A new bird species ‘Asian Openbill’ discovered in Manas

An eighth entry has been made to the faunal diversity in the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) in Gelephu with the discovery of yet another bird species, the Asian Openbill (Anastomus oscitans) in the park.

The confirmation of the new species was made by an Ornithologist, Sherab, of the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation of Environment (UWICE).

The bird was sighted on July 8 this year, resting in a paddy field in Dawathang gewog under Sarpang which falls within the park’s jurisdiction.

According to the park official with the RMNP, Sangay Dorji, the Asian Openbill is a critical addition to the park’s bird diversity. He stated that the finding is even more significant because the Asian Openbill has been sighted for the first time in the country.

The park is home to 431 species of birds. “Such faunal diversity within the confinement of an area of 1057 square km is a huge concentration,” he said.

According to RMNP, there have been many new sightings of wildlife species occurring within the park in a short span of seven years. For instance, eight new records, which included three mammals and six birds, were made through first- time sightings within the park.

The Park Manager, Tenzin Wangchuk, said that the park’s faunal diversity of 58 mammals, 426 species of birds were confirmed through the 2006 Rapid Biodiversity Survey that the park carried out.

The three new species of mammals, the park claims to have been recorded in last few years, are the Asiatic Brush-tailed porcupine (Antherurus macrourus), Chinese (or Small-toothed) Ferret-badger (Melogale moschata), and Hodgson’s Giant Flying squirrel (Petaurista magnificus), Hodgson Frogmouth and the newly discovered Asian Openbill.

With addition of the three new mammals, the park also boasts of having 61 species of mammals. Similarly, the recent new additions of birds were also done within the park that included Black Baza (Aviceda leuphotes), Water Cock (Gallicrex cinerea), Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus) and Malayan Night heron (Gorsachius melanolophus).

The park manager also claimed the new sightings are not exhaustive, and over 530 bird species are expected to be thriving within RMNP. The park is striving to record more species that remained undiscovered over the years to come.

The Asian Openbill is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The Asian Openbill is greyish white with glossy black wings and tail and the adults have a gap between the arched upper mandible and re-curved lower mandible. They are born without the gap which is thought to be an adaptation that aids in the handling of snails, their main prey. Although the Asian Openbill within their range, however, they make long distance movements due to weather changes and food availability.

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