Kashmir’s Wular Lake Anticipates the Arrival of 4 Lakh Migratory Birds, Unveiling 7 New Avian Species

Kashmir’s Wular Lake Anticipates the Arrival of 4 Lakh Migratory Birds, Unveiling 7 New Avian Species

This winter, Wular Lake, spanning Baramulla and Bandipora districts in northern Kashmir, has become a haven for migratory birds, hosting approximately four to five lakh individuals, including seven new species.

Currently, the serene waters of the lake are teeming with thousands of avian visitors, a sight that continues to evolve with the arrival of more flocks from various countries and neighboring wetlands, as highlighted by Irfan Rasool, coordinator of the Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA).

Showkat Maqbool, associated with WUCMA, attributes the lake’s popularity among migratory birds to three key factors. Firstly, the lake is cleaner and has ample water, especially when compared to other water bodies in the region affected by a dry spell. Secondly, reduced poaching, thanks to enhanced vigilance around the lake, has made Wular Lake a safer habitat for these birds. Maqbool also notes that the lake’s clean waters have attracted rare species like Falcated Duck, Horned Grebe, Western Reef Heron, Smew Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Pacific Golden Polover, and the Broad-billed Sandpiper over the past 12 months.

In addition to providing a safe haven for migratory birds, Wular Lake, with a maximum depth of 5.8 meters and covering 130 sq km, plays a crucial role in the Valley’s fish production, contributing 60% of the total. The lake, known for water chestnuts and lotus stems, sustains 30 surrounding villages. With over ₹300 crore invested in its conservation over the past three years, the positive results are evident on the ground.

The lake’s significance is further highlighted by its designation as one of the 42 Indian wetlands recognized as a Ramsar site, meeting international standards. Kashmir, home to 400 water bodies, witnesses the annual arrival of migratory birds, such as mallards, greylag geese, pochards, common tails, shovelers, pintails, and gharwals, between October and April. The last Annual Water Bird Census reported the arrival of eight to 12 lakh migratory birds in 2022-23 and 11 to 12 lakh in 2021-22, affirming the region’s appeal to birds from Europe, Japan, China, and Central Asia.