Forest Guard at Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary Clicks First Pictures of Bearded Vulture in Gujarat
According to bird watchers, the Bearded Vulture is found in the Himalayas and in the mountains of Afghanistan and western Pakistan, with unpredictable local movements, and is a winter migrant to Sindh and Balochistan.
Ahmedabad: After a forest guard of Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Junagadh, Gujarat, spotted a Bearded Vulture and captured it in frames, ornithologists confirmed that this was the first photographic record of the bird species in the Gujarat.
“On the morning of January 15, 2019, I visited the Ransivav area in the sanctuary. This region is located near the Girnar Hills. I observed some birds of prey soaring on thermals late that morning. Among them, I noticed a large bird soaring alongside an Oriental Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus). I took a few photographs of both the soaring birds,’’ Forest Guard Dipak Vadher told News18.
“After coming home, I initially identified the other bird as an Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and posted the photos on my Facebook page. Nirav Bhatt, who has studied birds of prey in Gujarat, replied that the mystery bird looked different and requested me to send all the photos I had taken in high-resolution. After studying these images, he confirmed that the bird was a juvenile or immature Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), also known as Lammergeier. Though the bird was seen only in flight, it showed well all the identification features — the large size (as compared to the nearby Oriental Honey Buzzard), dark head and neck, pale creamy underparts, large wedge-shaped tail, pointed wings and the typical ‘beard’ was seen below the beak in one of the images. The large wedge-shaped tail eliminated other Gyps vultures and also Aquila eagles,” Vadher said, adding the Egyptian Vulture, though similar in shape, is much smaller, with a smaller tail and lacks the ‘beard’.
According to bird watchers, the Bearded Vulture is found in the Himalayas and in the mountains of Afghanistan and western Pakistan, with unpredictable local movements, and is a winter migrant to Sindh and Balochistan in Pakistan.
While it lives in the Himalayas in India, there are no records of it from anywhere else in the country.
“For Gujarat, a record of a Bearded Vulture was claimed from Vighakot near the India-Pakistan border in the Greater Rann of Kachchh (in 2005). However, due to lack of photographs or any other corroborative evidence, it was treated as unconfirmed. Thus, the present sighting confirms the occurrence of the Bearded Vulture in Gujarat and is an addition to the Gujarat checklist. This is the southern-most record of the species for India. Another interesting aspect about this sighting from the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary is that this sanctuary is located in Saurashtra. Here, it should be noted that the Girnar Hills are the highest point in the Saurashtra region, with the highest peak is at 1,117m and the Bearded Vulture is said to prefer mountainous areas,’’ said a note on the Bearded Vulture sighting published in Indian Birds, a bi-monthly ornithology journal.
“The Bearded Vulture is a winter migrant to Sindh, in western Pakistan, from where the bird can drift into Gujarat. It is an ‘occasional visitor to the higher hill ranges such as Kirthar in January and February’ in Sindh... It can be expected to be a vagrant to nearby areas like Kachchh (or maybe even in Rajasthan), but this sighting is quite far from its normal wintering range. It is possible that the species wanders to suitable hilly/mountainous areas in the winter,’’ a note in the journal added.