Bengal Florican

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Houbaropsis bengalensis

By Prerna Singh Bindra

Photo: Joanna Van Gruisen

BEST SEEN AT: Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Uttar Pradesh, Manas Tiger Reserve, Assam
STATUS: Schedule I/ Critically Endangered
GOOD TO KNOW: It is the rarest member of the bustard family

THE BENGAL florican has two disjunct populations, one in the Indian subcontinent and the other in South-East Asia. The former has just about 400 floricans thinly spread over the Terai, from Uttar Pradesh through Nepal to Assam. Though it is an efficient flier, it is usually spotted walking or running on the ground. The florican is a ground nesting bird and usually inhabits moist grasslands interspersed with scrub forests, which are fast vanishing. Grasslands throughout its range are threatened by drainage, conversion to agriculture, overgrazing, heavy flooding, cutting and burning. The courting ritual of the Bengal florican is a sight to behold, the male shoots up in the air no less than three to four metres — wings flapping rapidly all through — descends, then rises again some minutes later. This exuberant display is not his only strategy as he struts around, neck feathers fluffed to attract a prospective mate. However, this elaborate ritual only makes the florican very visible and therefore vulnerable to hunters. Today, only a small and fragmented population of the florican survive.

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