IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


12th January, 2023 Environment

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Context: Godavari estuary has become prime habitat for Indian skimmers: expert.


  • The Godavari estuary in Andhra Pradesh has become a prime and safe habitat for the Indian skimmer (Rynchops albicollis).
  • The bird has been included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list of endangered species.
  • Six tagged Indian Skimmers have been sighted during this census so far and five of them were tagged in the Mahanadi area and one in the Chambal area. Indian Skimmer migrates to the Godavari estuary for feeding.
  • Great Knot and Caspian Terns have been sighted in good numbers during the census.

Indian Skimmer:

  • Rynchops albicollis
  • Common Names: Indian skimmer, Indian scissors bill
  • Kingdom : Animalia
  • Phylum :Chordata
  • Class :Aves
  • Order :Charadriiformes
  • Family:  Laridae
  • Genus :Rynchops
  • Species :albicollis
  • Conservation Status:
    • IUCN : Endangered
    • CITES:Not listed
    • IW(P)A:Not listed
    • U.S ESA : Not listed
  • Distribution: More widespread in winter, the Indian skimmer is found in the coastal estuaries of western and eastern India. It occurs primarily on larger, sandy, lowland rivers, around lakes and adjacent marshes and, in the non-breeding season, in estuaries and coasts.
  • Characteristics, Habitat and Behaviour:
    • The Indian skimmer grows to a length of 40-43 cm. It has black upper parts, a white forehead, collar and lower parts, a long, thick, deep orange bill with a yellow tip and longer lower mandible.
    • It emits a nasal Kapor kip note, particularly in flight and when disturbed.
  • Major Threats:
    • Habitat degradation. Exploitation and degradation of rivers and lakes through fishing, transportation, domestic use, irrigation schemes and pollution from agricultural and industrial chemicals are largely responsible for the decline of this species as these factors have reduced reproductive and foraging success.
    • Excessive and widespread increases in the disturbance. The damming of the Chambal River, in upstream Rajasthan, has adversely affected its population at National Chambal Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh, due to the dropping water levels allowing predators and livestock access to breeding islands.
    • Predation by corvids like House crows (Corvus splendens), the presence of stray and domestic dogs, have been known to decimate breeding colonies.

The Godavari estuary:

  • It is situated at the place where the 1330 km long Godavari meets the Bay of Bengal on the east coast of India in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • River Godavari divides at Dowlaiswaram into two principal distributaries viz., the Vasishta and the Gautami which enclose a wide delta between them.
  • The total area of this estuary is about 18000 ha.
  • There are about 185 species of fish excluding clupeids
  • Prawns form an important fishery in the Gautami-Godavari estuary.
  • Of the several species of prawns, M. Monoceros which is the most abundant prawn, is available in the lower reaches of the estuary, particularly in the mangrove swamps and backwaters.
  • The fisheries of Godavari estuary is being affected severely by the sandbar formation.