Water levels have dropped at the northern and southern ends of the Perumbakkam wetland, and both pheasant-tailed pheasants and bronze wings are making the most of it.
When a family member leans toward stoutness, it barely registers in the mind until their curtains begin to pop, the buttons flying with the muzzle velocity of a gun. By equating resident birds with relatives, birders begin to notice that the Perumbakkam wetland is teeming with jacanas.
At the southern and northern ends of the wetland, the water has drained enormously and noticeably – respectively – exposing the vegetation that the pheasant-tail and bronze-winged jacanas prey on, with their endless jacanids toes. They get the most out of it, especially the pheasant-tailed jacana.
Not so long ago, when ornithologist Gnanaskandan Keshavabharathi swept the expanse muttering numbers, his number of pheasant-tailed jacanas stood at around 200. He had also counted nearly a dozen. jacanas with bronze wings. Independently counting another day, ornithologist Sundaravel Palanivel came to an estimate: a whopping 400 jacanas, much of which is accumulated by pheasant-tailed jacanas.
In any case, the presence of jacana is monstrously high. Juveniles, especially pheasant-tailed pheasants, make up a good percentage of the congregation. There are also pheasant tails dressed in their delicious breeding colors and elongated sickle.
A stray thought enters the frame, altering the image. After drinking water until November, the Perumbakkam now looks a bit like a lung from which the fluid build-up is slowly removed. Drainage is massively incomplete, with the central sections of the wetland still retaining puddles.
The original jacana land
- In the 1980s we used to go to the Manali and Madhavaram wheels – the twin wheels. we used to access it from the Manali side. I don’t remember the route of the bus. We were taking this bus from Burma Bazaar and it would drop us right at the village, and from there we would walk about 200 meters and reach this place. We used to walk through the village and then go to a mango orchard, which I think was adjacent to where the people of Madhavaram had their guesthouse.
Ornithologist V Santharam notes that this could be a temporary phenomenon resulting from cramped housing. Once the water receded from the other parts and the wetland became more accessible to them, the jacanas would be more spread out. When this happens, the feeling of mammoth presence would also decrease.
It may well be that jacanas were present earlier in such impressive numbers, but were never hosted in small spaces with favorable vegetation.
The ornithologist brings another perspective to the image dominated by jacanas. “Jacana congregations are not unusual. If they have juveniles now, they must have finished breeding a little earlier. They probably have different breeding times. Perhaps after breeding they gather in a relatively safe place and they have enough food.
Among the many things that stand out in tight assemblies of pheasant-tailed jacanas are the bitter internal struggles. Every two seconds, two jacanas ascended in a whirlwind of quarrelsome and unruly feathers.
Santharam explains: “They defend small territories in which they can benefit from exclusive food rights. I’ve seen this with rails and coots – they also have a strong territorial instinct. On the other hand, waders are migratory; they come here and find food plentiful and they go about their business quietly. These resident birds are more specialized in their foraging, looking for things in vegetation, and it is not an easily accessible type of food, and they probably need to have some space for themselves- same.