Black-Headed Bunting Sighted First Time in Manipur

A rare migratory bird ‘black-headed bunting’ was sighted for the first time in Manipur.

A single black-headed bunting ( Emberizamelanace phata) was sighted during a study of birds in the Thongjaorok river near Loktak lake.

The birds breed in areas from southeast Europe to eastern Iran. They migrate to India and some move on towards Southeast Asian countries. Since the bird was sighted in Manipur, it could also be migrating to some other areas of the Northeast.

When the bird was sighted, it was sitting on a reed eating grain.

The study was carried out jointly by the Centre for Conservation of Nature and Cultivation of Science, Manipur, and the Indian Bird Conservation Network in Loktak lake from November 1 to 3.

The Thongjaorok flows into 246 square km Loktak lake, the largest freshwater lake which is home to migratory birds during winter.

A census carried out in January last year recorded a bird population of 47,000 in Loktak lake. The survey found half of them were migratory birds.

The black-headed bunting (Emberiza melanocephala) is a passerine bird in the bunting family Emberizidae. It breeds in south-east Europe east to Iran and migrates in winter mainly to India, with some individuals moving further into south-east Asia.

Like others in its family, it is found in open grassland habitats where they fly in flocks in search of grains and seed. Adult males are well marked with yellow underparts, chestnut back and a black head.

Adult females in breeding plumage look like duller males. In other plumages, they can be hard to separate from the closely related red-headed bunting and natural hybridization occurs between the two species in the zone of overlap of their breeding ranges in northern Iran.