Thursday, June 16, 2011



                                                                   (Gavialis gangeticus)

  • The gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), ( Hindi: घऱियाल, Marathi: सुसर Susar), also called Indian gavial or gavial, is the only surviving member of the once well-represented family Gavialidae, a long-established group of crocodilians with long, slender snouts. The gharial is listed as a critically endangered species by IUCN. The gharial is one of the three crocodilians found in India, the others being the Mugger crocodile and the Saltwater crocodile. It is one of the longest of all living crocodilians.

  • Description: The Gharial, Gavialis gangeticus is uniformly dark olive-gray with a pale yellow belly. Juveniles have dark spots and cross bands against a light background. Gharials have an extremely elongated snout. The teeth are needle-like and the eyes green frosted with back. A large male can reach 23 feet in length, and a female 15 feet.Gharials, being the most aquatic of all crocodilians, are awkward out of water mainly due to their short stumpy legs. The adult male develops a pot-like structure on the end of the snout, giving the gharial its name (from    "ghara" -- Hindi for earthen pot). This nose knob is used to produce a bussing noise that repels rival males and serves as an audible warning system.  The leg musculature of the gharial does not enable it to raise its body off the ground to achieve the high-walk gait on land, but can only push its body forward across the ground ('belly-sliding'), although it can do this with some speed when required. However, when in water, the gharial is the most nimble and quick of all the crocodilians in the world. The jaws are lined with many interlocking, razor-sharp teeth — 27 to 29 upper and 25 or 26 lower teeth on each side. These teeth are not received into interdental pits; the first, second, and third mandibular teeth fit into notches in the upper jaw. The front teeth are the largest. The gharial's snout is narrow and long, with a dilation at the end and its nasal bones are comparatively short and are widely separated from the pre-maxillaries.

  • Distribution and Habitat: Gharials thrive in deep rivers. They are powerful swimmers but graceless on land, and will leave the water only to bask or to nest on sandy beaches. They were once distributed across approximately 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 sq mi) of riverine habitat of the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Irrawady river systems. Today their distribution is limited to only 2% of their former range. In India, small populations are present and increasing in the rivers of the National Chambal Sanctuary, Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, Son River Sanctuary and the rainforest biome of Mahanadi in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary, Orissa, where they apparently do not breedIn Nepal, small populations are present and slowly recovering in tributaries of the Ganges, such as the Narayani-Rapti river system in Chitwan National park and the Karnali-Babai river system in Bardia National Park.

  • Diet: Young gharials eat insects, larvae, and small frogs. Mature adults feed almost solely on fish, although some individuals have been known to scavenge dead animals. Their snout morphology is ideally suited for preying on fish. Their long, narrow snouts offer very little resistance to water in swiping motions to snap up fish in the water. Their numerous needle-like teeth are ideal for holding on to struggling, slippery fish. Gharials will often use their body to corral fish against the bank where they can be more easily snapped up.

  • Threats: Gharials have been pushed to the brink of extinction. In 1974, the government of India and the United nations Food and Agriculture Organization conducted a survey of its population in India. It was estimated that no more than 50 to 60 surviving adults.Although the gharial is still listed as endangered, effective conservation measures have now made the gharial's future more promising. Massive sanctuaries have been created and active management involves the collection of eggs for hatchery incubation.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Indian Skimmer

Indian Skimmer
(Rynchops albicollis)

  • Description: A crow sized, tern-like bird, blackish brown above and glistening white below; a broad white forehead, sides of face and a collar, contrasting with the black head and nape; a dark stripe down the middle of the white rump and forked tail. A typical knife-like compressed bill, with longer lower mandible, orange yellow in colour; legs bright red. Immature lighter brown above, scalloped with fulvous white; forehead with brown streaks; tail-feathers tipped brown.

  • Distribution: It is found on large rivers and lakes, swamps and coastal wetlands such as estuaries. It is most common on freshwater, particularly during the breeding season. Breeding colonies are on islands or sandy spits, usually in rivers. Its range has become increasingly fragmented in recent decades. It is still found in parts of Pakistan in the Indus river system of Kashmir and northern and central India along the Ganges, Bangladesh and Burma. It is a scarce non-breeding visitor to Nepal and has occurred as a vagrant in Oman and central Thailand with old records from Iran and China. They are more widespread in winter and are found in coastal estuaries of western and eastern India. Breeding colonies are known from the Chambal river area, an area that is of importance for the Gharial. Sand banks are important for the nesting of Gharials.

  • Behavior and Diet: The birds forage for food by flying low over the water with the bill open and the lower mandible skimming through the water. When a fish is encountered, it moves up the lower mandible and the bird raises the upper mandible and snaps it with a movement of the head. They forage in small flocks and often associate with terns. They feed mainly on fish but also take small crustaceans and insect larvae. They often feed at dusk and can be very nocturnal. The breeding season is mainly March and May. They breed in colonies of up to 40 pairs, often with terns and other birds. The nest is a simple scrape on the ground mainly on open sand banks that provide unobstructed views of any oncoming predators. The eggs are buff or white with brown blotches and streaks. There are three to five eggs in a clutch. The birds tend to incubate the eggs more during the cooler hours of the day and are often away from the nest during the hotter parts of the day. Incubating adults are said to indulge in belly-soaking behaviour to cool the eggs. A bird at nest was once observed to pick up (and drop into water) an intruding chick of a River Tern using its leg.

  • Threats: Increased disturbances in the breeding ground along the sandy banks of major rivers due to fishing activities, probable shortage of food (of appropriate size) and increased pollution of river waters in recent times are probable causes of depletion of the species.

Indian Skimmer : Fishing

Friday, January 7, 2011

Oriental White Eye

Photo taken at Baroda
Oriental White-eye,
(Zosterops palpebrosus)

  • Description: This bird is small (about 8–9 cm long) with yellowish olive upper parts, a white eye ring, yellow throat and vent. The belly is whitish grey but may have yellow in some subspecies. The sexes look similar. The taxonomy of the group is still unclear with some island populations being distinctive while some subspecies are not well supported. The population from Flores, Indonesia for instance is found closer to the Pale White-eye. The family itself is now questioned since they are nested along with the Stachyris babblers. About eleven subspecies are well recognized. These include the nominate form (type locality Bengal, India) which is found from Oman and Arabia, Afghanistan, northern India and extends into China and northern Myanmar.

  • Distribution: The species is found in a wide range of habitats from scrub to moist forest. They sometimes occur on mangrove areas such as in the Karachi area. And on islands they may lead a more insectivorous life. They are somewhat rare only in the drier desert regions of western India. A feral population was detected in San Diego, California in the 1980s and subsequently eradicated.

  • Behavior and Diet: These white-eyes are sociable, forming flocks which only separate on the approach of the breeding season. They are highly arboreal and only rarely descend to the ground. The breeding season is February to September but April is the peak breeding season and the compact cup nest is a placed like a hammock on the fork of a branch. The nest is made of cobwebs, lichens and plant fiber. The nest is built in about 4 days and the two pale blue eggs are laid within a couple of days of each other. The eggs hatch in about 10 days. Both sexes take care of brooding the chicks which fledged in about 10 days. Though mainly insectivorous, the Oriental White-eye will also eat nectar and fruits of various kinds.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

White Eye Buzzard

White-eyed Buzzard

(Butastur teesa)
Photo taken at Tadoba - Andhari Tiger Reserve

  • Description: This slim and small sized hawk is easily identified by its white iris to the eye and the white throat and dark mesial stripe. A white nuchal spot is sometimes visible. When perched the wing tip nearly reaches the tip of the tail. The ceres are distinctly yellow and the head is dark with the underside of the body darkly barred. In flight it shows rounded but narrow wings with black tips to the feathers and the wing-lining appears dark. The upper wing in flight shows a pale bar over the brown. The tail is barred with a darker subterminal band. Young birds have the iris brownish and the forehead is whitish and a broad supercilium may be present.

  • Distribution: This species is widely distributed in South Asia, throughout India in the plains and extending up to 1000 m in the Himalayas. It is a resident in Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. It is absent from Sri Lanka and is probably absent from the Andamans. It is a summer visitor in northeastern Afghanistan. It is mainly found in the plains but may go up to 1200m in the foothills of the Himalayas. The usual habitat is in dry, open forest or cultivation. They are numerous in some areas but declining. A survey in the late 1950s estimated about 5000 birds in the vicinity of Delhi in an area of about 50,000 km2.

  • Diet and Breeding: The feed mainly on locusts, grasshoppers, crickets and other large insects as well as mice, lizards and frogs. They may also take crabs from near wetlands and have even been reported to take larger prey like the Black - naped Hare (Lepus nigricollis).

    The breeding season is February to May. The nest is loose platform of twigs not unlike that of a crow. The usual clutch is three eggs. Both sexes share nest-building and feeding young; female alone incubates.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Knob billed Duck (Comb Duck)

Photograph taken at Thol wild life sanctuary- Ahmedabad

Knob-billed Duck
(Sarkidiornis melanotos)

  • Description: This common species is unmistakable. Adults have a white head freckled with dark spots, and a pure white neck and underparts. The upperparts are glossy blue-black upperparts, with bluish and greenish iridescence especially prominent on the secondaries (lower arm feathers). The male is larger than the female, and has a large black knob on the bill. Young birds are dull buff below and on the face and neck, with dull brown upper parts, top of the head and eye stripe. The adults are unmistakable. Immature Knob-billed Ducks look like a large grayish female of the Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelicus) and may be difficult to tell apart if no other birds are around to compare size and hue. If seen at a distance, they can also be mistaken for a Fulvous Whistling - Duck. However, Knob-billed Ducks in immature plumage are rarely seen without adults nearby and thus they are usually easily identified too. The Knob-billed Duck is silent except for a low croak when flushed.

  • Distribution: It breeds in still freshwater swamps and lakes in the tropics. It is largely resident, apart from dispersion in the wet season. Knob-billed Ducks often perch in trees. They are typically seen in flocks, small in the wet season, up to 100 in the dry season. Sometimes they separate according to sex. The Knob-billed Duck is declining in numbers locally, but due to its wide range it is not considered globally threatened by the IUCN.

  • Diet: Konb-Billed Ducks feeds on vegetation by grazing or dabbling and to a lesser extent on small fish, invertebrates, and seeds. It can become a problem to rice farmers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


(Accipiter badius)

  • Description: This bird is a small raptor (26-30cm) with short broad wings and a long tail, both adaptations to fast manoeuvring. The normal flight of this species is a characteristic "flap – flap – glide". The adult Shikra has pale grey upperparts, and is white, finely barred reddish below. Sexes are similar except that female is larger than the male. The juvenile is brown above and white, spotted with brown below. It has a barred tail.
  • Distribution:

    The Shikra is a widespread resident breeder throughout south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Shikra is a bird of open woodland including savannah and cultivation. It nests in trees, building a new nest each year. It lays 3-7 eggs.

  • Diet:

    Its hunting technique is similar to other small hawks such as Sparrow hawk, A. nisus relying on surprise as it flies from a hidden perch or flicks over a bush to catch its prey unaware. The prey is lizards, dragonflies, and small birds and mammals.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dragon Fly

A dragonfly is a type of insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocta or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera. It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragonflies are similar to damselflies, but the adults can be differentiated by the fact that the wings of most dragonflies are held away from, and perpendicular to, the body when at rest. Even though dragonflies possess 6 legs like any other insect, they are not capable of walking.

Dragonflies are valuable Predators that eatmosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants, and butterflies. They are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic.

Life Cycle :

Female dragonflies lay eggs in or near water, often on floating or emergent plants. When laying eggs, some species will submerge themselves completely in order to lay their eggs on a good surface. The eggs then hatch into nymphs. Most of a dragonfly's life is spent in the naiad (that is, nymph) form, beneath the water's surface, using extendable jaws to catch other invertebrates or even vertebrates such as tadpoles and fish. They breathe through gills in their rectum, and can rapidly propel themselves by suddenly expelling water through the anus. Some nymphs even hunt on land, an aptitude which could easily have been more common in ancient times when terrestrial predators were clumsier.

The larval stage of large dragonflies may last as long as five years. In smaller species, this stage may last between two months and three years. When the larva is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs up a reed or other emergent plant. Exposure to air causes the larva to begin breathing. The skin splits at a weak spot behind the head and the adult dragonfly crawls out of its old larval skin, pumps up its wings, and flies off to feed on midges and flies. In flight the adult dragonfly can propel itself in six directions; upward, downward, forward, back, and side to side. The adult stage of larger species of dragonfly can last as long as five or six months.