Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Sunday, March 3, 2024

Skimmers skip Chambal, only 5 nests spotted

 KANPUR: It is already May but only a few nests of Indian skimmers (Rynchops albicollis) have been sighted in National Chambal Sanctuary at Etawah, a favourite habitat of these birds. Only five nests have been spotted by the authorities of the forest department. 

By the middle of May, Indian skimmers are found nesting in the sanctuary area in abundance. "However, so far, we have sighted only five nests in Etawah, besides a dozen at various other spots. Our team has surveyed almost all the major spots where nesting takes place every year," Wildlife warden Gurmeet Singh said. 

Indian skimmer, IUCN red-listed endangered bird, is found in India that breeds and lives in the sanctuary. 

Experts have attributed the decline in the population to global warming. The rise in temperature is responsible for the increased melting of glaciers that sends a spurt of water into the river, submerging of river islands and sandy pits where the bird lays eggs. This is posing a threat to the breeding of the bird. 

Other major factors, which affect the hatchling is frequent interference of cattle, dogs and other predators in the nesting colonies, due to reduction in water level which destroy eggs and chicks. 

Construction of irrigation barrages has also led to increased encroachment and disturbance of islands/sand-bars supporting breeding colonies and conversion of these areas for cultivation. Water released from dams and seasonal floods also destroyed the breeding colonies, Rajiv Chauhan, secretary of Society for Conservation of Nature, said.


A villager of Panchnada said: "Sand islands in the upstream are shrinking fast because of the pressure of encroachment. We had witnessed flocks of 300-400 birds in the upstream in 1996. Their size has now reduced to 40-60, which is a major cause of concern for bird lovers as well as locals."


"At present, most of these islands in the Chambal river are also being used by farmers for cucurbit farming. The government should take urgent steps to save the habitat of Indian Skimmer before it is too late," Chauhan added. 

"The best way to protect sand islands is by making people aware of what they stand to lose if this eco-system perishes. An awareness programme would be launched soon," Singh said. Last year, 35 chicks were spotted in the islands of Chambal river. Skimmers are social birds, which nest in colonies, roost communally on sand islands and feed either singly or in flocks. The Indian skimmer hunts up and down rivers and lakes both during the day and during moonlit nights. Food is caught by skimming the water surface in flight with the longer, projecting lower mandible submerged to snap shut on contact with fish, which are swallowed either in flight or after landing. Breeding occurs between February and May, producing three to five eggs, he added.