar area of the city, which is a traditional home to a large number of bird species, hundreds of chilonis have chosen the two microwave towers on the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) campus for setting up their colony.

During the dusk hours, these birds create quite a scene while landing on these two microwave towers. They land on these two towers with such precision and compliance that the sight can stun any passer-by.

Scientists are of the view that raptors, which include hawks, owls and falcons, are attracted to cities because they can thrive on the numerous birds and rodents that exist there.

According to Prof Bhattacharjee, the chilonis fly high in the sky and have a very sharp vision. They usually roost on tall trees and go for nesting only during the breeding season. Chilonis find the two BSNL microwave towers located at Panbazar suitable for roosting because of huge stocks of food available in Paltan Bazar and Fancy Bazar areas.

But these birds can cover a long distance and have acquired the required characteristics to survive in urban areas, according to Prof Bhattacharjee.

It is usually believed that microwave towers, because of the radiation they emit, are harmful to living beings, including plants. Hence, it makes one wonder as to how hundreds of chilonis have been living comfortably in a colony set up on these two towers at Panbazar.

When contacted, Professor Jatin Kalita, Dean of the Faculty of Science (GU), said these birds have strong feathers.

The harmful radiations from the microwave towers cannot penetrate into the bodies of these birds because of the thick layer of their feathers, according to Professor Kalita, who is also the Head of the Department of Zoology, GU.

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