Nesting tree selection by scattered heronry birds of drought prone Northern Bankura, West Bengal, India: preference of Phoenix sylvestris near wetland-associated habitats
The present study was conducted in the Gangajalghati block of Northern Bankura, India, to investigate the habitat and nest tree preference of three colonial waterbirds viz. Nycticorax nycticorax, Egretta garzetta, and Ardeola grayii. The study sites were surveyed for 20 months between 2017 and 2020. A total of 817 nests with an average of 204 per year were recorded on 13 tree species. Nycticorax nycticorax showed the maximum nest count followed by Egretta garzetta and Ardeola grayii. Relative abundance data revealed Phoenix sylvestris as the most abundant species (45%) of the area and harbours the highest proportion (33%) of nests. Pooled nest count data showed significantly higher (p < 0.01) total nest counts in the wetland associated habitats than others. The study observed more nest density of all three species near a cluster of small ponds than in a large water body. Year-wise difference in cumulative nest number and mean nest abundance of all three species was statistically insignificant. The interspecific nearest neighbour on Phoenix sylvestris were Egretta garzetta (88.37%) for Nycticorax nycticorax and Nycticorax nycticorax (83.25%) for Egretta garzetta and Ardeola grayii. Further, the study evaluated the impact of two tropical cyclones (Amphan and Fani) on the total nest count and found that more than 75% nests (p < 0.05) were destroyed by the mighty Amphan in May 2020. The study provides a baseline data on nesting trees and habitat preference of three species of heronry birds from Northern Bankura.
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