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New water bird species discovered

Wildlife: At least one new water bird species known as the Common Moorhen (gallinula chloropus) was discovered in Bhutan’s nationwide annual water bird survey, yesterday.

“Common Moorhen was spotted in Gyalpozhing around Kurichu dam site in Mongar yesterday while scouring the river bank,” Ugyen Wangchuk Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) chief researcher, Sherub said. Sherub is also a popular “birder” in Bhutan.

Common Moorhen is the third water bird species discovered in Bhutan after the maiden water-bird census was conducted in February 2014 to study bird diversity and distribution. The Long-tailed duck (hyemalis) and Lapland’s Spurwing were discovered in Bhutan during the survey, last year.

The Long-tail duck was spotted in Bajo, Wangdiphodrang and the Lapland’s Spurwing in Kholongchhu in Trashi Yangtse.

“With the discovery of the Common Moorhen and two others last year, Bhutan’s bird list records at least 692 bird species now, from 689 in November 2013,” Sherub said.

According to UWICE, forestry officials from parks and territorial divisions scoured the major water-bodies and wetland across Bhutan like Kholongchhu, Punatsangchhu, Phobjikha, Jomotsangkha in Samdrup Jongkhar and Kurichhu in Mongar to record water birds, yesterday.

The water bird census will be conducted annually for few years to record water birds since migratory birds in South East Asia pass through Bhutan.

The census will be conducted in January every year before the birds start migrating back to their summer roosting grounds.

“The few birders from UWICE are appointed to coordinate the water bird census across the country,” UWICE assistant researcher, Rinchen Singye said.

Besides discovering new water bird species, the study will also help in identifying threats to its existence and habitat.

“The census will also help Bhutan discover new water bird species because we never know how many of water birds still exists in the country, which might be unknown to us,” Rinchen Singye said, adding it can be possible that the study might identify a new water bird species every year.

It is also to create awareness among the locals so as to make informed decisions pertaining to conservation of species and its habitat according to UWICE.

“The other objective is to connect with the global organiser through data collection and it’s sharing to frame global strategic conservation plans and policies,” Rinchen Singye added.

The census will also help experts determine how many birds migrate from the northern to southern hemisphere using Bhutan as their migratory route.

The institute also expects to discover the water birds’ response to climate change and impact of changing weather patterns on migration, population and habitat of the birds.

“The study will enable experts to know whether the climate change is affecting the water birds’ migratory pattern,” Rinchen Singye said, adding such findings will be crucial in attempting preemptive measures to save the species and its critical habitats.

Last year, 16 water bird species including the Blue-Whistling Thrush, Crested Kingfisher, White-capped Water Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Green Sandpiper, Solitary Snipe, Ibisbill and Common Merganser were spotted in Chamkhar.

This year, 12 water birds species like the Crested Kingfisher, White-capped Water Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Green Sandpiper, Solitary Snipe, Isisbill and Common Merganser were spotted, as officials combed the same riverbank.

Though international experts estimate existence of over 770 bird species in Bhutan, UWICE has so far recorded only 692 birds, which includes yesterday’s discovery of the Common Moorhen.

Tempa Wangdi, Bumthang

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