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Recent Habitat Management
In Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Solapur
~ Dr. Pramod Patil & Mr. Mayur Kulkarni of Gahivar Foundation

Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary (established in 1979, also known as the Jawaharlal Nehru Bustard Sanctuary of Maharashtra) is a wildlife sanctuary for the Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) at Solapur, Maharashtra, India. The land is drought-prone and semi-arid.

Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Maharashtra
● Coordinates - 18021′00″N 75011′38″E
● Year of establishment- 1979
● Size - 849,644 hectares (3,280.49 sq mi)
● Climate - Dry, mild winter. Hot summer (400C to 430C )
● Temperature - 130C to 430C
● Topography - Gentle undulations,with isolated hillocks of 450-500 msl.
● Habitat - 6A/01 Southern Tropical Thorn Forest (Champion and Seth 1968)
● Biogeographic Zone - Deccan Peninsula
● Breeding Status - Breeds in Nannaj and some other DPAP plots.
● Nesting season - Monsoon (July-October)
● Figure of bustards according to census 2009 - Total 21 (13 females and 8 males)

Habitat types in Nannaj plots

Habitat of Nannaj can be broadly divided in to five main types (Manakadan, R. and Rahmani, A. R. 1986 Annual Report No. 3, BNHS, Rahmani, A. R. Final Report 1989 BNHS).
1. Grassland plots - Mardi 100 and Mardi 50 plots are pure grassland, with few young Acacia nilotica trees and Cassia auriculata bushes. Prominent grasses are Aristida funiculate, Aristida stocksii, Chrysopogon fulvus, Heteropogon contortus, Lodhopogon tridentatus,Melanocenchris jacquemontii.
Woodlot (Nannaj plots) - In some of the areas the following trees were planted by the forest department: Acacia nilotica, Albizzia lebbeck,Gliricidia sepium kunth, Dalbergia sissoo, Azadirachta indica, Hardwickia binata, Sapindus emarginatus and Tamarindus indicus. These plots have become extremely thick in the past years, and the grassland has been converted to woodland.
Grazing land
Stony grazing land
Crop fields

Habitat utilization and preference by Great Indian Bustard
Maximum sightings of bustards are seen at pure grassland areas, and no bird is recorded in dense woodlots. Bustards prefer wide open short grass plains and open scrubland with scattered trees. (Manakadan, R and Rahmani, A. R. 1986 Annual report No. 3. BNHS, Rahmani, A. R. Final Report 1989 BNHS).
Bustards need open habitat for the following purposes:
● Nesting
● Display
● Foraging
● Roosting

Need for habitat management
Some of the areas like Nannaj 10 hectare (close to mardi 100 ha) and Karamba (close to Mardi 50 ha) were planted with exotic plant species like Gliricidia sepium kunth, Azadirechta indica Juss. Due to overgrowth of weeds like Hyptis suaveolens and Lantena camera, these areas were converted in to dense woodlands.

Original state grasslands at Nannaj

Grasslands turned in to woodland

Extensive study done by Dr. Asad Rahmani & others in Nannaj Sanctuary clearly recommended need for active habitat management. (Rahmani, A. R. 2002. BNHS)

What are these recommendations?
No tree planting - It's better to have less trees or bushes in the core areas than to have too many of them.
Maintenance of grassland - very thick and dense grasses are not preferred by bustards. In such cases thinning, cutting would be useful to maintain the grassland at the optimum suitability for the bustards.

These recommendations were included in management plan of the sanctuary but nothing much was done for the management of grasslands in Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Nannaj, Solapur.

Recent habitat management by the forest department
Removal of trees by the forest department

With reference to the recommendations in the management plan, Forest Department (Wildlife Division) Pune submitted a proposal to PCCF Maharashtra in 2006 for the uprooting and cutting of trees like Gliricidia, Lantana in Nannaj and Karamba areas. With allotments of funds, actual work started in March 2008 under the guidance of Conservator of Forest (Wildlife Division) Pune Dr. Y L P Rao. Total 25 hectares of land was cleared out of trees, of which 10 ha at Nannaj 10 ha area (near Kale Talav) and 15 ha at Karamba (near Mardi 50 ha). Trees like gliricidia, neem, and lantana were cut and then uprooted so as to prevent their re-growth. Total 15,240 trees were uprooted from 25 hectare of land.

Before uprooting

After uprooting

In August 2009, an observer saw one male Great Indian Bustard in newly opened Nannaj 10 (Near Kale Talav) plot on 15 August. Bustard was seen foraging and the observer continued to observe the bird for about 45 minutes in 10 ha. Then the bustard crossed the TCM by walking and entered the Mardi 100 hectare area.

Great Indian Bustard in newly opened area

The following species of birds have been observed in newly opened areas:
● Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps)
● Indian Bushlark (Mirafra erythroptera)
● Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix grisea)
● Rufous-tailed Lark (Ammomanes phoenicurus)
● Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis)
● Yellow-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus malabaricus)
● Red-necked Falcon (Falco chicquera)
● White-eyed Buzzard (Butastur teesa)
● Rock Bush Quail (Perdicula argoondah)
● Barred Buttonquail (Turnix suscitator)
● Grey Francolin (Francolinus pondicerianus)
● Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
● Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata)
● Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
● Large Grey Babbler (Turdoides malcolmi)
● Indian Silverbill (Lonchura malabarica)

A majority of the above-mentioned species are grassland birds. These observations suggest the acceptance of newly opened habitat by Great Indian Bustard and also by various other bird species. These efforts should be encouraged and should be taken as a regular activity by the forest department.

● Ali & Ripley S. D.(1969) : Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan, Vol 2 pp 188-201, Oxford University Press, Delhi.
● Manakadan, R & Rahmani A. R. (1986) : Study of Ecology of certain Endangered Species of Wildlife and their Habitat: the Great Indian Bustard. Annual report No 3, Pp 100. Bombay Natural History Society.
● Asad R Rahmani, Ranjit Mankadan (1988) : Bustard Sanctuaries of India, Strategies for their conservation and management, Technical report No. 13, Pp 40. BNHS.
● Asad R Rahmani, The Great Indian Bustard, Final Report (1989), pp 234. Bombay Natural History Society
● Islam, M. Z. and Rahmani A. R. Threatned birds of India, BUCEROS, Vol 7. No.1& 2. (2002). Compiled from Threatned Birds of Asia. BirdLife International Red Data Book (2001). Cambridge,U.K. : BirdLife International.
● Rahmani, A.R. (2002). Protection of Nannaj Bustard area , Solapur Maharashtra. Pp 9. BNHS.IBCN,Mumbai.
● Shendre, N (2002), Management Plan Great IndianBustard Sanctuary, Maharashtra. Government of Maharashtra.
● Islam, M.Z. and Rahmani A.R. (2004) Important Bird Areas in India : Priority Sites for Conservation. IBCN, BNHS, BirdLife International U K. Pp xviii + 1133
● Rahmani, A R, (2006), Need to start Project Bustard. Pp 20. BNHS.
● Government of India Task force on Grassland and Deserts Report. (2006), Planning Commission. New Delhi. Pp 32.

Written by: Dr. Pramod Patil & Mr. Mayur Kulkarni of Gahivar Foundation
Contact: (+91) 9960680000;
Address: Dr. Pramod Patil.
Pl. no. 15, B Ward, Datta colony
Sambhaji Nagar, Mangalwar Peth,
Near Olg NCC office,
Kolhapur- 416012; Maharashtra.
Gahivar Foundation:; (+91) 9890677137
© Dr. Pramod Patil and Mr. Mayur Kulkarni 2009


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