Photo courtesy Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, Trashiyangtse

Bhutan’s bird species reaches 690 with the discovery of the Chinese Pond heron in Lhuentse

The official number of bird species recorded in Bhutan will reach a high of 690 after the sighting of a new species Ardeola Bacchus or Chinese Pond heron in June 2014 by the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS) under the Department of Forests and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.
The bird was confirmed as a new species, not recorded earlier in the country, by the ornithologist at Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in Bumthang. The detail has also been shared with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Bhutan Program Office in Thimphu. They have positively confirmed the bird as a Chinese Pond heron and it will be soon updated in the ornithology database maintained at Bumthang by UWICE.
Earlier, Bhutan has officially declared the presence of 689 species of birds in different parts of the country.
The BWS park management photographed and recorded the rare bird when they first spotted it in Singye Dzong area under Lhuentse which is part of the park area.
According to BWS park official, Sonam Choidup, the new bird was spotted by the team of park official when they were in the Singye Dzong area for cordyceps patrolling. The team during their regular patrolling saw a unique bird perched on a conifer tree. “We saw the bird from a distance,” said Sonam Choidup. Except for the exterior features of the bird, the park officials were not able to confirm its sex and other characters.
The area in which the bird was sighted stood at an altitude of about 3,800 meters above sea-level.
Sonam Choidup also said that this is the first time such a bird was seen in the area. “It was alone with no indication of its companion,” he added.
The officials who spotted the bird described it as having white wings, a yellow bill with black tip, yellow eyes and legs. The bird is known to usually feed on insects and fish.
The species is recorded as being fairly common by International Union for Conservation of Nature. This, however, does not mean it is safe from survival threats.
According to the park official, the presence of the species is not recorded in any published documents in Bhutan.
The bird is known to thrive both in freshwater and saltwater habitats. In addition, the bird is also known to tolerate human presence, and stay within the paddy field which constitutes its primary habitat.
Further, studies show that the bird’s diet primarily consists of fish, amphibians, small reptiles, large insects and worms. The Chinese Pond heron forages for food by walking slowly in the irrigated paddy fields, trying not to disturb its prey. It is observed that the bird would standstill until it locates its prey and upon being able to do so, it thrusts its bill to catch the prey like other species of herons.
The bird usually chooses morning and evening periods to feed, although it can also feed during other parts of the day or even at night. However, it is tagged as poor nest builder, mainly building its nest for brooding with unarranged twigs and sticks. It usually builds its nest in a tree or in thick grassland or wetland vegetation near the water’s edge. A female heron produces between four to five eggs, and when it comes to raising the chicks, both male and female Chinese Pond herons are known to equally contribute.

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