Jerdon’s or Double-Banded Courser bird facts and information

Jerdon's or Double-Banded Courser bird history

Generally thought to be extinct, the lapwing-sized Jerdon’s or double-banded courser (Cursorius bitorquatus) was rediscovered in India in January 1986 after having gone unnoticed by naturalists since reliably reported by Howard Campbell in 1900.

Bird History

There are just nine species of courser in three genera, and they are all plover-like in size and shape, but rather long-legged and with a noticeably upright stance. Most are fairly active at night, but until the rediscovery of Jerdon’s it was thought that only one other species was truly nocturnal. They are all running birds that fly only if forced toe.

Jerdon’s or Double-Banded Courser Bird Habitat

First procured and recorded for science by Dr. Jerdon in about 1848, Jerdon’s courser was considered to be a permanent resident with an extremely limited geographical distribution in eastern India. Yet there appeared to be plenty of suitable thorn scrub jungle habitat and several serious surveys have been carried out to try to establish the bird’s continuing presence.

Jerdon's or Double-Banded Courser bird habitat

They all failed, bar one, including those organized in 1975/76 by the Bombay Natural History Society with the collaboration of the Smithsonian Institution and World Wildlife Fund-India. The successful survey was launched by the Bombay Natural History Society in 1985 and funded by the Fish & Wildlife Service of the USA. The target area was the Pennar river valley in southern Andhra Pradesh.

The BNHS circulated a poster showing a colour painting of both the Jerdon’s and Indian courses, with accompanying notes written in English for Andhra Pradesh and adjoining states, It was later found necessary to write a Telugu note for the Pennar river-valley areas, and the Godavari river-valley areas would require notes in the Telugu, Marathi, Oriya and Urdu languages. These were circulated to concerned individuals such as forest officials, local shikaris and tribals proficient in bird-trapping. Also, Ali and Ripley’s book Pictorial Guide to Birds of the Indian Subcontinent was used to test each informant’s depth of knowledge.

Reasons for the extinction of Double-Banded Courser

s a result of all this, three shikaris gave versions of possible sightings. One man had recognized the Double-Banded courser from the poster and said that it was known as the ‘Kalivi-kodi’. Kalivi is the Telugu word for carissa, the common scrub vegetation along with zizyphus and acacia in the area. Kodi means fowl. Kalivi-kodi was an apt description for the bird on account of its habit of hiding among the thorny carissa bushes.

The same tribesman reported how the bird walked for a short distance, stopped to look at the intruder and then flew away. He had always seen the coursers in groups of seven to eight birds, but never near cultivation, artesian wells or other water. He described the call as a single, soft, very ‘sad’ note.

Jerdon's Courser

The Jerdon’s or double-banded courser of India went unrecorded for 86 years. (Bombay Natural History Society)

He also claimed that he saw the birds feeding at night, an important discovery as they were not thought to be truly nocturnal. During the day they would rest in the shade of a thorn tree.

Another shikari claimed to have seen the Jorden’s or Double-Banded courser at night when after his main quarry — grey partridges and hares. Then, on 12 January 1986, in the beam of his torch, he saw a Kalivi-kodi standing confused and motionless, Before the bird could react he ran up to it and scooped it up in his hand.

He kept the bird alive in his house, feeding it on powdered rice, termites and black ants, and it was still alive on the 15th when he showed it to Bharat Cushman of the BNHS.

Sadly the bird died on the 19th, just hours before well-known ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali was able to see it. But on subsequent forays, several more birds were seen in the area by Cushman and it is hoped they will not be harassed unnecessarily and no further deaths will occur.

As a result of the survey’s findings the Andhra Pradesh forest department agreed to preserve the area to protect the species, and spurred on by this success, ornithologists may well mount searches for other supposedly extinct Indian species such as the forest little owl and mountain quail.

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