The Great Bittern reveals itself to Mumbai after 79 years
Last spotted in Vile Parle in 1939, migratory bird makes itself cozy in Vasai birding hotspot
The Great Bittern is a wading, partially migratory bird that is distributed in the Indian subcontinent, Europe, Asia and Africa. While its population stands at around three lakh, the species, experts said, hadn't been seen making pit stops to the city. However, on November 26, birder Akshay Shinde, happened to accidentally spot it during a birding trip with other wildlife enthusiasts. "We were at a birding hotspot called Madhuban in Vasai, when I saw two large birds fly parallel to us. The adult bird kept flying in a straight direction, while the juvenile took a halt. That's when I took pictures of the bird," said the zoology graduate, who is currently pursuing his MSc in wildlife from Bhartiya Vidyapeeth Bhavan's College.
The Great Bittern spotted by birder Akshay Shinde in Madhuban
Shinde got in touch with bird expert and wildlife photographer Monga, who confirmed it was a Great Bittern. "I also posted the pictures on several birding groups to verify the same. The bird was last spotted 79 years ago," he said.
Monga said, "More sightings of rare bird species in the city, indicates that there are habitats in the region that are pristine enough to support migratory birds."
Vasai's saltpans, especially, boast of great bird diversity with migratory ducks and raptors like Amur Falcon and Red-Necked Falcon, spotted often.
"The need of the hour is to protect wetlands and bird habitats in and around Mumbai. This will only happen if there is support from the government," Monga added.
The bittern species prefer water bodies with thick fringe vegetation, specially reed beds. They inhabit marshes, ponds, lakes, streams, estuaries, delta marshes, rice fields and flooded grasslands. They are mostly active after dusk, feeding on insects, frogs, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, snakes, lizards, birds, nestlings and small mammals.