What’s that White Egret sp?

Egrets are beautiful and elegant birds to watch. You’ll often see them standing still over water and, in a flash, using their long, pointed bills to stab a fish or pick out an insect. No matter where you are in India, it is common to see one or many white birds looking for prey in wet fields and water bodies, or flying overhead to roost late in the evening.

A large flock of egrets © Sourav Maiti (view in checklist)

A large flock of egrets © Sourav Maiti (view in checklist)

In spite of being quite common, they are one of the more confusing groups of birds for beginners and experienced birders alike. Although it is easy to identify a bird as an egret, the confusion arises when trying to identify the species itself. The names of egrets (eg Little, Intermediate and Great) tell us much about their size, but they can still be misidentified, especially if they are seen by themselves without a size reference. Luckily it’s not just size alone that matters, and the different egrets have other features that can be used to identify them.

One such feature is their ‘plumes’, which they acquire in the breeding season. These are a a set of long, thin feathers on their back/dorsum, head or breast. Because different species grow plumes on different parts of the body, they can help in identification as well.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Cattle Egret in flight. Note the small neck, bill shape and size (short bill has a small dip at the tip), relatively smaller wings © Albin Jacob (Checklist)

The Cattle Egret is a ubiquitous and adaptable bird. This is a small and stocky egret, and gets its name from its habit of following cattle and other large animals (also tractors and JCBs!) to pick off any insects they might flush. Equally at home in light woodland, wetlands, farms and garbage dumps, it does not have any particular association with water. The Cattle Egret is worth familiarising oneself with as it is the egret species you are most likely to encounter no matter where you are birding.

Habitat Fields (especially if recently ploughed), farms, freshwater wetlands, forest clearings, garbage dumps in urban areas, etc.
Size Smallest of our egrets.
Structure Stocky in build. Large round head with relatively short thick bill, short legs and short, thick neck.
Breeding Plumage Puffy looking head with orange head and neck, as well as orange dorsal plumes.
Bill Blunt and thick, with upper mandible showing distinct dip at the tip. Mostly orange-yellow in all plumages.
In flight Narrower, more pointed wings than other egrets, shorter legs. Relatively faster wing-flapping especially during and a little after take-off.
Cattle Egret in breeding plumage (left, © Albin Jacob) and in non-breeding plumage (right, © Ramit Singal)

Cattle Egret in breeding plumage (left, © Albin Jacob) and in non-breeding plumage (right, © Ramit Singal)

Additional information: The subspecies that occurs in our region is Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis coromandus. The Western Cattle Egret B. i. ibis is smaller with shorter neck and legs as well as a different breeding plumage.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Little Egret in flight, showing its yellow feet © Vivek Puliyeri (Checklist)

The Little Egret is a delicate looking egret which frequents freshwater bodies of all types, including fast-flowing streams, slow-moving rivers, well-vegetated marshes, etc. It is small in size and neat in proportions – making it look quite graceful. Its obvious yellow feet set it apart from the other regularly occurring white egrets (except Western Reef-egret, the white morph of which usually has more extensive yellow on legs, and yellow on bill).

Habitat Associated with all water bodies. Typically stays away from coasts, but regular in estuaries.
Size Small-sized, bigger than Cattle but visibly smaller than Intermediate and Great.
Structure Very slender, looks almost delicate with graceful S-shaped neck, oval/triangular head, relatively longer bill.
Breeding Plumage Two long plumes on head and down neck (the only white egret to have these), plumes on the back, on the breast.
Bill Bill remains mostly dark/black in all plumages. In non-breeding plumage, base to lower mandible is visibly paler.
In flight Yellow feet are visible. From similar Western Reef-egret by narrower, more pointed wings.

Little Egret in breeding plumage (with a Checkered Keelback in the background). Note the egret’s head plumes, yellow feet, and slender structure but small size © Hemanth Byatroy (Checklist)

Additional information: Unlike several of our other egrets, the Little Egret is quite vocal and usually has a harsh call which it gives out in flight, alarm or for contact. You can listen to it here or here.

Intermediate Egret Mesophyx intermedia

Intermediate Egret in flight. Note the roundish neck fold, short bill, round forehead © Albin Jacob (Checklist)

The most variable looking of our egrets, the Intermediate Egret can appear quite small or quite large when seen in isolation. Though some of the larger individuals may appear as large as Great Egrets, structurally (especially when the neck is retracted), birds may even resemble Cattle Egrets! The Intermediate Egret is a fairly stocky egret, due to its thick neck and large body, which also makes the legs look quite short.

Habitat Associated with all water bodies and wet fields, paddies.
Size May look variable in size when viewed in isolation, but usually flocks with other egrets thus making comparison easier. Bigger than Cattle or Little Egret but smaller than Great Egret.
Structure Stocky in build – note proportionally short bill and legs, round head, thick neck and large body (very rear-heavy due to the long tail).
Breeding Plumage Bill becomes black and it attains plumes on the back/dorsum and the breast.
Bill Proportionately shorter bill is yellow in non-breeding plumage and black in the breeding plumage. (Note: Lores are always yellow)
In flight Broad wings and relatively shorter legs than Great Egret. Heavier rear usually apparent.

Intermediate Egret in breeding plumage (left) © Dinesh Singal and in non-breeding plumage (right) © Ramit Singal
The bird on the right is transitioning into breeding plumage and thus, has breast plumes.

Great Egret Ardea alba

Great Egret in flight. Note long legs and bill, neck is angular when retracted, large wings © David Irving (Checklist)

The Great Egret is the largest of our egrets, with an overall lean look but distinctly heavy legs and bill. It is perhaps more similar to a Purple Heron in structure and jizz than the other egrets.

Habitat Associated with all water bodies, preferring slow-moving rivers, lakes and wetlands.
Size Visibly large.
Structure Structurally very lean with long neck showing prominent kink. Forehead is flat and in-line with long bill. Legs are long and body appears short – thus making it look very vertical.
Breeding Plumage Attains plumes only on back/dorsum.
Bill Long bill. Yellow in non-breeding plumage, and black in breeding plumage.
In flight Broad wings and long neck and legs are apparent. Has the slowest, most relaxed flight of all the egrets.

Great Egret in non-breeding plumage (left) © Palani Andavan Balasubramanian and in breeding plumage (right) © Jayan Thomas

Great vs Intermediate Egret

Several birders often have trouble distinguishing the Intermediate Egret from the Great Egret. A few features that make identification much easier are:

Image A:

Great Egret (left) © Mittal Gala and Intermediate Egret (right) © Albin Jacob. Note length of gape line (1), shape of forehead (2) and length of bill (3).

Image B:

Great Egret (left) © Snehasis Sinha and Intermediate Egret (right) © Albin Jacob. Note shape and size of neck (4) and overall structure (5).

These differences are summarised below:

Great Egret Intermediate Egret
1 Gape extending beyond eye Gape ending at/before eye
2 Angular head Round head
3 Longer bill Shorter bill
4 Long neck with pronounced kink Thicker, shorter neck
5 Large, long and lean structure Stockier, heavy built

 

Here is an image that illustrates these differences very well (can you tell which species is which?):

Great Egret and Intermediate Egret © Harshith JV (Checklist)

Intermediate vs Cattle Egret

In certain postures and when direct comparison is not possible, an Intermediate Egret can look quite similar to a Cattle Egret. Below are some pointers on how to distinguish between the two:

Intermediate Egret (Left) © Dubults | Cattle Egret (Right) © Albin Jacob

Intermediate Egret Cattle Egret
1 Straight beak Obvious curved tip to beak
2 Neck retracts a bit deeper Shorter neck
3 Breast plumes in breeding plumage No plumes on the breast.
4 Proportionally longer legs Shorter legs

Note: There will always be times when particular individuals may prove difficult to identify even with the best of views. Some times, one may just not get to see enough of the bird to be able to ID it. It is absolutely OK if that is the case and best to err on the side of caution. On eBird, you may use “White Egret sp.” when conclusive identification is not possible.

Also: An article with Little Egret and the two Reef-Egrets will be coming soon.

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eBird at the Uttar Pradesh Bird Festival

The recently concluded UP Bird Festival brought together birdwatchers from across the world to Chambal for three days of presentations, workshops, exhibitions, birding and socialising. It was great to see several references to, and examples using, eBird by various different speakers.

Pamela Rasmussen

Pamela Rasmussen

Pamela Rasmussen, author of Birds of South Asia, spoke about “New and Potential Additions to India’s Avifauna“.

She used several different eBird species maps to illustrate how some species that occur in Myanmar and China are very likely to occur in, as yet undiscovered, parts of Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere in the North-east.

For example, check out the species maps for Giant Laughingthrush and White-rumped Falcon, and pay close attention if you are birding in similar habitat at similar elevation in the North-east: you could discover a first for India!

Tim Inskipp

Tim Inskipp

Tim Inskipp, author of Birds of the Indian Subcontinent, gave a presentation entitled “Assessing the status of birds in India, including preparation of state checklists“.

Tim used a hotspot map of eBird India to show coverage of observations and how these could be analysed in detail to come up with authoritative state checklists.

Praveen J

Praveen J

Praveen J gave a very well-received overview presentation about Bird Count India and the use of eBird to the audience.

As well as an introduction to using eBird for submitting checklists and for analysing data, Praveen highlighted some of the major events and projects that Bird Count India and its partners have been involved in, such as the GBBC and Endemic Bird Day, and the Atlases in Kerala and Mysuru.

The audience were particularly impressed when they found out that we have more than 4 million observations from India, and many people, from India and abroad, were inspired enough to start using eBird themselves.

Of course, a large meeting of birders wouldn’t be complete without some good birding. Already 140 lists have been added to eBird for the region, including some nice sightings such as a migrating Short-eared Owl high overhead, both Greater and Hume’s Short-toed Larks (but no Sykes’s!), and Black-bellied Terns (but unfortunately no Skimmers).

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November 2016 eBirders of the Month

ebirding-challenge-logo-800px-281x300This November saw the launch of an additional challenge — the gap-filling challenge, to supplement the regular monthly challenge. We intend for the gap-filling challenge to be a regular feature from now on.

Before announcing the results, let’s look at the break-up of eBirding in India in November (with previous month in brackets).

Number of birders: 1,036 (779)
Number of lists (all types): 7,728 (8,303)
Number of lists (complete, 15min or longer): 5,975 (7,187)
Number of observations: 1.90 lakh (1.33 lakh)

November challenge

The challenge for November was to cover 3 distinct sites, and to upload at least four eligible lists from each (see link for more details). Of the 1,036 eBirders in November, 13 met or exceeded the target for the month. They are (as always, excluding group accounts):

Ajay Gadikar
Ganeshwar S V
Hari Mavelikara
Jayadev Menon
Jayan Thomas
Lakshmikant Neve
Namassivayan Lakshmanan
Raimund Barth
Ramit Singal
Siva T
Suhel Quader
Venugopalan R
Vidhya Sundar

Many congratulations to all of them!

One person from these 13 was chosen using a computer-generated random number to receive a small gift. That person is

Vidhya Sundar

who receives a copy of Bird Sense: What it’s Like to be a Bird by Tim Birkhead.

Gap-filling challenge

The gap-filling challenge for November was to upload a minimum of four eligible checklists from any one or more of the 326 Districts that were represented by less than 30 minutes of eBirding in all previous Novembers. A total of 205 complete birdlists of 15 min or longer were uploaded from 43 of the 326 target Districts, by 84 birders. Of these, 12 birders met the target for the gap-filling challenge, and these are listed below, together with names of the districts they uploaded 4 or more lists from):

Ajay Gadikar (MP–West Nimar)
Amey Ketkar (NL–Kohima)
Arun M K Bharos (CT–Uttar Bastar Kanker)
Maitreya Sukumar (HR–Faridabad)
Mike Prince (NL–Kohima)
Pam Rasmussen (AR–Dibang Valley)
Pankaj Gupta (HR–Faridabad)
Rujuta Phadke (NL–Kohima)
Sanjiv Khanna (PB–Kapurthala)
Saurabh Sawant (NL–Kohima)
Shishupala S (KA–Davanagere)
Vrinda Lath (HP–Una)

Many thanks to all of them for helping fill eBird gaps in India!

One person from these 12 was chosen using a computer-generated random number to receive a small gift. That person is

Sanjiv Khanna

who receives a copy of How to be a Bad Birdwatcher by Simon Barnes.

Egyptian Vultures, from this list by Sanjiv Khanna.

Here is the full list of all 1,036 eBirders from India in November 2016:

Aadil Shamsi, Aaditya S Kumar, Aakash Lamba, abha manohark, Abhay Hule, Abhijeet Avate, Abhijeet Thosar, abhijith a.p.c, Abhijith surendran, Abhijit Jadhav, Abhijit Karmarkar , Abhik Das, Abhimanyu Lele, Abhirami C, Abhiram Sankar, Abhirup Khara, Abhishek Bhargava, abhishek gopal, Abhishek Gulshan, Abhishek Jamalabad, Abhishek Maiya, abhishek ravindra, Abhishek Sonkusare, Abijith Ka, Abinand Reddy, Adithya Bhat, Aditya Banerjee, Aditya Nayak, Adnan Raja, Afshan Husain, Aidan Fonseca, Ajay Gadikar, Ajinkya Supekar, Ajit A, Akhilesh Bharos, Akhilesh Magal, Akila A, Akshaya B R, Akshay Bagade, Akshay Bharadwaj, Akshay Mokal, Akshay R, Akshay Surendra, Albin Jacob, Aljo Anand, AMALKRISHNAN.S AND AKASHKRISHNAN.S, AM AMSA, Aman Gujar, Amar Mulwani, Ameet Mandavia, Amey Ketkar, Amita Virmani, Amitayu Dey, Amit Bandekar, Amith Kumar, Amol Bapat, Amol Lopes, amol mande, Anakha v.s, Anand Bariya, ANAND Osuri, Anand Sundaram, Anand Y, anant pande, Andy Johnson, Aniketa Kabir, Anil Mahajan, Anindya Naskar, Aniruddha Ghosh, Anish Aravind, Anisha Velayudhan.K, Anish Mohan Thampi, Anita Mani, Anjali HR, Anjali M P, ankita sinha, Ankur Gupta, Ankur Jahagirdar, Ankur Shah, Ankur Shekdar, Ann Bodkhe, Anoop CR, Anoop King, Anoop palode SS, Anoop Paul, Anubhuti Jain, ANUGRAHA U S, Anu john, Anuj Saikia, Anup Chavda, Anup Prakash, Anurag Chandak, Aparajita Datta, Aparna K, APARNA NEVE, Apeksha Darshetkar, Appavu Pavendhan, Arabinda Pal, Arathy V, Aravind AM, Aravind Amirtharaj, Ardra M S Kesava, Areef Pasha, Arjuna Umesh, Arjun Dev , Arjun Kannan, Arnab Pal, Arnold Goveas, Aromal G, Arpit Deomurari, Arshia Singh, Arun Bhaskaran, Arun Chungappally , Arundev G, Arun George, Arun kumar, ARUN KUTTAN, arun lal, Arun M K Bharos, ARUN PRABHU, Arun Singh, Arya Sasi, Asha Raghavan, Ashik Musicroom, Ashish Babre, Ashish Bhatt, Ashish Jha, Ashish Shaji, Ashis Kumar Pradhan, Ashni Dhawale, Ashok Bhatt, ASHOK MADHAVAN, Ashwin Bhat, Ashwini Deosthalee, ashwin mohan, Ashwin Surendran, Ashwin Viswanathan, Ashwin Warudkar, Asif Khan, Aswathy G S, Aswin Nisanth, Atharva Amdekar, Avik Banerjee, Avinash K Mon, Avinash Sharma, Avishkar Munje, Ayan Khanra, Ayesha Sequeira, Ayush Ankit, Azad Sheikh, Balaji P B, Bala S., Balwant Negi, Baskar Perumal, Bela Arora, Bhagyarekha Deshpande, Bhakti Salgaonkar, Bhalchandra Pujari, Bhanu Prakash, Bhanu Sridharan, Bhaskar pandeti, Bhavani Ramamohan , Bhavesh Mengar, Bhavi K, Bhuvaneswari Balasubramanian , Biang Syiem, Biju George , bijumon ke, Biju PB, Bikash Sonar, Bird Snappers, Birdwatchers Chhattisgarh, Bismaya B.L, Biswajit Chakdar, Biswanath Mondal, Boris Dobrowolsky, B.R. Ansil, Brodie Lewis, Caroline Edge, Catherene Christian, Chaatak Nature Conservation Society, Chagsaa odonjavkhlan, Chaitanya Rajarshi, Chaitanya Reddy, Chandrasekaran Venkatraman, charles naveen, Charutha K, Chayant Gonsalves, Cheran Jagadeesan, Cheri Amarna, chetan harikishandas joshi, Chetna Sharma, Chirag Ahuja, Chirag Munje, chithrabhanu pakaravoor, Chiti Arvind, Chris Bowden, Cinchona GHS(Group account), Clive Temple, CNS Nature, Dakshina Sudhir, Dale Toweill, Daniel George, Danival santhosh, Darshi Khirani, David Broska, David Fricker, david stanton, Dayani Chakravarthy, Deepa Chandran, Deepa Javdekar, deepak dhakad , Deepak Gerry, Deepak Manobala, Deepak Sahu, Deepa Mohan, Deepika Karanth, Deepthi Chimalakonda, Deepti Chauhan, Deepti Rao, denzil britto, Deval Kadam, Devathi Parashuram, Devii Rao, Dhananjai Mohan, dhananjay bhamburkar, Dhanesh Ayyappan, Dhaval Vargiya, Dheeraj Chavadi, dhiren malani, Dhiren Meshvaniya, Dhruba Saikia, Dhruvam Desai, diksha satarkar, Dilip K G, Dina Nisthar, Dincy Mariyam, Dinesh kumar, Dinesh Pundir, dipak bowalkar, Dipak Sinha, Dipankar Dev, Dipayan Chakraborty, Dipu Karuthedathu, Divin Murukesh, Divya Mudappa, Divyapriya Chandrasekaran, DIWAKAR N R, Douglas Ball, Dp Srivastava, Dr.Dr.hetal Shah, Dr George P J, Dr. Jayant Wadatkar, Dr JEAN JOSE, Dr. Krishna kumar, Dr. Ravi M, Dr Sumit Chakrabarti, Elizabeth Jojy, Emanuel george , Emmanuel George, Evelyn Rangel, Ezhupunna Birders (group account) , Ezra Rynjah, Fareed Mohmed, Fauzia Arief, fermin jose, forest venkat, Gaja mohanraj, Galibore JLR, Ganapathy Sivapiragasam, Ganesh Datar, Ganesh Honwad , Ganesh R Mandavkar, Ganeshwar S V, Ganga M.G.Nair, Garima Bhatia, Gaurab Talukdar, Gaurang Bagda, Gaurav Nalkur, Gaurav Pandey, Gaurav Patil, Gauri Achari, Geeta Viswanathan, Geetha Ramaswami, Geetha Venkataraman, George Tom, Ginu George, Gireesan TU, GirishMohan P K, Gokul Krishna, gokul vadivel, Gopalakrishna R, Gopal bhagavatula, Gopal Khanal, Gopal Krishnan, Gopika Varrier, GOPIKA V L, Gopi Sundar, GOVIND GIRIJA, Gowthama Poludasu, Gowthami Gowda, G Parameswaran, great gray owler , Greeshma S, Guhan Sundar, Gunasingh Dorairaj, Gurpartap Singh, Guruprasad Timmapur, Gurutej k, Hakimuddin F Saify, hardik kalavadiya, Harikrishnan S, hari kumar, HARI MAVELIKARA, HARISH K, harish nv, Harish Thangaraj, Harpal singh, HARSHADA GAUNS, Harshada Kulkarni, Harsha Jayaramaiah, Harshavardhan Jamakhandi, Harsh Buty, Harshith JV, Harshit Singh, HARSHJEET BAL, Hemanth Byatroy, Hemant Kirola, Hemanya Radadia, Hema Sagare, hemraj duraiswami, Himadri Banerjee, Hopeland P, IBIS Andril, Indira Srinivasan, Induchoodan A Sreedharan, Irene Daniel, Jadeswamy Madaiah, Jagadeesan Krishnan , Jaichand Johnson, Jaiganesh Balakrishnan, Jamaludheen Karivelil, Jameela Parampatt, Janaki Lenin, Janhavi Rajan, Janhvi Vyas, Jaswinder Waraich, Javed Ahmed, Jayabharathy Ranganathan, Jayadev Menon, jayakrishnan mannar, jayant atrey, Jayan Thomas, Jaydev Mandal, Jayesh Ghanekar, Jayesh Joshi, Jaywant Karajgikar, jeeva jayan, Jessica Luis, Jeyakumar Johnson, Jigu Patel, Jincy Justin j.k., jithesh pai, Job Joseph, Joel George, John Joseph Chelladurai, Johnson Varkey , John Thompson, Jomon Koshy, Joshua Dharmaraj, joshua Dsilva, joydip mukherjee, juee khopkar, Julie & Dave Robinson-Ruffle, Jyothish Nelson, Kaajal Dasgupta, Kadambari Devarajan, Kailash Prasad, Kalaimani Ayuthavel , Kalyan Ineni, Kalyan Varma, Kanwar B Singh , Kanwarjit Singh, Karthikeyan G B, Karthikeyan Ponnambalamoorthy, Karthikeyan S, Karthik P, Kashyap R, Kausthubh K Nair, Kaustubh Rau, Kavi Nanda, Kavin SG, Kerala Birder (Group Account), Khushboo ., Kingsley David, Kiran Ahirrao, Kiran bagade, Kiran Purandare, Kiron Vijay, Kirubhanandhini V, Kishore Kumaran S, Kishore P, Kishore Raj, KN Sivakumar, Komal Agrawal, Kranthi Kiran, Kranti Singh, Krishna Deepak, Krishna Girish, Krishna Girish, Krishnamoorthy Muthirulan, Krishna Murthy, Krishnamurthy Vijaykumar, Krishna Murti, Krishnapriya Tamma, K.Sravan Kumar, Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi, Kuldeep Deshpande, Kumari M, Kumar RR, kushal adaki, Kushal Kulkarni, Lakshmikant Neve, Lakshminarasimha Ranganathan, Latha Prabhakaran, Lekshmi M K , Lekshmi R, Leonard Rebello, lingesh kalingarayar, Liz Thottan , Lloyd Fernandes, Logan Derderian, Loukika Neve, mabel menezes, Madhan Mohan, Madhavan Nirmal, Madhu Madz, Madhura Niphadkar, Madhurima Das, madhushri mudke, Madhusudhan Srinivasan, Magesh Ram, Mahesh Nikam, Mahira Chauhan, maithreyi m r, MAITREYA SUKUMAR, Mallika Rajasekaran, Mamta Megha, Manan Singh Mahadev, manas barve , Mandar Bhagat, Mangesh Prabhulkar, Mangesh Tayde, Mangirish Dharwadkar, Manidip Mandal, Manikandan V, Manipal Birders, Manish Arya, manish kerkar, Manjula Ravi, Manju Sinha, Manohara Kamath, Manoj Bind, Manoj Karingamadathil, Marissa Menezes, Marvelyn Dias, Maulik Varu, MAXIM RODRIGUES K, Mayur Mundale, M D Madhusudan, Md Shafi, MEENU MADHUSOODHANAN, Meghna Joshi, meher preetham, Melvin Jaison, Mich Coker, Mihir Barve, Mike Prince, Milind Ganatra, Mini ANTO, Miraj Hussain, mirza khan, Misha Bansal, Mittal Gala, Mohak Katvi, Mohamed Salman, mohammed hirash, Mohanan Choron, Mohandas Giriyappa, Mohit Aggarwal, Mohith Shenoy, Mohit Joshi, Mohit Mehta, Mohit Sahu, Moksh Patel, Monica Fatogun, Monica Kaushik, Monika Gandhi, Mou Jana, Moumita Chakraborty, mridul anand, Mrinalini Siddhartha, Mrinmayee Thakur, MS Raghunath, mujeeb pm, Mukesh Sehgal, Mukundan Kizhakkemadham, Mukund Thakkar, Mulagala Srinivas, Mumbai Birdwatchers, Murtuza Hussain Abrar, Murugesh Natesan, Muskan Chawla, Muthukumaran Balasubramanian, M V BHAKTHA, Mytheeswaran T, Nabarun Sadhya, Naidu Kumpatla, NALINI RAMAN, namassivayan lakshmanan, Nameer PO, Namitha Anil Nath, Nandhakumar Radhakrishnan, Nandish Songire, NARESH G, Naresh Vadrevu, naseer parayil, Nathan Chang, NAVDEEP SINGH SINGH, NaveenKumar Ganugapenta, Naveen Sama, Nayana Amin, Neelakantan Subramanya Kumar, Neeraj Amarnani, Neeraja T, NEETHU SJ, Neha Waikar, Nelson George, NEVIN JEAN, Nidhin C, NIDHIYA P.R, Nigil Haroon, Nihar Madkaiker, Nikhil Dandekar, Nikhil Luktuke, nikhil savant, Nikita Khamparia , Nila Nath R S, nilanjan chatterjee, Nila Subramanian, Nilesh KK, Nilesh Thakur, Nimisha Ghorpade, Ninad Raote, Ninad Thakoor, Niraj Dubey, Niranjan A, Niranjana C, Niranj Vaidyanathan, Nirmala Thomas, Nisha Anil, Nisha Bhakat, Nishant Shah, nishith Kumar, Nishith Pursnani, Nishit Soni, Nithya S nair, Nitin Kapoor, Nitin Tomer, Nitya Mohanty, N Mahathi , Nosherwan Sethna, N Sethi, Omkar Dharwadkar, omkar naik, Padmanav Kundu, padma ramaswamy, Pallavi Singh, Pam Rasmussen, Panchami Manoo Ukil, Panchapakesan Jeganathan, PANKAJ GUPTA, PANKAJ KOPARDE, Pankaj Lad, Pankaj Sharma, Parag Sakpal, paresh gosavi, Parikshit Khisty, Paul deNiverville, Pavithra Sankaran, Pawan Dhall, Pawan Pareek , Payal Mehta, P. B. 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NAIK, Vivek Puliyeri, Vivek Rawat, Vridhi R, vrinda lath, Wesley Rajaleelan, WINGS Checklist Data, Win Nwe, Yadu .., Yagnesh Desai, Yogesh Badri, Yogesh Parashar, Yogesh Patel, Yousaf olavilam

Are you doing your best to match the target for December (31 birdlists through the month)? And there is also a set of yearlong challenges for 2016 to bird towards!

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Filed under eBirders of the Month, eBirding Challenge, Gap-filling Challenge

December 2016 eBirding Challenges

ebirding-challenge-logo-800px-281x300The challenge for November was to cover 3 distinct locations and upload at least 4 different lists from each of them. As we enter into the last month of the year, we also enter into the middle of what is peak birding season for most of the country. As the amount of birding increases, so do the number of lists being uploaded.

The challenge for December is straightforward – This month, just bird as much as possible and upload at least 31 checklists from the month. Each individual list must be at least 15 minutes long, and all checklists must be effort-based, no-X and complete. icon_tooltip

This winter has been an exciting one already! There are reports of the influx of Common Cuckoos across the southern states, Siberian Thrush in Gujarat, Amur Falcons across the country, Lesser White-fronted Goose in Haryana, etc. There is no better way to be part of the fun than be out birding as much as possible!

We also have an additional challenge! The Gap-filling Challenge was announced last month. The Gap-filling Challenge this month (December) is to upload a minimum of 4 complete checklists icon_tooltip of at least 15 minutes duration each from one or more of the districts from the list of 317 districts that have 30 minutes or less of birding represented on eBird for December.

You can download the list of districts in any of the following formats: CSV XLS XLSX PDF

Please upload all your lists by 5 January 2017 so that we can announce the results the next day. All birders who reach the target will be named and recognised on this website. One of these names will be chosen at random to receive a small birding-related gift in appreciation.

Here are the general rules of our monthly challenges. Do check out the yearlong challenges! You can keep track of fresh lists coming in from India at this page.

Important. if you are new to eBird, please read this description first, and do take a look at the Beginner’s Guide.

river-lapwing

River Lapwing © S S Cheema (view in checklist)

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“Common” Cuckoo

Each year, the Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus undertakes a marathon journey from its breeding grounds in the trans-Himalayan region and further north in China and passes through the subcontinent enroute its wintering range in Africa. This route has been further elucidated by the Beijing Cuckoo Project, which has been tracking cuckoos satellite-tagged around Beijing earlier this year.

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus - hepatic form © Mallika Rajasekaran

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus – hepatic form © Mallika Rajasekaran

This species, usually recorded by birders in southern India for a brief period of time during autumn passage, has been (and is still being) seen unusually often this year all over peninsular India. Reports have been coming in with a high frequency from the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala.

Over the months of October and November 2016, the Common Cuckoo was recorded in Karnataka and Kerala in as many as 4.9% and 4.14% of all (complete) checklists submitted respectively. For the same period of months over 2010-2015, it was recorded (at its peak) in 1.5% and virtually none of all complete checklists for Karnataka and Kerala respectively.

Kerala_Cuculus canorus

Frequency of occurrence of Common Cuckoos in Kerala in 2016 and from 2010-2015

Have you been seeing any Common Cuckoos in your region? Do remember to report your sightings on eBird. To check out where all this cuckoo has been reported from India, view its range map.

Where the Himalayan Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus is not present, you can tell the Common Cuckoo apart from other Cuckoo species (especially Indian Cuckoo and the much smaller Lesser Cuckoo) by its large size, cuculus-like structure, long wings, fine barring on underparts, yellow iris, lack of contrast between head and mantle/back and the absence of a subterminal tail band.

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Filed under Patterns and Analysis, Species Information