Wild and wonderful birds of prey in Goa

‘Wings of Wonder’ is an exhibition of photographs, organised by WWF-India Goa, and focuses on the largely neglected predatory birds, their habitats and importance
The Crested Serpent Eagle is one of the raptors found in Goa
The Crested Serpent Eagle is one of the raptors found in GoaPicture courtesy: Clement Francis

It has been noted that the winter season is the ideal time for bird watching in Goa. It is also the time to watch migratory birds that come down to Goa to feed and escape the harsh winters elsewhere.

Also, being home to a variety of bird species, it adds to our biodiversity. It has been recorded that Goa has 473 species of birds, of which 11 are endemic to the Western Ghats.

The Brahminy Kite is a common sight in Goa
The Brahminy Kite is a common sight in GoaPicture courtesy: Clement Francis

This includes raptors or prey birds. These birds are top predators and are representatives of a healthy ecosystem. Thus, it is necessary to save these birds in order to protect many other species.

Highlighting such birds and their conservation is the photo exhibition titled, ‘Wings of Wonder’, organised by WWF-India Goa office. The exhibition serves as an advocate for raptor protection, highlights the need for active management of their habitats and encourages citizens to learn more about this group of often neglected birds. Through this exhibition, the organisation has highlighted 60 plus raptor species.

The Indian Spotted Eagle is a bird of prey seen in Goa
The Indian Spotted Eagle is a bird of prey seen in GoaPicture courtesy: Clement Francis

ESSENTIAL RAPTORS

WWF India commenced its endeavour on raptor conservation in 2019 with a focus on vultures; WWF India’s Raptor Conservation Programme now includes applied research, conservation action and enhancing awareness, and capacity of stakeholders towards raptor conservation. It uses citizen science as an effective platform to boost knowledge and conservation efforts for raptors.

It is reported that around 107 species or raptors are recorded in India. In Goa, also we have many raptor species, the most common being the Brahminy kite which is usually seen around water bodies, also White-bellied Sea Eagle near beaches, etc. The other species are -- Changeable Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Pied Harrier, Spotted Owlet, Amur Falcon, to name a few.

The Crested Serpent Eagle is one of the raptors found in Goa
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Among the species of raptors, the one fascinating species which has intrigued birders and which is very much part of culture and stories, are the vultures. In Goa, vultures are not seen commonly, but there are reports of sighting the White-rumped vulture, Long-billed vulture, Indian vulture and also a rare sighting of the Himalayan Griffon, reported in the year 2016 in Goa.

Also according to news reports, Egyptian vultures were seen at the Goa Meat Complex, in Usgao, a few years ago.

The Crested Serpent Eagle is one of the raptors found in Goa
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As we are aware, vultures feed on animal carcasses and are thus known as scavengers. It is probably due to this reason that many a time, in our stories, they are shown as a symbol of death. But, on the contrary, this is actually an important task – because it is due to this activity that vultures keep the environment clean and safe.

In the 1990s, the population of vultures declined drastically in India as we lost around 97 per cent of its population due to the use of a drug called diclofenac, a pain reliever administered to cattle. This drug entered their system when they would feed on cattle carcass.

The Crested Serpent Eagle is one of the raptors found in Goa
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Nowadays, this drug has been banned, and thus, there is a slight improvement in the vulture population. However, alternative drugs such as nimesulide, aceclofenac and ketoprofen which are NSAIDs (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs) are also a cause for concern.

Along with vultures, other raptors are also facing challenges to their survival due to the use of pesticides, rodenticides, and larger issues like deforestation and habitat destruction.

This photo exhibition is a means to enlighten the public on the need for raptors and the important role they play in our ecosystem.

‘Wings of Wonder’, a photo exhibition will be open till February 15, 2023 (10 am to 5 pm), except weekends and public holidays at WWF-India Goa office, behind Goa Science Centre, Miramar, Panjim

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