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Mumbai: City naturalist makes rare sighting of long-billed vulture

Updated on: 18 January,2024 07:21 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ranjeet Jadhav | ranjeet.jadhav@mid-day.com

Sanal Santosh, a naturalist, visited Malang Gad on January 14 to observe raptors when he captured this infrequent sight

Mumbai: City naturalist makes rare sighting of long-billed vulture

Vulture captured at Malang Gad. Pic/Sanal Santosh

Key Highlights

  1. Mumbai-based naturalist captured a long-billed Vulture on camera
  2. Santosh visited Malang  Gad near Dombivli on January 14
  3. He had decided to visit Malang Gad to see raptors

Mumbai-based naturalist Sanal Santosh captured a long-billed Vulture on camera at Malang Gad near Kalyan in Thane district. Santosh, currently working as a naturalist at Forsyth Lodge in MP, visited Malang  Gad near Dombivli on January 14 at 8 am, as he was in Mumbai for a few days. He had decided to visit Malang Gad to see raptors.


Santosh said, “This is a well-known place for raptors, so I was excited that I would see a few for sure. Around 10.30 am, as I was clicking a few record shots of booted eagles, I noticed a massive bird soaring above them. As I had a point and shoot camera, it was easier for me to click a shot of the scavenger. To my surprise, it was an Indian vulture. This is the second time I have seen bird like this among other raptor species. The other record occurred in Vadodara, Gujarat, at Timbi Lake in 2022. I’m glad to see vultures near urban lands as the years go by.”


The president of NGO RAWW and Honorary Wildlife Warden of Thane district feels that the rare sighting of the species facing extinction is good news for wildlife in the district. “Studying wildlife in protected forest areas and non-protected areas is equally important for better conservation efforts. Kalyan Murbad patch is a very rich forest area with many known and lesser-known species and also acts as a wildlife corridor, which needs more attention and protection,” added Sharma.


Sharma also pointed out that over the last decades, there have been reports of top protected species of mammals, birds, and reptiles from the same area, which includes Indian gaur, four horned antelopes, leopards, eagles, vultures, Indian rock python, and monitor lizards.

Talking about the sighting, well-known bird watcher Avinash Bhagat said, “The sighting of the vulture that took place at Malang Gad might be the first in that area. Generally, vultures travel a long distance in search of food. For example, we can say that in a day a vulture can travel from Maharashtra to Karnataka and also from Maharashtra to Gujarat. The vulture was spotted in flight over Malang Gad, but it does not necessarily mean that they have a nesting site there. The nearest nesting site of vulture close to Mumbai is at Mahuli Fort area, in mountain ranges near Wada, and they are also found in mountain ranges ahead near Nasik. Sometimes people don’t pay close attention to the birds flying at a height, and they ignore it, thinking that it’s a kite. Also, it becomes difficult to do the identification of a bird flying at a very high altitude, and so some sightings of vultures also go unreported.”

According to the website Indiabiodiversity.org, it’s a critically endangered vulture, and according to the IUCN Red List, the most serious threat to this species is by kidney failure through the consumption of cattle treated with the anti-inflammatory drug, Diclofenac. Ketoprofen, another veterinary drug in use in India, has also been recently identified as being lethal to this bird species. Possible minor threats include changes in human consumption and processing of dead livestock leading to a lack of food for these vultures, avian malaria, poison, and pesticide use.

This species, like other vultures, feeds almost entirely on carcasses of dead animals. Often associates with white-rumped vultures or gyps bengalensis while scavenging at rubbish dumps and slaughterhouses.

2022
Year Sanal Santosh first sighted a vulture

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