Rare sighting of rescued Himalayan Griffon Vulture thrills Maha bird-lovers

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More so, after it emerged that the bird sighted soaring in the skies was actually the once rescued on December 28, 2020, and spending over a month at the Malabar Awareness & Rescue Centre for Wildlife (MARC) in Kerala’s Kannur.

“This vulture was spotted going for food in the Jungli Jaigad Fort area of Sahyadri on May 9 morning and forest guard Santosh Chalke managed to click it in flight,” ornithologist and honorary Wildlife Warden Rohan Bhate told IANS.

Chalke provided the vulture’s photos to Bhate for further studies which revealed an orange tag on the majestic vulture’s right wing which was affixed by MARC scientific and migratory studies before it was released in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary on January 31.

After its release, the Himalayan Griffon Vulture was spotted only once on February 28, feasting over a carcass in Kerala with many other vultures, as per a MARC report, and followed by the latest sighting in Sahyadri Tiger Reserve a fortnight ago.

Later, the team of Bhate, Chalke, and others kept a vigil for over a week, but it was not seen again.

“This spells good tidings…. It is a juvenile bird, around 1 year old, was rescued by a team of birdlovers including R. Roshnath and C. Sashikumar of MARC. Its sighting is an indicator that the rescue effort was successful and it had adapted again in the wild,” Deputy Director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and Principal Scientist of its Vulture Breeding Programme, Dr Vibhu Prakash told IANS in Mumbai.

Himalayan Griffon Vultures are usually found in Tibet, Mongolia, southwest China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, southern Europe besides the arid regions of north and northwest parts of India.

Bhate said that the huge and magnificent bird stands around 125 cms tall, with a gigantic wingspan of around 3 metres (8-9 feet), average weight of male-female 8-10 kgs, with white feathers on the head, buff coloured on the back, with dark brown-black tail-feathers and a black bill.

As with all vultures, it is a scavenger and relishes rotting meat, builds its nest high on cliffs or ridges and is a poor breeder with the female laying one egg a year a majority of the eggs or chicks fall prey to other predators, though the survivors can live beyond 40 years, added Dr Prakash.

To a question, Dr Prakash said that this vulture might live in the vicinity till Winter 2021-2022 before it would fly back to its regular environs north of the Himalayan range or eastern Europe, as this species can fly thousands of kms during migration.

Roshnath and Sashikumar’s report said that the Himalayan Griffon Vultures recorded sightings have been barely two-three in south India in the past 30 years, while Bhate spotted one in Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary, which is part of the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve.

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