Every year between September and October, one can witness the magnificent site of movement of winter migratory birds in large numbers to the Indian subcontinent.
Without the help of any map or GPS, these birds navigate their right way to India in search of their winter abode. We bring you the list of 10 such migratory birds that grace their presence in India every winter.
Migration is primarily triggered due to the need for food and breeding sites. Every year India receives migratory birds from 29 countries, and their return journey begins in March and April.
Asiatic sparrow hawk
Asiatic sparrow hawk is a bird of prey, but it is smaller compared to other birds of prey like eagles or vultures. These birds specialize in catching smaller birds like sparrows and woodland birds. They migrate to India and Myanmar during winters and their duration of stay is 4-6 months.
FUN FACT: Female sparrowhawks are about twice the weight of males, one of the largest differences between sexes in any bird of prey.
Peregrine falcon is one of the migratory birds
The name Peregrine means wanderer, and the peregrine falcon has one of the longest migrations of any North American bird. These falcons are formidable hunters that prey on other birds (and bats) in mid-flight.
They hunt from above, and after aiming for their prey, they drop into a steep, swift dive that can top 200 miles an hour.
FUN FACT: Peregrines are thought to enjoy binocular vision, eight times better than our own. They can see their prey from a distance of more than three kilometres. They also have a third eyelid to protect their eyes as they stoop to dive.
The Pale Harrier, the Marsh Harrier, and the Pied Harrier are the birds of prey that migrate to India during winters. They are plain-looking, long-legged, and long-tailed birds of slender build that cruise low over meadows and marshes looking for mice, snakes, frogs, small birds, and insects. One can catch their sight in Gujarat, Rajasthan, and in Kerala during winters.
FUN FACT: Unusual among hawks, Northern harriers use their sense of hearing to help locate prey. They have an owl-like facial disk to help with directional hearing and soft feathers for a quieter flight.
Ospreys are superb fishers and indeed eat little else—fish make up some 99 percent of their diet. Because of this appetite, these birds can be found near ponds, rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways around the world.
They have gripping pads on their feet to help them pluck fish from the water with their curved claws and carry them for great distances.
FUN FACT: In most instances, ospreys are monogamous and mate for life. The male osprey attracts a mate with an aerial display near a nesting location. The pair gathers materials to build the nest, typically set on a tall tree or pole near the water. After several years of adding materials, osprey nests can grow as tall as ten feet.
Blue throat is a beautiful bird that tends to remain hidden. They have a stunning pattern of electric blue and orange on the throat, females show fainter colors than males, sometimes lacking blue entirely, but are still very boldly patterned. They are found in cold regions like Alaska and Yukon Territory, but in winters they migrate to Indian subcontinents.
FUN FACT: These strikingly beautiful birds are known for their shyness. They have a preference for areas of thick vegetation, as well as patches of open ground. In fact, should you view one on open ground, you might notice it hopping across the ground and flitting in and out among bushes; a famously shy behaviour.
The tiny pretty white and yellow wagtails are the early birds to come to India during winters. The white wagtail is an insectivorous bird of the open country, often near habitation and water. It prefers bare areas for feeding, where it can see and pursue its prey.
FUN FACT: No one knows why wagtails wag their tails. The poet John Clare caught the bird’s gait well: Little Trotty wagtail, he went in the rain. And tittering, tottering sideways he near got straight again.
Pacific golden plover
They breed on Arctic tundra; during migration, found on sod fields, dry mudflats, and beaches. Birds in breeding plumage have a black belly and face with mottled white sides, a white stripe down the neck, and a crown and back spangled with gold.
Plover eats mollusks, insects, worms, crustaceans, lizards and is known to eat birds’ eggs and small fish. They are known to breed in extremely cold climates of Alaska. They migrate great distances to reach India and Singapore.
FUN FACT: When sensing danger, parent golden plovers have an interesting distracting technique; they pretend to be injured and this way leads the predator away from the nest with young.
Eurasian wigeon is a common duck of wetlands throughout Eurasia, generally in lakes and marshes. Also grazes in flocks on land. Eurasian wigeons are aquatic grazers and feed primarily on pondweeds, eelgrass, other aquatic plants, and grass found in shallow water and in fields and meadows.
Females prefer to nest on the ground near water in areas of taiga and forest. They lay an average of 7-10 eggs.
FUN FACT: The Eurasian wigeon is unorthodox in its feeding habits: It spends much of its time grazing on land like a goose and also loiters around feeding flocks of diving ducks, snatching food from them when they bob back to the surface.
Greater flamingos are tall pink birds found in warm, watery regions on many continents. They favor environments like estuaries and saline or alkaline lakes. They live and feed in groups called flocks or colonies.
They find safety in numbers, which helps to protect individual birds from predators while their heads are down in the mud. Greater flamingos also breed while gathered in groups.
FUN FACT: Young flamingos are born gray and white and do not turn pink for two years. And in years when wetlands and pools are dry and food scarce, flamingoes may not breed.
Starlings are small to medium-sized birds. These birds have strong feet, their flight is strong and direct, and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is a fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. Several species live around human habitation and are effectively omnivores.
FUN FACT: During the winter you may be lucky enough to see a starling murmuration. These flocks gather in the evening and perform amazing aerobatic displays before dropping into their favoured roost sites.
Flocks provide safety in numbers for birds retu
rning to roost as predators find it hard to target individual birds. In addition, they benefit from the warmth of other birds and the opportunity to exchange information.
Birds are warm-blooded animals who always allure us to learn more about them. The winters in India bring us birds of over 100 species to watch, observe, and learn.
During this pandemic, we cannot step out to birdwatch, but there are several online platforms that are now active to give you live details of winter migratory birds. So all these beauties are just one search away.