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Decoding Amur falcons’ long flight to Northeast and beyond; details inside

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Guwahati, Oct 12: Every year during mid-October Amur Falcons arrives in north eastern states, covering long distance. The Amur falcon, a small sized raptor from the falcon family, breeds in Siberia and Northern China but migrates to the warmer climate of the Southern parts of Africa via India every year.

Amur falcons undertake one of the biggest bird migrations in the world every year, numbering in thousands to lakhs; during mid-October they arrive in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and some parts of Meghalaya.

A study by the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WWI) said that almost the entire Amur falcon population converges on parts of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Meghalaya between October and mid-November to “refuel” and build up fat reserves by eating the swarm of termites in the region following monsoon rains.

The falcons may be small in size but are some of the strongest fliers in the animal kingdom. They make a roundtrip of at least 20,000 km every year; leaving their cold breeding grounds during the winter months to go to the warmer climate of Africa, where there is plenty of food available.

Long-distance migratory birds like the Amur falcons spend an exceptional amount of energy during their journey every year.

The study was carried out between 2016 and 2020 mainly in Nagaland’s Wokha and Longleng districts as part of a conservation project.

The birds also stop-over in some places in Tamenglong district of neighbouring Manipur and Dima Hasao in Assam.

In Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district, an Amur Falcon Festival is held every year since 2015. These birds arrive in the district in October and leave in November. The birds usually perch on trees and bamboo in an area spread over 50-60 acres.

Amur falcons feed mostly on insects, mainly mid-air. Their migration to Africa coincides with the time when, due to rains, swarm of insects are everywhere, making South Africa a great feeding ground.

Not just that, but their timing is also impeccable as flight over the Arabian Sea coincides with the dragonfly migration which is also their greatest food source during the most arduous phase of their journey.

“They arrive in Northeastern states every year and spend some 18-20 days and after that they fly to other destinations. Every year, the states like Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Meghalaya attract tourists to watch the Amur falcons. Doyang river dam in Pangti village of Wokha district Nagaland is favourite area for Amur falcon,” said a birth watcher of Northeast.

The migration is a new thing as it had been going on for years now but the news of the rampant hunting of these birds got out in 2012 from some areas in and around Nagaland.

This led to a lot of hue and cry all over the world which then led to conservation projects because of which a lot more information and data about these strong fliers was gathered. The nature of their flocking is nothing short of a great show. In millions they come to visit starting mid-October till early November.

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