Himachal’s Pong world’s largest winter home of bar-headed geese


imageShimla : The Pong lake in the foothills of Himachal Pradesh in the last couple of years has probably emerged the most popular winter home for the bar-headed geese anywhere , wildlife officials say.

The bar-headed geese have been visiting the Pong wetland for many years , but their numbers have dramatically risen in the last couple of years .

“This year we have just finished counting over 43,000 bareheaded geese at Pong which is over a third of the entire population in the world. Last year it was 34,000 ,” D S Dadwal , a senior wildlife official told Sun Post by phone from Pong some 250 km from the state capital Shimla .

“The state wildlife department among other international bodies have been counting the bar-headed geese and other species of birds here since 1999 ,” Dadwal said .

“They include WWF among others and our figures have matched. For many years( until two years ago) the geese numbers varied between 23,000 to 28,000 ,” he said .

“The bareheaded geese is a species under threat and their global population is estimated to be around 120,000 making the Pong wetland their favourite winter breeding ground now ,” he said .

Wildlife experts say this bird species spends summer in Russia , Mongolia , China and Tibet.

imageOften called one of the highest flying bird in the world. They have been reported to fly over Mount Everest before reaching many parts of South Asia including the Pong in October before flying back north over the Himalayas in March .

S Balachandaran , assistant director at the Bombay Natutal History Society has been tracking the migratory routes of geese and other duck species with the help of satellite and leg-rings .

“While most water bodies and lakes in India have also been getting bar-headed geese every winter. Their number varies between 3,000 and 4,000 at each location,” he said .

“But the Pong lake is an exception and has become the largest gathering of the bar-headed geese in winter anywhere,” he said.

The Pong reservoir was created in 1975 . Besides the bar-headed geese it is also a popular winter breeding ground for many other bird species .

Wildlife officials say this time 119 bird bird species were sighted at Pong and their total count was 128,200 .

They include the common coot, northern pintail, common pochard, tufted pochard, red-crested pochard, common teal, little cormorant, great-crested grebe and greylag goose.

Rare bird species were also sighted like the India common shelduck, sarus crane, osprey, buff bellied pipit, Indian skimmer and the little gull .