• The waterfowl of Kaziranga National Park (KNP) have come out of the shadow of the one-horned rhino after more than a century.
  • On December 19-20, the KNP authorities conducted the baseline survey of waterfowl that are crucial to the wetland-dominated ecosystem of the world’s best-known habitat of the Rhinoceros unicornis.
  • This is the first time that the focus of attention in the 113-year-old Kaziranga, also a tiger reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, has shifted from the ‘big four’ — rhino, elephant, Bengal tiger and Asiatic water buffalo.
  • The survey was important because the park did not have much data on its avian wealth, specifically the waterfowl living in 92 permanent and more than 250 seasonal water bodies in the park.
  • Though the rhino prefers grasslands, it can be called a wetland animal because it needs to wallow and depends on submerged vegetation in shallow water bodies.
  • A good avifauna reflects on the health of the ecosystem, and the population trend will help us know whether or not the conditions have deteriorated.
  • The 430 sq km Kaziranga has five ranges — four on the southern bank of river Brahmaputra and one on the northern bank.
  • The enumerators counted 8,074 ducks and geese from the family Anatidae.
  • Bar-headed geese accounted for more than 3,000 of these, followed by gadwalls, common teals, lesser whistling ducks, northern pintails, greylag geese, mallards, Indian spot-billed ducks, Eurasian wigeons, ruddy shelducks, northern shovelers, ferruginous ducks, common pochards, and Chinese spot-billed ducks.
  • The populations of garganeys, tufted ducks, the critically endangered Baer’s pochards, falcated ducks and common pygmy geese were among the lowest in the ducks and geese category.
  • Other rare birds sighted at the water bodies included the critically endangered red-headed vulture, the endangered Pallas’s fish eagle and the greater adjutant stork, and the vulnerable greater
  • The bulk of the waterfowl population was in the eastern range mainly because of the expansive Sohola beel that is formed by six shallow water bodies.