TINSUKIA: A mandarin duck was spotted in Assam earlier this week for the first time in 118 years by a team of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). The rare colourful duck was spotted in the wetland Maguri Motapung Beel, near Baghjan in Tinsukia.
Maguri Beel had suffered damage last year following a blowout in one of the oil wells belonging to the Oil India limited in Baghjan. The oil well caught fire on 9 June 2020 and burned for 170 days, before the blowout was doused in November.
The mandarin duck has a distinctive, elaborate plumage and it nests in trees. The bird is native to East Asia, but has established feral populations throughout Western Europe. The duck has primary habitat is in eastern China and southern Japan.
According to reports, the WTI team and other avian volunteers were on their way to Arunachal Pradesh to survey the white-winged wood duck when they came across the mandarin duck.
The white-winged wood duck is one of the largest living species of ducks and are mostly found in Nameri National Park and Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.
WTI experts informed that mandarin ducks do not usually come to India but one or two may join flocks of other migratory birds and go along with them. The mandarin duck spotted in the wetland accompanied a flock of Indian spot-billed duck that could have migrated to China or Japan.
WTI CEO Vivek Menon took to Twitter Monday to announce the happy news.
While the reason behind the mandarin duck's presence in Assam is still being debated, the Mandarin duck has been a "fantastic find" from the ecological point of view, WTI's chief executive officer Vivek Menon said.
Environmentalists reportedly said this foretells well for Maguri-Motapung Beel where birds and fishes had died after the gas well blowout in Baghjan in May 2020. The blowout caused damage to the surrounding ecosystem.
WTI experts said that the sighting of the Mandarin duck ensures that Maguri Beel is still of importance for migratory birds even after the blowout incident.