While Purbachal is a fancy name of a pummelled river-bed and uprooted Sal forest, all to extend the suburb for the capital’s burgeoning population, birds do not find the place unattractive because it is mostly uninhabited, unkempt and rather quiet, at least, for the time being.
A number of uncommon birds have been sighted and photographed here over the past years and one Friday morning proved to be a good time to sight yet another rare bird species.
As I tip-toed along the bank of a dying river in Purbachal, a site that birdwatchers in the capital have fondly termed “the local patch” for themselves, I came across something rather exciting.
Right before my eyes, two River Lapwings, grey-brown and sporting jet-black mohawks, flew slowly and noiselessly, and landed on the sludge piled up by mindless earth-movers on the bank.
It was the first time this species of birds considered it worthwhile to make an appearance anywhere near our capital.
The River Lapwing is a rare bird anywhere in Bangladesh. It is seen infrequently on the untrodden banks of the Padma, Jamuna and Sangu.
These birds feed mostly on worms and insects living in sand or mud in large riverbanks. The birds also lay eggs there and rear their chicks till the end of winter.
For survival, therefore, this species of Lapwing needs predator-free riverbanks.
It is no wonder the birds are not flourishing in the country, as our riverbanks are where all human activities seem to converge, and Lapwings can hardly find a patch of sand or mud on banks where our farmers, fishers, traders and their pet or farm animals are not frequenting.
In 2000, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List listed the River Lapwing as an “Endangered Species” of Bangladesh. In 2015, however, Bangladesh Red List reclassified it as “Near Threatened” which, unfortunately, is also its global status. This means the River Lapwing is not thriving well anywhere in the world.
There are 25 species of Lapwings in the world; only six of which are seen in Bangladesh. Three species, namely the River Lapwing, Red-wattled Lapwing and Yellow-wattled Lapwing are resident; and the other three, namely Grey-headed Lapwing, Northern Lapwing and White-tailed Lapwing are winter visitors to Bangladesh. Two of Lapwings species, the Javan Lapwing and Social Lapwing, are Critically Endangered and are in dire state around the world.
The scientific name of River Lapwing is Vanellus Duvaucelli -- after French naturalist Alfred Duvaucel who worked in Bengal from 1818 till his death in 1824.
We hope the two River Lapwings in Purbachal will continue to find enough food on the riverbanks to give birdwatchers of the capital an opportunity to revel in this rare sight.