Lesser Floricans, a species of migratory birds, have skipped their annual visit to western Madhya Pradesh this monsoon, leaving wildlife experts worried.
The birds, commonly known as the likh or kharmore, generally make Ratlam’s Sailana Wildlife Sanctuary, Petlawad in Jhabua and Sardarpur in Dhar district, as their homes for breeding during the monsoon.
However, this time these large birds of the bustard family which are an endangered species, have not yet arrived as the grasslands, where the winged visitors stay, have not been well developed due to scanty rains, mainly in the first fortnight of last month.
The bird is endemic to the Indian subcontinent where it is found in tall grasslands and is best known for the leaping breeding displays made by the males during the monsoon season.
“Not a single bustard has been sighted in Ratlam, Jhabua and Dhar yet. The arrival of the migratory birds is directly linked to the south west monsoon,” said ornithologist Ajay Gadikar, who tracks the movement of these birds every year.
A few of these birds have been sighted so far in neighbouring Rajasthan and Gujarat this year, but their number is less as compared to last year, he said.
In the past, the winged visitors used to arrive in the state from unknown destinations with the onset of the monsoon, he said.
The Lesser Floricans are shy birds who make grasslands as their habitat. They ensconce themselves in places generally having one feet high grass strands, Gadikar said.
As many as 20 Lesser Floricans were seen in western MP last year, which included six in Sailana, he said.
These birds fly to MP, Gujarat and Rajasthan in July and return to unknown destinations after three to four months.
Gadikar was the co-ordinator of the 13-member team of officials from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the Wildlife Institute of India and The Corbett Foundation, which conducted a survey in Madhya Pradesh from July 24 to July 30.
Gadikar said during the survey, the team did not sight any Lesser Florican in Sailana, Petlawad and Sardarpur.
However, he said, “We are still hopeful that in the coming days, there could be good news of the sighting of these birds in Sailana and Petlawad because after the recent rains, the grasslands have developed in these areas.”
Meanwhile, Petlawad’s forest ranger M S Naroke said, “We are keeping an eye every day on the areas where these birds had arrived for breeding last year. But, so far we have not sighted a single Lesser Florican there.”