Explained: Why a rare duck has created a flutter in Upper Assam

Floating within the Maguri-Motapung beel (or wetland) in Assam’s Tinsukia district for over per week is the spectacular and uncommon Mandarin duck. First noticed on February 8 by Madhab Gogoi, a Tinsukia-based birder and tour information, the duck has since grow to be the star of the wetland — an space affected by a blowout and hearth at a pure gasoline properly situated shut by in Might 2020.

“After I heard that Madhab had noticed the duck, I didn’t consider him,” mentioned Binanda Hatiboruah, a chicken information, additionally based mostly in Tinsukia, “However once I noticed it myself, I hugged him [Madhab] and nearly lifted him up. I used to be that excited.” The chicken was final sighted on this a part of Assam greater than a century in the past, in 1902.

What’s the Mandarin duck and why is it thrilling?

Thought of probably the most stunning duck on the planet, the Mandarin duck, or the (Aix galericulata) was first recognized by Swedish botanist, doctor and zoologist Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The eBird web site, a platform that paperwork birds world over, describes it as a “small-exotic trying chicken” native to East Asia. “It’s very stunning, with majestic colors and may be noticed from a distance,” mentioned Deborshee Gogoi, a Digboi-based professor of selling, and a birder, who additionally noticed the duck final week, “It was a male — we may inform as a result of on this species, the males are extra vibrant than the females.”

The eBird web site describes the male as “very ornate with large orangey ‘sail fins’ on the again, streaked orangey cheeks, and a small pink invoice with a whitish tip” and the feminine with “slender white spectacles on a shaggy gray head, daring pale dappled spots alongside flanks, and pale invoice tip.”

The migratory duck breeds in Russia, Korea, Japan and northeastern elements of China, defined Gogoi. It now has established populations in Western Europe and America too. In 2018, when a Mandarin duck was noticed in a pond in New York Metropolis’s Central Park, it created a flutter amongst native residents.

The duck, nonetheless, hardly ever visits India because it doesn’t fall in its common migratory route. There are solely a handful of recorded sightings right here. “It was recorded in 1902 in Dibru river within the Rongagora space in Tinsukia,” mentioned Hatiboruah, “Extra lately, it was sighted in Manipur’s Loktak Lake in 2013, and in Saatvoini Beel in Manas Nationwide Park and Tiger Reserve in Assam’s Baksa district 2014.”

Based on ornithologist Dr Anwaruddin Choudhury, a former joint secretary of the forest division, whereas the duck shouldn’t be a globally threatened species, recognizing one is all the time thought-about vital as a result of they solely make “uncommon appearances.” Hatiboruah mentioned it was a “historic sighting, particularly as a result of nobody can say once we will see it once more.”

So what’s it doing in Assam?

Whereas birds often observe an everyday route for migration, “it is usually frequent for them to stray from the trail,” mentioned Dr Choudhury. That is what presumably occurred to the Mandarin duck, which was noticed at Maguri beel.

“It was presumably unintended, may have misplaced its means or strayed from the flock,” mentioned Hatiboruah. Since February 8, the chicken has appeared a number of instances, attracting quite a lot of birders not simply from Assam, however completely different elements of the nation, together with Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Pune.

The chicken was additionally noticed by a staff from the Wildlife Belief of India (WTI), which was current within the space for a survey of the White-winged wooden duck, a particularly uncommon and endangered duck species discovered primarily in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Mandarin duck was final seen on Wednesday. “There have been no sightings within the final three days,” mentioned Gogoi, “It may have presumably moved away from Maguri beel.”

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What’s the Maguri beel, why is it necessary?

The Maguri Motapung wetland — an Vital Fowl Space as declared by the Bombay Pure Historical past Society — is situated near the Dibru Saikhowa Nationwide Park in Higher Assam. Based on Gogoi, the wetland has a grassland adjoining to it. “Your complete ecosystem (grassland and wetland) is essential as it’s residence to at the very least 304 chicken species, together with quite a lot of endemic ones like Black-breasted parrotbill and Marsh babbler.”

In Might 2020, the beel was adversely affected by a blowout and hearth at an Oil India Restricted-owned gasoline properly. The ensuing oil spill killed quite a lot of fish, snakes in addition to an endangered Gangetic dolphin, and the hearth had burnt a big portion of the grassland. Hatiboruah mentioned that there was appreciable restoration attributable to at the very least 9 waves of floods final yr that cleared the oil. Gogoi added that whereas most migratory season often begins in September, the birds arrived solely in November presumably due to the hearth, which was doused solely then. “Nevertheless, the sighting of the duck is undoubtedly a optimistic signal,” he mentioned.

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