Even though the white-bellied heron found a different habitat following construction activities, the endangered bird is faced with another threat
The rare and endangered White-bellied heron moved away from their original habitat ever since developmental activities started along the Punatshangchu. Now, these birds have found sanctuary along the smaller tributaries of the river where there are less developmental activities.
But the story has taken a different twist after that.
Carnivore birds like the Crested Serpent Eagle (spilornis cheela), Pallas’s Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus levcorrphus), and Osprey (Pandion Haliaetus) have all moved toward the Heron habitats.
Reason? The predators are starving and they have discovered the Heron to be a good meal material.
Ornithologist Rebecca Pradhan of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) says this is not a good sign for the bird.
“These carnivore birds feed on fishes and even the birds,” she said.
There will be serious impact on the nesting white-bellied herons. A latest study by RSPN says that of the 30 White-bellied Herons six are nesting.
Locals near the habitats say that recently more number of eagles have been spotted in the area. These carnivore birds are a threat to the nesting herons and their food supply.
RSPN’s proposal for an artificial habitat for the birds is still in its infancy stage. However, this too might pose problems in food supply of the herons. Even if an artificial habitat is developed, the migration of the fish is still affected by the developmental activities along the Punatshangchu, thus affecting the food supply for the Herons.
Environmentalists say that a fish ladder across the Punatsangchu would be impossible as there will be more than one dams coming up in the area and also that the dams are high. The only solution would be an artificial fish raising pond from which fishes can be taken and put into the artificial habitat areas. “This will be very expensive but to save the birds it’s worth it,” said an environmentalist.
However, more research is required, said Rebecca Pradhan.
There are two types of White bellied herons - breeding and non-breeding. Non-breeding herons can be found along Phochu and Mochu and Kamechu, Gewarongchu and Burichu. Breeding Herons are found in Ada, Nanzhina, Hararongchu in Wangduephodrang and Bertichu in Zhemgang.
White-bellied heron can be identified from their long legs for wading, grayish slender body with long head and neck, and huge thick bill. Its color camouflages it in the surroundings making it difficult to spot. It was sighted in Bhutan as early as 1975.
The white bellied heron is categorized under the critically endangered species under Red List Category by the IUCN in May 2007.