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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ceylon Frogmouth – an endangered bird

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Taxonomically known as Batrachostomus moniliger, the Ceylon Frogmouth is a highly adapted forest bird with froglike croaking call and shape of the head. The high pressure on forests created by fast growth of human population has rendered this bird homeless and this is the principal reason due to which it has gone to the condition of endangered bird. Reclamation of forest land for extending agricultural land, setting up of industries, and establishing human settlements, and yes the air pollution leading to the changes of climatic conditions are some potential reasons behind the reducing number of these birds. It is somewhat similar to the nightjar in habit and behavior.


Ceylon Frogmouth -an endangered bird

The Frogmouths are a group of nocturnal birds mainly found in the tropical forests. About 13 species of these birds have been reported to inhabit different forests in different parts of the world. Out of this number two species belong to India. One of these two species, one species is found in South India and the other is found in Himalyas. In south India, frogmouths are found in the forests of the Western Ghats. The same species is found in Ceylon or Srilanka too. These birds belong to the aves family known as Batrachostomidae of the genus Batrachostomus. It is called by different names in different languages like- Ceylon Frogmouth in English; Podarge de Ceylan in French; Ceylonfroschmaul in German and Podargo de Ceilán in Spanish. It is regarded as endemic to Srilanka (Grimmet et al. 1998, Rasmussen and Anderton 2005). Male and female birds are distinguished by colour and pattern of spots as the male bird looks grey and heavily spotted, and the female bird looks brown to rufous with comparatively less spots on the plumes (Warakagoda 2001). The bird usually does not appear during the day. However if it appears it is camouflaged by its cryptic plumage and appearing like a broken branch.

At night, it hunts insects and beetles with its large gape. The flight appears weak and fluttery, but they are capable of flying quietly under the forest canopy. Frogmouths build nests on woody climber and dense branches of trees. Sometimes these build nests in the forks of trees or wooden platforms that they build themselves by decorating them with mosses and lichens or simply by their own feathers. They lay 1 or 2 white eggs, which both sexes incubate, usually the female by night, and the male by day. The young are covered with down at hatching and remain in the nest until able to fly. Frogmouths sleep during the day in a very special fashion. They sleep horizontally or lengthwise on the branch of a tree with their heads up and eyes closed. While sleeping no one can easily identify or spot the bird because of its specific colour which perfectly matches with the colour of the surrounding.

Till late seventies frogmouths were considered to be highly endangered. After the efforts of tracking and conservation of these birds that were taken up by eminent ornithologists like Dr. Salim Ali that the number of these birds started improving gradually. Dr. Salim Ali, the great ornithologist of India, initiated the survey of these birds in South India for the first time. Currently, it has been reported that in spite of the decreasing number out side in different parts of the world, it is fairly increasing in the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad.


Dr. Salim Ali : The Great Ornothologist of India
(November 12, 1896 - July 27, 1987)

Since Frogmouths prefer forests of Bamboos and canes, and these two fell under heavy pressure due to human interferences, these birds started vanishing out in their efforts in adopting other types of habitats. The plantation of bird friendly trees, shrubs etc., protection of forests, their regeneration, and compensatory forestation can bring back these birds to their homes.

References

Grimmett, R., Inskipp and Inskipp, T. (1998) Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.

Warakagoda, D. (2001): Colour variation and identification of the male Ceylon Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger, and its daytime incubation. Ceylon Bird Club Notes 2001: 98-104.

Kannan, R. (1993): Recent sightings of the Ceylon Frogmouth in India. Bull. Oriental Bird Club 17:36-38. Sandy, UK: Oriental Bird Club.


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