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Physiotherapist spots India's first-ever Giant Shrike in Arunachal Pradesh

The sighting, which occurred in March near Tawang, adds a new entry to the country's growing avian checklist. Kapdi, an avid birdwatcher herself, spotted the bird while traveling with her family to Sangtesar Lake.

News Arena Network - Tawang - UPDATED: May 15, 2024, 04:12 AM - 3 mins read

The giant grey shrike spotted near Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh. (Image credit: Kalyani Kapdi)

Physiotherapist spots India's first-ever Giant Shrike in Arunachal Pradesh

The giant grey shrike spotted near Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh. (Image credit: Kalyani Kapdi)


Birdwatchers in India have a new species to celebrate, thanks to a keen eye and a bit of luck. Kalyani Kapdi, a physiotherapist vacationing in Arunachal Pradesh, has become the first person to document a Giant Shrike within Indian borders.

 

The sighting, which occurred in March near Tawang, adds a new entry to the country's growing avian checklist. Kapdi, an avid birdwatcher herself, spotted the bird while traveling with her family to Sangtesar Lake.

 

"It looked like a shrike, flying alongside our car before overtaking us and perching on a pole," Kapdi recalled. Initially, she considered it a Great Grey Shrike, a common resident of the Indian subcontinent, or perhaps a Magpie. 

 

However, upon consulting the Merlin bird identification app, she discovered that Arunachal Pradesh wasn't part of the Great Grey Shrike's usual range. This piqued her curiosity.

 

Kapdi, who has participated in bird counts and surveys across various Indian states, wasn't about to let the sighting go undocumented. 

 

She shared photos of the bird with Salehin Md Habib, a Kolkata-based birdwatcher, and Ashwin Viswanathan, a prominent figure in the Indian birding community. 

 

 

Both experts confirmed the bird as a Giant Shrike, marking the first official record of the species in India.

 

While the Giant Shrike's presence in the region wasn't entirely unexpected, Viswanathan acknowledged the fortunate nature of Kapdi's observation. "This is undoubtedly the first documented sighting of this species in India," he said. "It was a lucky find, but considering the Giant Shrike's range extends to Tibet, there was a slight chance they might be present in that area. However, this bird wasn't on anyone's radar previously."

 

Viswanathan enthusiastically emphasised the significance of Kapdi's discovery. "This sighting highlights the vast potential for new discoveries within India's diverse birdlife. As birders explore more remote regions, we can expect more such exciting finds."

 

The narrow, traffic-prone road leading to Bum La Pass and Sangtesar Lake presented a logistical challenge. Fortunately, a traffic jam provided Kapdi with the crucial window she needed. 

 

"Our car got stuck due to the jam, giving me precious time to observe the bird and capture photographs," explained the 45-year-old vacationing with her family.

 

According to eBird, a popular online birding platform, the Giant Shrike bears a resemblance to the Chinese Grey Shrike but is noticeably larger.

 

A Chinese Giant Shrike.

Additionally, the Giant Shrike has a darker back and lacks the distinct white eyebrows characteristic of both the Chinese and Great Grey Shrike varieties. These high-altitude birds prefer open shrubland habitats and migrate to lower elevations during winter.

 

Kapdi's keen observation and the power of citizen science have resulted in a valuable addition to India's avian registry. 

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