City Skies- Rajasthan
Rajasthan, the largest state in India, is well-known for its inhospitable the Thar Desert or the Great Indian Desert. From its three national tiger reserves, the Ranthambore National Park, Sariska Tiger Reserve and Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve to the Keoladeo National Park of Bharatpur, a World Heritage Site that is known for its birdlife, Rajasthan are well-known as a biodiversity hotspot too.
Rajasthan is home to nearly five hundred bird species, out of which a hundred migratory bird species travel from across the world to spend the winter in this state. This rich diversity in avian species is in large part due to the diverse ecology found in Rajasthan.
Close to the city of Bharatpur is the Keoladeo National Park which is home to a wide variety of birds. While this region has its resident birds, it is also well known for housing several birds that migrate here every winter.
Geographically, this region is a mosaic of dry grasslands, woodlands, swamps, and wetlands. Water remains only in depressions and has the ecology of a freshwater swamp- ideal for waterfowl and water birds like the Gadwal, Oriental Ibis, White Spoonbill, and Great Egret amongst many others.
The Great Indian Bustard as well as the course and Black-Crowned Sparrow-Lark can be found around the city of Jaisalmer. On the outskirts of the city, closer to lakes, migratory waterbirds like the Demoiselle Crane can be spotted.
However, the Sarus is the only resident crane in Rajasthan. Standing nearly 5 feet 11 inches tall, they are the tallest flying birds in the world. Their tall pink legs, greyish-white body, wingtips that are charcoal-black, and characteristic crimson head, make these beautiful creatures distinctly identifiable. It is also a well-known fact that the Sarus cranes mate for life. Their commitment to their mates is a part of the local folklore and mythology. In Mughal and Rajput paintings, they are almost always shown as a pair or as a flock, and rarely as a single crane.
In and around Udaipur, one can find a variety of birds that are endemic to India, including Plum-headed and Rose-ringed Parakeets, the beautiful turquoise Indian Rollers sometimes known as the Blue Jay, Shrikes, and Mynas to Woodpeckers and the Indian Grey Hornbill.
Every year during the winters, birds from Siberia, Russia, Europe, and Central Asia migrated to the regions around Udaipur and Jaisalmer. Waders, ducks, and raptors like the Imperial Eagle and Peregrine Falcon migrate from regions like Siberia and Russia. This also includes the critically endangered Siberian Crane.
The European Flycatcher and the Brown-breasted Flycatcher migrate to these regions from Europe in search of food.
This diversity in birds, as well as the relationship they have with the lands, has also led to a bond between the people of this region and the birds that migrate here. In the winters, the Demoiselle cranes, the smallest crane species in the world, migrate to this region from Eastern and Central Asia. They are considered auspicious and are treated as guests in the Khichan village of Rajasthan.