Bangladesh has some 700 species of birds nearly half of which are migratory in one form or another. Hardly these birds form any large congregations excepting those that visit our wetlands -- haors and beels as well as our coastal areas and the Kaptai Lake during the winter months. These are all migratory birds.
However, recent sighting of a large colony of birds in the village Pochamaria under Shilmaraia Union of the Puthia thana in Rajshahi is no doubt a remarkable find. This heronry is possibly the largest one in the country outside the government reserved forests in the Soondarban and the greater districts of Sylhet and Mymensingh.
As I have gathered Pochamaria has turned into a Heronry about a decade back when a small flock of Cormorants started roosting at first and then started breeding in the area later on.
This Heronry is supported by a few bamboo clumps within the compound of a few villagers by the side of Pochamaria Bazar and the local road that links Taherpur. Some birds, especially Asian Openbill or Shamuk Bhanga, roost on a few Shimul trees (Bombax ceiba) within half a kilometer of the market.
The beauty of Pochamaria people is that for some reason they have become tolerant to the hell of a lot of trouble created by the resident Cormorants -- the Pankowris and Herons (Bok). First and the foremost negative impact resulted from the faeces of these birds that are systematically killing the local cash-crop such as the bamboos and Shimul trees. Positive impact of these faeces is that these naturally manure the fields and ponds where various crops and fish are cultivated.
In addition to birds there are over 1000 Badur, Flying Fox or Large Fruit Bat (Pteropus giganteus) that use the area for roosting. They use the same bamboos and Shimul trees for daytime roost and make hell of a racket by continuous chattering and squeaking. Some visitors even confuse this as 'a kind of bird'! Bats are mammals like us and produce babies that drink mothers' milk and their bodies are covered with hairs. Birds on the other hand produce eggs and chicks hatch out of these. Their bodies are covered with feathers. Unlike Chamchika or Insect Bats that are purely nocturnal and move by echolocation, not by vision, Fruit Bats have large eyes and can also see in daytime.
However, before this spot came to limelight villagers used to kill these birds and eat them. At the current time the villagers have become aware of the importance of the 'goldmine' that they have. The local UC Chairman Sajjad Hussain Mukul and the teachers and students of the local Degree College and schools as well as the members of the local community joined hands and formed a Bird Protection Committee. Its members are very active and trying their best to save the birds from the onslaught.
But their efforts need an institutional build up with support from both the government and the national and international NGOs.
Birds of Pochamaria, including the neighbourhood of the Heronry Birds in the Heronry Proper
1. Shamuk Bhanga or Shamuk-khol, Asian Openbill, Openbilled Stork Anastomus oscitans, �300 in number, mostly on Shimul trees and some in the bamboo clump supporting the main Heronry. This bird is resident in some parts of the country but migratory to Pochamaria.
2. Brihot Pankowri, Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, �300. Both resident and migratory. Some of theses birds breed in the country and many others reach Bangladesh during winter.
3. Majhari Pankowri, Indian Cormorant, Phalacrocorax fuscicollis, �50, resident and migratory.
4. Pankowri or Chhoto Pankowri, Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger, �500, resident, locally migratory due to non-availability of food.
5. Jathua or Boro Sada Bok, Great Egret, Casmerodius albus, �100, resident, locally migratory.
6. Majhari Bok, Intermediate Egret, Mesophoyx intermedia, �10, resident, locally migratory.
7. Chhoto Sada Bok, Little Egret, Egretta garzetta, �500, resident, locally migratory.
8. Kana Bok, Pond Heron, Ardeola grayii, �500, resident, locally migratory.
9. Nishi Bok or Waak, Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, 500, resident, locally migratory.
10. Goyar, Shapa Pakhi, Darter or Snake Bird, Anhinga melanogaster, 6-8 birds, resident.
Birds included in the list below are found in and around the Heronry at Pochamaria. These are organized in order of commonness, not on systematic. Bengali name of each species is followed by the English and then the scientific or zoological names.
1. Pati Kak, House Crow Corvus splendens
2. Daar Kak, Jungle Crow, Large-billed Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos
3. Doyel, Magpie Robin, Copsychus saularis
4. Bhat Shalik, Common Myna, Acirdotheres tristis
5. Jhuti Shalik, Jungle Myna, Acirdotheres fuscus
6. Goborey Shalik, Pied Starling, Sturnus contra
7. Kath or Badami Shalik, Grey-headed or Chestnut-tailed Starling, Sturnus malabaricus
8. Charui, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
9. Tuntuni, Tailor Bird, Orthotomus sutorius
10. Bulbuli, Red-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus cafer
11. Sipahi Bulbuli, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Pycnonotus jocosus
12. Jalali Kobutor, Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
13. Chhoto Kaththokra, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos macei
14. Boro Kaththokra, Black-rumped Flameback Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker, Dinopium benghalense
15. Kutum Pakhi or Harichacha, Treepie, Dendrocitta vagabunda
16. Niltuni, Purple Sunbird, Cinnyris asiaticus* (Nectarinia asiatica)[*scientific names of animals and plants frequently get changed]
17. Moutushi, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Leptocoma zeylonica (Nectarinia zeylonica)
18. Fuljhuri, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Dicaeum erythrorhynchos
19. Fingey, Black Drongo, Dicrurus macrocercus
20. Haldey Pakhi, Black-hooded Oriole, Oriolus xanthornus
21. Latora, Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus
22. Chhoto Sat Soheli, Small Minivet, Perocrocotus cinnamomeus
23. Sat Bhaila, Jungle Babbler, Turdoides striatus
24. Dhushurmatha Bontuni, Ashy Prinia, Prinia socialis
25. Towfik or Fotikjol, Common Iora, Aegithina tiphia
26. Shetakkhi or Babunai, White-eye, Zosterops palpebrosa
27. Gangra, Great Tit, Parus major
28. Kanakuka or Kankua, Greater Coucal, Centropus sinensis
29. Tia, Rose-tinged Parakeet, Psittacula krameri
30. Chhoto Basanta Bauri, Coppersmith Barbet, Megalaima haemacephala
31. Boro Basanta Bauri, Lineated Barbet, Megalaima lineata
32. Nilavo or Bora Basanta Bauri, Blue-throated Barbet, Megalaima asiatica
33. Tila Ghughu, Spotted Dove, Streptopelia chinensis
34. Dhabol Ghughu, Ringed Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
35. Kokil, Koel, Eydynamys scolopacea
36. Chokhgelo Pakhi, Common Hawk Cuckoo, Hierococcyx varius
37. Boukotha Kow Pakhi, Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus
38. Sorgom, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cacomantis sonneratii
39. Suichora, Green Bee-eater, Merops orientalis
40. Chhoto Machhranga, Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis
41. Sadabook Machhranga, White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
42. Nilkantha, Indian Roller, Coracias benghalensis
43. Nak-kati or Nakuti, Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis
44. Ababil, Barn Owl, Hirundo rustica
45. Kutorey Pencha, Spotted Owlet, Athene brama
46. Bhutum Pencha, Brown Fish Owl, Ketupa zeylonensis
47. Bhuvan Chil, Pariah Kite, Milvus migrans
48. Shankha Chil, Brahminy Kite, Haliastur indus
49. Baaz, Shikra, Accipiter badius
50. Ratchora Pakhi, Indian Nightjar, Caprimulgus asiaticus
51. Lalbook Chotok, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Ficedula parva
52. Dhushar Chotok, Greyheaded Canary Flycatcher, Culicicapa ceylonensis
53. Laejnachani, White-throated Fantail, Rhipidura albicollis
54. Chhoto Gudhuka, Common Woodshrike, Tephrodornis pondicerianus
55. Kalokhupa Chotok, Black-naped Monarch, Hypothymis azurea
56. Lejjhula or Lal o Sada Sipahi, Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone paradisi
57. Babui Pakhi, Baya, Ploceus philippinus
58. Munia, White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata
59. Tila or Chitrito Munia, Scaly-breasted Munia, Lonchura punctulata
60. Sada Khonjoni, Pied Wagtail, Motacilla alba
61. Dhushar Khonjani, Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea
62. Tulika, Paddyfield Pipit, Anthus rufulus
63. Bhorot Pakhi, Rufous-winged Bushlark, Mirafra assamica
64. Baghatiki or Kalumatha Koshai Pakhi, Long-tailed Shrike, Lanius schach
65. Badami Koshai, brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus
66. Lal-lotika Ti-Ti, Red-wattled lapwing, Vanellus indicus
There could be another 30 to 40 species of birds within a 5 km radius of the Heronry. This needs further investigations.
Dr Reza Khan is head of Dubai Zoo, UAE, and formerly Associate Professor of Zoology, Dhaka University.