A bird watcher reported that he spotted a bittern in the Okhla Bird Sanctuary (OBS), a “rare and unusual sighting” for the National Capital Region (NCR), according to experts.
Retired Wing Commander NS Khaira said he spotted three such birds in late June and managed to take a few photos.
As a small heron with a dark back and cap, white neck and wing spots, little bitterns breed in the Kashmir region and migrate to southern India or Africa. A shy and crepuscular species that often lives in reed beds near lakes or rivers, it has also been spotted in Delhi, apart from some bird watchers from 1968.
âI spotted two males and one female flying low over the thick reeds. One male chased the other. They flew briefly in circles twice, like a chase depicting territorial behavior. What caught my eye was the distinct pale plaque on each of the birds’ upper wings. The rest of the wings were black. The cap and tail were also black, which made the bright inserts stand out and noticeable, âsaid Khaira. âSince I was on the tower and the birds were flying low, the plumage on the top was clearly visible. Had I been standing on the ground, I might have overlooked the distinctive pale plaques and mistaken the birds for yellow bells. The size and shape of the yellow bittern and the little bittern are quite similar – both species flew low and would quickly disappear into the reeds. “
When examining the images, which were slightly blurred during the flight, several experts confirmed that it was the bittern.
âThe bird appears to be a tramp, which means that it is not in its normal habitat. This is a good place for Delhi indeed. The bird was spotted in Gujarat and Ranthambore, âsaid ornithologist and conservationist Bikram Grewal.
âIt’s a rare sighting for the NCR and it appears the bird must be in transit after breeding in Kashmir from April to June and flying from north, south or Africa. As far as I remember, a sighting was made at Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary in Jhajjar over 11 years ago, âsaid bird watcher Kanwar B Singh.
âThis is something very rare. There are five bitterns in India, of which yellow bitterns, black bitterns and cinnamon bitterns are common, while bitterns and bitterns are rare, âsaid Anand Arya, another bird lover.
According to the forestry department, there are “no clear records” of the bird in OBS. âThis is great information for our sanctuary. There is no record of the last time this bird was sighted here, although we are certain that the bittern has not been sighted for at least ten years, âsaid PK Srivastava, departmental forest officer.