Sub-tropical wildlife species scales new heights, literally

Chalk this up to climate change as there doesn’t seem to be a logical reason, when the cattle egret (bubulcus ibis) believed to be a subtropical bird species is sighted at an altitude of 4,538 meters above sea level.

The migration of such a bird which is better acclimatized in subtropical area to cold regions can only be best explained through the causes of change in climate.

A lone Cattle Egret was recorded on June 15 this year, at a place called Wangyela in Trashiyangtse under Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS) by the park officials while returning from cordyceps patrolling.

The same bird was also spotted next day while it was feeding on the marshy land in the same area by Sonam Choidup and Tshering Chophel of BWS. To get precise confirmation, the two officials have taken some pictures of the bird feeding and resting on fir trees.

Among many reports of such incidences, an earlier report on November 14, 2010, described a family of black-necked crane which climbed down to Chuzagang in Gelephu from their usual roosting ground in high altitudes.

Later a tiger was reported to have been documented at 4,000 meters. On October 28, 2011, forestry officials documented takin (budorcas taxicolor whitei), at Thrumshingla National Park in Bumthang.

Similarly, a month later on the November 21, 2011, new sighting of a gaur, a large, dark-coated wild bovinewas confirmed at Dangchu area in Wangdue.

In early 2012, transient solitary elephant was sighted ascending to a height of 3,419 meters on Showgayla ridge in Chukha. In a similar incident, an elephant is supposed to have climbed a higher altitude at Paro on April 16.

The cattle egret, a white bird, stocky in build with slightly hunched posture and white-grey plumage is known to often spend time wandering close to livestock. Hence, the name sticks as cattle egret.

It is said that accompanying the cattle, they feed on insects and worms that are exposed by the hooves of the cattle. The cattle egret also feeds on the ticks and flies that they remove from the cattle that they wander with.

Normally, they are reported to occur in the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate zones and are originally native to parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

However, the bird is also said to have undergone a rapid expansion in its home range adoption, successfully being able to colonize newer grounds. The cattle egrets are also known to exploit drier and open habitats with feeding habitats inclusive of seasonally inundated grasslands, pastures, farmlands, wetlands, and rice paddies.

The cattle egret is more at home foraging by following cattle, horses and tractors catching the insect they stir up than in the forests.

The two officials who confirmed the presence of cattle egret in BWS could not be contacted for details as they are engaged in the cordyceps patrolling.

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