Avifauna of Prashar Lake and its Surrounding Area in Mandi District (Himachal
The explorations of the avifauna of Prashar lake and its surrounding area in
Mandi district revealed the presence of 95 species of birds belonging to 74
genera spread over 30 families and 11 orders. Of these, 16 species of birds were purely
resident and rest 79 showed seasonal local or long range migrations.
Of the 79 seasonal local or long range migrants, 39 species were local migrants,
15 were summer visitors, 8 were winter visitors, and 14 species showed summer
and 3 species showed winter influx. Analyses of data on relative abundance showed
that of the 95 species, 29 (31%) were very common, 45 (47%) common, 19 (20%)
uncommon and 2 (2%) rare in Prashar area of Mandi district. Moreover, a majority
of the birds (43 species) were insectivorous in nature followed by Graminivorous
(14 species), Omnivorous (13 species), Frugivorous (10 species), Scavengers
(seen species), aquatic animal eaters (4 species) and vegetable matter eaters
and Carnivorous (2 species each). The study further showed that there are two
endangered species of birds viz., Egyptian Vulture and Cheer Pheasant in Prashar
Received: December 13, 2013;
Accepted: February 28, 2014;
Published: May 21, 2014
Natural environment provides numerous services like carbon sequestration, crop
pollination, managing water flows, maintenance of biodiversity etc. (Millennium
Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Himachal Pradesh constituting just 1.76% of
the entire geographical area of the country supports more than 600 species of
birds representing around 50% of the total species recorded from India (Rahmani,
2004) mainly due to the overlapping of three avifaunal realms i.e., the
Indo-Malayan, the Palaearctic and the Afrotropical regions (Besten,
2004). Topographical variations from sub-tropical hot plains to lofty mountains,
each harbouring unique sets of biotic community is another major contributing
factor to this diversity. In addition, many large natural and manmade wetlands
in the State also support a wide variety of wetland associated birds besides
serving as wintering grounds for a large number of migratory birds.
Present study area of Prashar situated at 31°45'15"N latitude and 77°6'5"E
longitude, lies 49 km north ofMandi (Himachal Pradesh,India). A three storeyed
pagoda-like temple dedicated to the sage Prashar is alongside the lake. The
lake is located at a height of 2730 m above sea level, approximately in the
centre of a large high altitude alpine meadow (Fig. 1). With
deep blue waters, the lake is held sacred to the sage Prashar. The lake has
a floating island in it. The lake is holomictic, has uniform temperature and
density from top to bottom at some time of the year, allowing the lake water
to completely mix.
||Prashar area in Mandi district, Himachal Pradesh
Surrounded by snow-capped peaks and looking down on the fast flowing river
Beas, the lake can be approached after crossing thick forests of oaks, rhododendrons,
pines and deodar. Weather in Prashar area is unpredictable experiencing untimely
rains and snow mostly due to the dense belt of forest all around the area. Temperature
ranges from -9-23°C in a year. In winter, there is a heavy snowfall at Prashar
area. The area is one the most favoured alpine meadow for animal graziers and
receives flood of animals during summer and monsoon months.
Although, many investigators have reported diversity of birds in different
parts of Himachal Pradesh (Singh and Banyal, 2013)
and a few studies have been undertaken in some parts of Mandi district (Mahabal
and Mukherjee, 1991; Thakur et al., 2010).
However, present study area of Prashar has not attracted the attention of field
ornithologists. In addition, avifauna of Prashar area, a part of the fragile
Himalayan ecosystem under severe pressure, due to heavy tourist influx and animal
grazing need urgent attention.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Stratified random sampling technique (Snedecore and Cochran,
1993) was followed for studying the birds of the Parashar and surrounding
area. These strategies were mainly based upon the principle of exploration of
a portion of the individuals in the whole population. Most of the bird sampling
was done either in early morning or late evening hours keeping in view the peak
activity of the birds which in most birds lasts for 1 or 2 h after sunrise or
Birds were observed with the aid of 10x40 Nikon field binoculars and photographed
with Nikon D-90 and Sony α-200 with 300 m tele-lens. Field identifications
were carried out with the help of various field guides (Ali
and Ripley, 1983a; Kazmierczak and Van Perlo, 2000).
The nomenclature followed here is after Manakadan and Pittie
Birds show different types of movements in response to changing weather of
the areas. Different types of movements seen in birds of Himalayas include long
range, local seasonal, altitudinal and latitudinal. Therefore, different residential
categories like resident, winter visitor, summer visitor and local migrant have
been assigned strictly with reference to the study area on the basis of presence
or absence method (Singh and Banyal, 2013).
The data generated in each survey and each habitat type was recorded and analysed
for relative abundance of each bird species on a relative frequency scale of
occurrence depending upon the number of sightings as developed by McKinnon
and Phillipps (1993). Relative abundance of birds of Prashar area has been
worked out into categories like very common (recorded more than 45% times),
common (between 25-45% times), uncommon (between 10-24% times) and rare (recorded
once or twice). The relative frequency scale was fixed in such a way so as to
include the migrant species sighted seasonally in good numbers (which visit
the area for a brief period of time) to their respective category. Moreover,
the feeding habits of the birds like insectivorous, graminivorous, frugivorous,
etc., as shown in Ali and Ripley (1983b) have been assigned
to each species.
Present explorations of the avifauna of Prashar area of Mandi district revealed
the presence of 95 species of birds belonging to 74 genera spread over 30 families
and 11 orders. Passerine birds dominated the diversity with 61 species as compared
to non-passerines (34 species) (Table 1).
|| Systematic list of birds of Prashar lake and surrounding
|R.S: Residential status, R: Resident, R/LM: Resident with
local movements, R/WV: Resident with winter influx, R/SV: Resident with
summer influx, WV: Winter visitor, SV: Summer visitor, R.A: Relative abundance,
VC: Very common, C: Common, UC: Uncommon, Ra: Rare, F.H: Feeding habits,
AqA: Aquatic animal, CR: Carnivorous, FR: Frugivorous, GR: Graminivorous,
I: Insectivorous, OM: Omnivorous, SC: Scavenger, VgM: Vegetable matter
Muscicapidae, the largest family of birds in India with 370 spp. dominated
the avifauna of Prashar area with 24 species, followed by Accipitridae (7 species),
Phasianidae and Corvidae (6 each), Columbidae and Fringillidae (5 each), Cuculidae
and Motacillidae (4 each). However, families like Falconidae, Strigidae, Caprimulgidae,
Apodidae, Upupidae, Capitonidae, Picidae, Campephagidae Aegithalidae, Sittidae,
Certhiidae, Zosteropidae and Emberizidae were least represented in the area
with a single species each (Table 1).
||Residential status and relative abundance of avifauna of Prashar
area. UC: Uncommon, Ra: Rare, VC: Very common, C: Common
Analyses of data on residential status of avifauna of the present study area
revealed that 16 species of birds were purely resident and the remaining 79
showed seasonal local or long range migrations. Species like Black Kite, Himalayan
Griffon, Koklass Pheasant, Impeyan Monal, Kaleej Pheasant, Great Barbet, Common
Myna, Black Drongo, Grey Treepie, Jungle Crow etc., were resident in the Prashar
area. In addition, Endangered Cheer Pheasant was also reported as a resident
species in the present study area. Of the 79 seasonal local or long range migrants,
39 species were local migrants, 15 were summer visitors, 8 were winter visitors
and 14 species showed summer and 3 species showed winter influx (Table
1 and Fig. 2). Local migrant category included species
like Bearded Vulture, Egyptian Vulture (Endangered), Shikra, Eurasian Sparrowhawk,
Lesser Spotted Eagle, Common Kestrel, Chukor, Oriental Turtle-Dove, Asian Barred
Owlet, Himalayan Pied Woodpecker, White Wagtail, Large Pied Wagtail, Rosy Pipit,
Himalayan Bulbul, Eurasian Jay, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie etc.
About 16% of birds were summer visitors to Prashar area and this category included
species like Spotted Dove, Wedge-tailed Green-Pigeon, Brainfever Bird, Indian
Cuckoo, Asian Koel, Large-tailed Nightjar, Long-tailed Minivet, Red-vented Bulbul,
Bay-backed Shrike, Rufous-backed Shrike, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Cinnamon Tree
Sparrow etc. Moreover, 8% of the species were winter visitors species like Snow
Pigeon, Common Hoopoe, Dark-throated Thrush, Blue-fronted Redstart, Bar-throated
Minla, Yellow-naped Yuhina, Common Chiffchaff and Eurasian Goldfinch. It was
further reported that population of around 15% of the birds got augmented during
summer months due to influx of more individuals, therefore, categorized as summer
influx category. The species categorized as summer influx included birds like
Black Francolin, Blue Rock Pigeon, Alexandrine Parakeet, Slaty-headed Parakeet,
Plum-headed Parakeet, Common Cuckoo, Red-rumped Swallow, Common Stonechat, Verditer
Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Rock Bunting, Red-billed Blue Magpie etc.
Species like Asian House-Martin, Grey-winged Blackbird and Green-backed Tit
showed winter influx.
Analyses of data on relative abundance showed that of the 95 species, 29 (31%)
were very common, 45 (47%) common, 19 (20%) uncommon and 2 (2%) rare in the
||Feeding habits of birds of Prashar area (No. of species, percent
of total), AqA: Aquatic animal, CR: Carnivorous, FR: Frugivorous, GR: Graminivorous,
I: Insectivorous, OM: Omnivorous, SC: Scavenger, VgM: Vegetable matter
The data revealed that species like Common Kestrel, Black Francolin, Blue Rock
Pigeon, Oriental Turtle-Dove, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Common Cuckoo, Greater
Pied Kingfisher, Common Hoopoe, Great Barbet, White Wagtail, Himalayan Bulbul,
Black Bulbul, Blue Whistling-Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Grey Bushchat, Streaked
Laughingthrush, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Jungle Crow
etc., were very common. Species categorized as common included the birds like
Black Kite, Himalayan Griffon, Shikra, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Koklass Pheasant,
Impeyan Monal, Kaleej Pheasant, Spotted Dove, Alexandrine Parakeet, Plum-headed
Parakeet, Grey Treepie etc., Uncommon species include birds like Bearded Vulture,
Egyptian Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Chukor, Cheer Pheasant, Snow Pigeon,
Large Pied Wagtail, Variegated Laughingthrush, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie etc.
Two rare species reported from the area included Asian Barred Owlet and Rosy
Analyses of residential category and abundance status revealed that of the
16 resident species, 4 were very common, 11 common and one uncommon. Of the
39 local migrants, 10 species were very common, 16 common, 11 uncommon and 2
rare. Moreover, of the 15 summer visitors, 4 species were very common, 8 common
and 3 uncommon. One species of the winter visitors was very common, 4 common
and 3 uncommon. Further, of the bird species with summer influx, 9 were very
common, 4 common and 1 uncommon. Of the species with winter influx, 1 was very
common and 2 common in Prashar area.
Categorization of birds on the basis of feeding habits showed that of the total
95 species, a majority of the birds (43 species; 45%) were insectivorous in
nature followed by Graminivorous (14 species; 15%), Omnivorous (13 species;
14%), Frugivorous (10 species; 11%), Scavengers (7 species; 7%), Aquatic Animal
eaters (4 species; 4%) and Vegetable Matter eaters and Carnivorous (2 species
each; 2% each) (Table 1 and Fig. 3).
The study further showed that there are two species viz., Egyptian Vulture
and Cheer Pheasant in Prashar area, which have been placed under endangered
threat category by IUCN (2013).
India being one of the 17 identified megadiverse countries is home to 13.66%
of global avian species documented so far. A large proportion of the bird species
in India are rapidly declining. The number of threatened birds has reached an
ever high of 154 species in India, as against 149 in 2008. Of these, 15 Indian
bird species have been categorised at critically threatened (IUCN,
2013). Categorization of birds in to various residential and abundance categories
as done in the present communication is very important to assess the regional
status of the species. Similarly, Himalayan birds have been divided earlier
into different categories (Hunter, 1989; Thakur,
Presence of 95 species of birds in present small study area get support from
the earlier study of Thakur (2013) who correlated the
presence of maximum diversity in mid-Himalayan zones with maximum values of
precipitation, soil moisture, evapotranspiration and varied types of habitats
at mid-elevation. Earlier, Price et al. (2003)
have correlated the change in bird diversity with altitude in Himalayas to various
climatic factors mainly precipitation. Similarly, Rahbek
and Graves (2001) have elucidated some relation in bird diversity of South
America with topography, precipitation and an interaction between topography
Presence of 16% of summer visitors in the Prashar area is in compliance with
the earlier work of Hunter (1989) who elucidated that
most of the north Indian species of birds face up hill while breeding. Presence
of 16% summer visitors during present study is above the state average of 11.6%
recorded by Mahabal (2005). Insectivorous birds are important
agents of bio-control of insect pests of agriculture, horticulture and forests.
Mahabal (2005) has recorded the presence of about 47%
insectivorous birds in Himachal Pradesh and similar presence of 45% of insectivorous
birds has been recorded during the present study.
Ali, S. and S.D. Ripley, 1983. Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan Together with Those of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, India.
Ali, S. and S.D. Ripley, 1983. A Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Bombay Natural History Society and Oxford University Press, New Delhi, India, Pages: 177.
Besten, J.W., 2004. Birds of Kangra. Moonpeak Publishers, New Delhi, India, Pages: 173.
Hunter Jr., M.L., 1989. Himalayan birds face uphill while singing. Auk, 106: 728-729.
Direct Link |
IUCN, 2013. IUCN Red List of threatened species, 2013. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Switzerland.
Kazmierczak, K. and B. Van Perlo, 2000. A Field Guide to the Birds of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Om Book Service, New Delhi, India, ISBN-13: 9788187107040, Pages: 352.
Mahabal, A. and R. Mukherjee, 1991. Birds of Mandi district (Himachal Pradesh). Newslett. Birdwatchers, 31: 8-9.
Mahabal, A., 2005. Aves. In: Fauna of Western Himalaya, ZSI (Ed.). Zoological Survey of India Publication, Kolkata, India, pp: 275-339.
Manakadan, R. and A. Pittie, 2001. Standardised common and scientific names of the birds of the Indian subcontinent. Buceros, 6: 1-37.
McKinnon, J. and K. Phillipps, 1993. A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Oxford University Press, Oxford, ISBN-13: 9780198540342, Pages: 512.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Timber, Fuel and Fiber. In: Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Current State and Trends, Hassan, R., R. Scholes and N. Ash (Eds.). Vol. 1, Chapter 9, Island Press, Washington, DC., USA., ISBN-13: 9781559632287, pp: 243-269.
Price, T., J. Zee, K. Jamdar and N. Jamdar, 2003. Bird species diversity along the Himalaya: A comparison of Himachal Pradesh with Kashmir. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc., 100: 394-409.
Direct Link |
Rahbek, C. and G.R. Graves, 2001. Multiscale assessment of patterns of avian species richness. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA., 98: 4534-4539.
Direct Link |
Rahmani, A., 2004. Foreward. In: Birds of Kangra, Besten, J.W. (Ed.). Moonpeak Publishers, New Delhi, India.
Singh, V. and H.S. Banyal, 2013. Avian fauna of Khajjiar lake, district Chamba, Himachal Pradesh, India. Proc. Zool. Soc., 66: 130-136.
Snedecore, G.W. and W.G. Cochran, 1993. Statistical Methods. Oxford and IBH Publishing Co., New Delhi, India.
Thakur, M.L., 2013. Bird species composition along the altitudinal gradient in Himachal Pradesh (Western Himalaya), India. Int. J. Adv. Biol. Res., 3: 556-562.
Direct Link |
Thakur, M.L., V.K. Mattu, H. Lal, V.N. Sharma, H. Raj and V. Thakur, 2010. Avifauna of Arki hills, Solan (Himachal Pradesh), India. Indian Birds, 5: 162-166.
Direct Link |