After the Pink-headed Duck and the King Vulture, the magnifient White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis) in Assam is all set to go the Dodo way. The absence or disappearance of the White bellied Heron is a matter of grave concern for conservationists. The White-bellied Heron is Critically Endangered in the IUCN list, with a population as low as 50–249 individuals. These birds exist in very low numbers over a large area comprising Bhutan, Yunan in China, northern Myanmar and northeast India. The species is found in the wetlands of tropical and subtropical forests in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas -- in India and Myanmar. It is spotted in Bhutan's sub-tropical areas and was also once found in Nepal. Traces of heron chicks were sighted in Zhemgang in Central Bhutan also. Herons mostly dwell in Southeast Asian countries and Bhutan shelters a little over 30 herons in the Himalayan region. Once eight nesting sites were identified amongst lofty flowing waters with pebbly substrates and Chir pine forests in Bhutan. A nesting site of this extremely rare White bellied Heron was also discovered in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. This is the first known nesting site of the WBH in India. Nest of the bird was found about 18 metres above ground on an East Indian almond (Terminalia myriocarpa) tree. In 2015, ornithologists observed the courtship of a pair of white-bellied heron.The courtship begins in the winter from January to February as the river water recedes. The birds chase after each other playfully with sticks and calling out to partners. The pair went on to build a nest at the site. This is the first nesting site of the bird to be scientificly identified in Namdapha, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Before the discovery of this site, Bhutan was (thought to be) the only country in the world to have a breeding population of the White-bellied Heron. Bhutan is home to about 10 per cent of the world’s total population of these birds.
Source: Assam Times, 29 October 2016
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