Veerapuram painted storks multiply post copious rain
One of the largest flock of painted storks ( Mycteria leucocephala), approximately 4,000 birds, have made tall trees in Veepapuram and Venkatapuram villages in Chilamathur mandal of Sri Sathya Sai district their breeding ground, and are currently looking after 6,000 chicks. By May-end to June-end when the chicks are more than three months old, they will fly away along with adults. They mostly inhabit wetlands in the plains breed closer to undisturbed/protected trees
Copious amounts of rain received in the region during last monsoon has made it the most favourable breeding ground for these colourful winged guests. While painted storks have been coming to these villages for more than 25 years, the numbers have slowly risen. While it was only 2,500 to 3,000 in 2019, two years of good rains has brought enough shallow water into the both village tanks making them the right wading grounds for the painted storks, who survive on small fish, and occasionally on frogs and snakes.
Venugopal Reddy, a resident of Veerapuram, had been looking after the birds and chicks that fall to the ground and feeding them by providing protection from dogs, eagles, and other predators. Andhra Pradesh Department of Forests had appointed him as the watch and ward and promised to give some honorarium along with money for medicines to tend to the birds. Divisional Forest Officer G.P. Anand said they had sought funds for this activity in their budget.
Detailing the needs of large number of birds (an estimate of bird lovers’ along with Mr. Reddy), the largest expenditure is in buying fish for the fallen chick, (though luckily none have fallen from nests this year) as each chick needs 500 gm to 600 gm of fish a day (about nine fish fed in two sessions) and as they grow up to 1 kg.
The adults sit on guard against sun and eagles on the tree-top nests by turns and make several sorties a day to feed three chicks on an average. Those laying eggs in January have four chicks, while the later ones have two or three. The adults sometimes fall to the ground due to exhaustion and such large birds need to be given glucose water and released, says Mr. Venugopal, who had been doing this activity through some small donations from bird-lovers to ‘Save Our Souls’ run by this villager. “Even those funds have exhausted and donations dried up during COVID-19,” he explains.
Kokrebellur village in Maddur taluk of Mandya district of Karnataka is the largest breeding ground for these beautiful birds, but Veerapauram on the border of Bagepalli in Karnataka, housing equally large number of birds has been one of the best tourist attractions as it is close to massive Lepakshi Nandi and Veerabhadra Swamy temple in Andhra Pradesh.