How would you react when you are told that a bird classified as a vagrant- i.e. a migrant that is seen perhaps once in 10 years or so is discovered breeding in a tank in Sri Lanka? Hitherto, sightings of solitary specimens have been so sporadic that it was categorized as a vagrant to Sri Lanka.
On July 8, 2015(Wednesday) at 8.15 am, Ceylon Bird Club Committee Member, Tara Wikramanayake saw seven Large Whistling Teal/Fulvous Whistling- duck Dendrocygna bicolor chicks swimming between their parents at Anavilundawa Tank in the Chilaw District. Further scrutiny revealed scattered adults in pairs as well as solitary individuals. She reported this exciting find to M/s Deepal Warakagoda and Kithsiri Gunawardena, Jt. Secretaries of the Ceylon Bird Club, and the following day, Deepal visited the location with some wildlife photographers and counted 20 adults. Recordings of the call (which is quite different to that of the Lesser Whistling Teal/Lesser Whistling-duck Dendrocygna javanica commonly seen in almost all our water bodies) were made by them and they also noted further signs of breeding- one pair presented them with a courtship display while another was seen mating. So, hopefully more chicks will arrive soon.
The text books/bird books differ in their description of the location of this bird in Asia. Some books state it is a vagrant to peninsular India and Pakistan and breeds in NE India down to Bangladesh and towards S. Myanmar.
Others state that it is a winter visitor to Bangladesh and SE Asia. It is a rare resident to S. Myanmar and was formerly resident (current status unknown) in SW and E Myanmar.
It is also found in parts of Africa (south of the Sahara from Senegal across the sub- Sahara belt to Ethiopia and southwards to down the entire eastern half of the African Continent to S. Africa and Madagascar although everywhere the distribution is local and somewhat discontinuous. It is also found in the tropical Americas.
So what has prompted these birds to come to our country to breed, and where did they come from? Bangladesh, NE India, Madagascar or where? Further study of this aspect is required.
This is the first record of this vagrant to Sri Lanka, breeding here. In the interests of the birds’ well-being and security (especially since it has started to breed), all visitors to the location are requested to act with caution and responsibility as we would like to see this bird establish itself as a breeding resident.
Ceylon Bird Club