Pune: City-based ornithologist and President of NGO Alive Umesh Vaghela has expressed concern about the sighting of the red-breasted parakeet (RBP) in the city. He said the reason behind the ‘near threatened’ bird being sighted in a city area (Navi Peth) could be either due to the bird having escaped from the captivity of a bird trader or has been released by someone as an act of kindness. The ornithologist said that if such occurrences increase, it would be an indication of a danger to ecology.
Ornithologist and wildlife photographer Milind Halbe recently sighted the RBP in Navi Peth area. Vaghela said the RBP population has been declining rapidly and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has already declared the bird species as ‘near threatened’ in their ‘Red Data List’ published in November 2013.
Milind Halbe told Sakal Times that he noticed the bird perched atop a Barbados pride or Caesalpiniaceae (local name: Shankasur) tree at Shyamsundar Society. Halbe said, “I spotted the bird in a flock of common parrots or Rosering Parakeets.”
He said having returned from a trip to Andaman recently, he could easily identify the bird’s whistle. He maintained that these birds are found in Himalayan foothills and Andaman. The reason behind its sighting could have been due to the bird escaping from captivity.
Vaghela said ornithologists should probe this unlikely incidence to find out reasons behind it.
Earlier, Vaghela said that ornithologist Dr Raju Kasambe had also reported having sighted the bird on April 2, 2014, in Colaba, Mumbai. The sighting of the bird was never reported anywhere in Mumbai or in the rest of Maharashtra, said Vaghela.
Kasambe said that it is most probably a case of an escapee bird. He said people buy these captive birds and free them as a holy deed. As a result of this, RBPs have settled in a few places like Parel, Borivali and Thane. He said if they are sighted frequently, then it is certainly not a good sign for ecology. The Alexandrine parakeet, which is not a native of the State, is sighted frequently.
He said, ”This is a worrisome trend as RBPs’ main habitat is the foothills of Himalaya. It has never been sighted before in any other state, not even recorded as a vagrant.”
He said the late ornithologist Dr Saalim Ali, who had devoted his life to the study and conservation of birds, had reported the presence of RBPs only in Uttarakhand and at the foothill forests of the northeast states like Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur.
Vaghela added that the RBP usually stays in a flock of 6-10 and is a sedentary bird (non-migratory with season). Vaghela said it is more surprising to see the RBP mentioned in a book ‘Standard Names of Birds of Maharashtra’, which has been compiled by Dr Raju Kasambe and certified by the Maharashtra Pakshimitra Sanghatana. He said this book had been published by the Bombay Natural History Society(BNHS) in 2016.