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Arrival of golden-feathered Brahminy ducks to Uttarakhand signals onset of winter

The golden feathered Ruddy Shelduck or surkhab or Brahminy duck as it is known in India migrate to India for spending the winter (Pic. Courtesy wikimedia commons)

The arrival of Ruddy Shelduck or Surkhab birds in Uttarakhand signals the onset of winter and migration of birds from other parts of the world. The first batch of 50 Ruddy Shelduck, also known as Brahminy ducks in India – a great favourite of bird-watchers and tourists because of its golden feathers – for a six-month stay has alerted the Chakrata Forest Department officials to tighten security for these guests.

Sharing details about the migratory birds which visit the State, Pradeep Saxena, a bird expert, told media that from 2015 onwards a total of more than 47,000 migratory birds have come to Uttarakhand. He added that these birds belong to 70 to 80 different species hailing from Himalayan and cold European regions and they move to wetlands to spend the winter.

The first to arrive this season, the Brahminy ducks are mainly nocturnal birds which are omnivorous and eat grass, young shoots of plants, grain and water plants as well as both aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. They are usually found in pairs or small groups and are not known to form large flocks. They breed in central Asia and there is a strong bonding between the male and female and it is thought they pair for life. Locally they are known as “love birds” and it is said if one in a pair dies the mate slowly starves itself to death.

Brahminy Duck2
There is a very strong boding between male and female Brahminy duck and it is thought that they pair for life

Uttarakhand’s Bhimgoda Barrage in Haridwar, Veerbhadra Barrage in Rishikesh and Asan wetland in Garhwal play host to many foreign birds. The verdant area, grassy shrubs and mud islands in these areas provide a perfect place for them. The migratory birds include white-bellied herons, purple swamphens, yellow bitterns, median egrets, painted storks, black bitterns, black storks, Asian Openbill, northern pintails, mallards, spot-billed ducks, tufted pochards, coots and black-winged kingfishers among others.