Eurasian Woodcock, Kedarnath, Uttarakhand

by Sahas Barve
Sahas Barve and Pratik Joshi

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

This species regularly breeds in alpine meadows above 3300m in the Kedarnath landscape where males can be observed doing their incredible arial displays at dusk in the summer. This observation shows that some individuals of the species do not migrate long distances in the non-breeding season and instead over winter in the low elevations of the same landscape.

The Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) is a large migratory wader found throughout Eurasia. It breeds in the high latitudes of Europe and Asia and between 2000m and 3600m in the Himalayas. Although there are many winter records of these birds from all over peninsular India, especially the western ghats, there are few records of this species over wintering in its breeding range. While doing a bird survey in the Kedarnath Wildlife Division in January 2014, I flushed this bird while sampling in a village at 2100m. The bird was seen regularly feeding in the same waste-water naalah (drain) of the village for 3 successive days. It was very skittish and flew away down the hill when flushed. It is extremely cryptic in colouration which made us flush it unintentionally on multiple occasions during the survey. It was seen feeding along the naalah close to and among bushes. It froze and stood still when alert and flew fast with rapid wing beats.

This species regularly breeds in alpine meadows above 3300m in the Kedarnath landscape where males can be observed doing their incredible arial displays at dusk in the summer. This observation shows that some individuals of the species do not migrate long distances in the non-breeding season and instead over winter in the low elevations of the same landscape.

This photo was taken in the Kedarnath Wildlife Division, Uttarakhand in a village at around 2100m in January 2014.

About the author

Sahas Barve
Sahas is a PhD student at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. He is currently studying the determinants of elevational distribution in Himalayan birds.


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