While birding on the morning of Saturday, 30th March 2013, I saw a Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchu), in full breeding plumage at Kelambakkam Lake, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. A lone bird was observed feeding on a small bund in the backwaters of the lake.
The Chinese Pond Heron looks almost identical to Indian Pond Heron and difficult to identify in non-breeding plumage. The size difference (Chinese is 8cm larger) is difficult to make out in the field. In breeding plumage, it is easily identifiable by its dark back and red-chestnut head and neck as seen in the photograph.
This is a significant sighting as there are no prior records of the bird in Chennai or anywhere in South and peninsular India. So far, the bird has been recorded as a winter migrant (from central and east China) to Northeast India and the Andaman Islands.
This sighting heightens the importance of Kelambakkam lake as an important wetland for wintering migrants. However, the wetland is under severe threat from rampant construction around the lake, dumping of garbage and rampant poaching.