Willow Warbler sighted for the first time in country

One of the longest migrating small birds spotted at Punchakkari on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), one of the longest migrating small birds that breeds throughout northern and temperate Europe and the Palearctic, has been sighted for the first time in the country at Punchakkari in the capital.

The bird was spotted by Nirmal George, Associate Professor in Pharmacology and programme officer of the National Service Scheme (NSS) of Sree Gokulam Medical College and Research Foundation, Venjaramoodu, around 9.30 a.m. on November 14.

“The abnormal behaviour, shape, and non-familiarity with other warblers commonly seen in this area was what caught my attention. The photographs were taken from a distance. Although I visited the area again in the evening to get more photos of the bird, I had to return home disappointed,” says Dr. George.

Posting of the photographs of the bird on the WhatsApp group of his birding team and consultations with 10 international experts helped identify the bird.

“It is the first time that Phylloscopus trochilus is being sighted and reported in the country,” he said.

Long wing feathers

While the bird weighs around 10 g, its long wing feathers that help fly long distances makes it peculiar. Usually seen in European and the Palearctic regions, the birds migrate to sub-Saharan Africa during early winter.

Warblers are generally difficult to identify owing to the small size and change in plumage twice a year.

They are also the most difficult groups of birds to identify in the field for their striking resemblance to each other.

Dr. George, who has been into birding for a year, has identified 163 species of birds and photographed over 100 species. Most of them were from Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, and Idukki districts.

Biodiversity consultant Sujith V. Gopalan says 17 species of warblers have been recorded from Kerala and the Willow Warbler forms the 18th warbler and 533rd species of bird to be recorded from the State.

The Vellayani-Punchakkari paddy fields are a birding hotspot on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram. It is known to harbour more than 213 species of birds that include both resident and migratory ones. As many as seven species of warblers have been recorded from the Vellayani-Punchakkari fields.

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