POST TIME: 4 December, 2019 09:27:00 AM
Near extinct ‘harial’ spotted in Meherpur

Near extinct ‘harial’ spotted in Meherpur

This recent photo shows a ‘harial’ bird eating fruits on a banyan tree at Dariapur village in Mujibnagar upazila under Meherpur. Courtesy: M A Muhit

Harial, an almost extinct species of bird, has been spotted recently in Mujibnagar of Meherpur district. It is also known as yellow-legged green pigeon, a common species of the green pigeon which was once widely found in Bangladesh. 

However in the last decade or so the bird was believe to be almost extinct because of loss and degradation of habitat, environmental contaminants, poaching and land use changes.

A few days back, bird researcher and Meherpur Bird Club president MA Muhith, noticed the the bird in Daripur village, bordering Mujibnagar upazila. He was out in search of birds in winter.

MA Muhith said, "I first saw five pairs of the bird flying over a mango orchard at Gourinagar village in Mujibnagar upazila of Meherpur in November 2008. Then, seven years later, on November 25, 2015, I saw about 20 to 20 yellow-green harial eating the ripe fruit of a banyan tree at Meherpur Government College. Three years later, on 7th November this year, i saw the birds again near the Chuchchhola Bill near Dariapur village of Meherpur-Mujibnagar."

The harial is 32 to 34cm in length, and has a yellowish-green body and long light white beaks. There are black and white stripes on the edges of the tail and wings. The head has various shades. The cheekbones are yellow. The bottom of the tail has blackish stains. The feathers of the female birds are lighter than the male species.

The scientific name of harial is Treron Phoenicoptera and the name of the family is Columbidae. They usually hang onto big trees and eat their fruits. Fruits of banyan, date peepal trees are their favourites. They are more active in the morning and afternoon. They are herbivores. The birds’ breeding period is from March to June. They are surrounded by dense foliage on the upper branches of the tree. There are 140 species of pigeons worldwide. Bangladesh has 10 species, of which six are green pigeons. Apart from Bangladesh harial is also found in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and many countries of South East Asia.

MA Muhith stated that the harial is a resident bird of Bangladesh. This bird is known as ‘harikal’ or ‘botakal’ in the rural areas of Bangladesh. They are arboreal birds and highly dependent on trees. However, they are in great danger because of the destruction of natural fruit trees.

Rafiqul Alam, deputy executive director of the Subah Samajik Unnayan Sangstha, a non-government organisation working on the environment, and adviser to the Meherpur Bird Club, said: "I've used to see many harials on large banyan trees in villages when I was a student, and also on fruit trees eating ripe fruits. I have also seen unscrupulous hunters shooting and killing. For many years, these beautiful birds had disappeared. The reason: cutting down of their habitable trees."

Assistant professor Masud Reza of the local Sahiuddin Degree College, who is an avid bird watcher, told this reporter that due to the lack of a favourable environment, the yellow-footed green birds are becoming extinct. People are destroying their safe habitat by unnecessarily cutting down trees, including banyan and other large trees. He said conservation of trees and creation of public awareness could save the birds from becoming extinct.