While COVID 19 is current reigning topic of our lives, There’s some positive news regarding the migration of Amur Falcons, a small pigeon sized raptor that is known for the longest bird of prey migration in the world. Two radio tagged Amur Falcons landed in India from their wintering grounds in Sourthern Africa after having undertaken a journey across the Arabian Sea, gliding across a jet stream.
Researchers from Wildlife Institute of India have been following the movement of a select few Amur Falcons that were satellite tagged to track their migration pattern over several years. Out of the lot, ‘Longleng’ and ‘Chiulan’ named after districts in Nagaland and a village in Manipur respectively, have successfully crossed the Arabian Sea from the African country of Somalia, after covering a perilous journey of 3000 km that takes close to five days for these birds to endure.
Amur Falcons are known to breed in parts of North Eastern China and Eastern Russia. Every year, they descend to the southern part of the African continent to seek refuge during the winter. In the midst of their journey, they make a few migratory pit stops that helps them ‘fatten up’ for their onward voyage till they repeat the entire cycle again, year after year. The entire round trip is over a staggering 20,000 km.
While it has been challenging for researchers to carryout fieldwork during the pandemic, scientists at Wildlife Institute of India have been monitoring the tagged raptors remotely. According to the signals received, Lonleng is currently in Southern India, while Chiulan’s signal was traced to Mizoram as of 28th of April and is currently en-route to Myanmar. During this time, ‘Longleng’ has successfully travelled completed her journey over the Arabian Sea for the 8th time after having been tagged in 2016. It’s only a matter of time now before she completes her journey back home to breed in the coming months.
Having been previously subjected to hunting for bush meat, Amur Falcons have bounced back after much awareness and conservation efforts. In the year 2013, there was a comprehensive campaign conducted by the Government of Nagaland, Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust along with the help of local churches. This was particularly launched in Wokha District where measures were taken toeducate the locals about nature while simultaneously involving them in protection and surveillance, eco – tourism and the scientific study of the birds. More Importantly, the local village councils were included to put an end to the mass slaughter.
The Wildlife Institute of India has been tagging Amur falcons to study the migratory route of these birds of prey since 2013. Not only does this help them understand the variables involved in such a long migration, but it is also key in the conservation of the species and the habitats they depend on. India is currently committed to the International Memorandum of Understanding on Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia, having signed for the protection of these birds in 2016.