Physiotherapist family on vacation in Arunachal | Spots Giant Shrike on way to Sangtesar Lake

  • Being first sighting in India calls for survey

By A O News Service

ITANAGAR, May 13: Arunachal Pradesh, justifying its synonym as ‘Nature’s Trove’, springs up one after another surprise for bird lovers and ornithologists.

A physiotherapist on vacation in the state had spotted a bird, called Giant Shrike, first sighting in India, which clearly indicated that many birds from different countries are attracted to this Himalayan state in search of greener pasture.

Agency reports from Mumbai: In a first record of its sighting in India, the Giant Shrike – a bird commonly found in the high altitude regions of China – was sighted by a physiotherapist Kalyani Kapdi near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on March 20 last. With the sighting, the bird has been added to the avian checklist in the country.

Kapdi from Mumbai spotted the bird while she and her family were on their way to Sangtesar Lake from Tawang on the morning of March 20. “I saw a shrike-like bird flying parallel to our car, overtaking us and then perching on a pole ahead. My first impression was that it could be a great grey shrike, a species endemic to much of the Indian sub-continent or a magpie. However, when I checked the Merlin app (a bird identification application run by Cornell Lab of Ornithology that also runs the popular eBird platform), it showed that Arunachal Pradesh was not in the distribution range of great grey shrike. This made me curious about the bird,” Kapdi said, who has participated in bird counts and bird surveys in many states of India.

The physiotherapist sent photos of the bird she clicked to Salehin Md Habib, a birdwatcher from Kolkata, and also to Ashwin Viswanathan, a leading birdwatcher in the country. Both identified the bird seen near Tawang as a giant grey shrike and that it was the first ever record of this species in India.

Though the bird was expected there, Viswanathan termed Kapdi’s sighting a “very lucky occurrence”. “This indeed is the first record of this species in India. It was a very lucky find though there is a distant possibility of birds of these species being there in that area because of their range extending up to Tibet. However, a giant grey shrike was not on anyone’s radar so far,” Viswanathan said, adding, “The sighting just shows that there is so much more to discover in India and as birders begin to explore more remote corners, we will have more exciting discoveries like this.”

The road leading to Bum La pass and Sangetsar lake is narrow and generally, vehicles cannot stop on the road. “However, there was a traffic jam ahead and therefore, our vehicle was stalled, affording me time to observe the bird and click its photographs,” said 45-year-old Kapdi who was vacationing with her parents, husband and son.

According to eBird, the giant grey shrike resembles Chinese grey shrike in many respects but it looks larger than the latter. A giant grey shrike has a darker back and lacks white eyebrows that are distinct in Chinese grey shrike and great grey shrike. Giant grey shrikes are found at high elevations, in open habitats with shrubs and migrate to lower elevations during winters.

AONS adds: The bird is a large and long-tailed shrike with dark gray upperparts, white underparts, a black mask and white in its wing. The white patches in the black wings and tail are especially conspicuous in flight. Found at high elevations, in open habitats with stunted shrubs, like rhododendron. Descends to lower elevations during the winter, it often uses tall and exposed perches. Vocalizations include harsh rasping notes and more musical, liquid ones. It is similar to Chinese Gray Shrike, but larger with a darker gray back and no white eyebrow.

The Giant Grey Shrike (Lanius giganteus) is a species of bird in the family Laniidae and found in China. Its natural habitat is temperate forests. It was formerly considered a subspecies of the Chinese Grey Shrike (Lanius sphenocercus), but was split as a distinct species by the IOC in 2021.

Related posts