Rare Black-necked Grebe Takes Up Residence in Hokersar Wetland

Rare Black-necked Grebe Takes Up Residence in Hokersar Wetland

Birdwatchers in Jammu and Kashmir were thrilled to discover a Black-necked Grebe for the first time ever in the region’s Hokersar wetland, a Ramsar site of international importance. This sighting, confirmed by bird photographer Reyan Sofi and published in the renowned ornithology journal “Indian Birds,” marks a significant milestone for the state’s avian diversity.

The Black-necked Grebe, a small, gregarious species with a wide distribution across Europe and Asia, is known to winter in the southwestern Palearctic, East Asia, and East Africa. While breeding grounds are scattered across various regions, including southern Africa, Canada, the western United States, and Mexico, India’s breeding population is primarily found in the Ladakh Union Territory. During winters, these birds migrate to the western Gangetic Plains, Gujarat, and central Nepal, with occasional stragglers reaching eastern Assam Valley, Bangladesh, coastal Orissa, and Pune in Maharashtra.

Sofi, along with fellow birder Ansar Ahmad, documented the historic sighting at Hokersar wetland, a perennial protected reserve located just 10 kilometers northwest of Srinagar city. While unconfirmed reports of the Black-necked Grebe surfaced alongside common coots in March 2023, this observation marks the first definitive record for Jammu and Kashmir.

“The bird was in its basic plumage, easily identifiable by its bright red iris, black head and mantle, the neck being black on the back and grey on the front, and the white breast, rump, and belly,” explained Sofi. He further described the bird’s elusive nature, noting that despite initial sightings, it remained shy and disappeared on subsequent visits to the wetland.

The previous unconfirmed sighting in March 2023 was observed for a few days before disappearing, leading to its classification as doubtful by Ward No. 1907. However, Sofi and Ahmad’s documented observation provides concrete evidence, solidifying the Black-necked Grebe’s presence in Jammu and Kashmir.

This exciting discovery adds a new chapter to the state’s rich avian tapestry and highlights the ecological significance of the Hokersar wetland. The confirmation of the Black-necked Grebe’s presence also underscores the importance of continued conservation efforts to protect Jammu and Kashmir’s biodiversity for future generations.