TODAY -

The incredible and mysterious journey of Amur falcon (Falco amurensis)
- Part 1 -

R.K. Birjit Singh *

Amur falcon (Falco amurensis)
Amur falcon (Falco amurensis)



Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis) is a small bird of prey, a long distance, trans–equatorial migrant and one of the least known bird species among falconiformes till recently but well known to the people of Manipur, particularly to the Rongmei tribes in Tamenglong district since time immemorial. The bird species is locally known as Akhuaipuina in Rongmei language.

In the past, the majestic and graceful arrival of the species had been warmly welcomed and rejoices by the Rongmei tribes with traditional song and dance. The myth and belief of the ancient Rongmei tribes of Tamenglong district is that the arrival of the bird species provides a rich harvest of rice, vegetables and fruits. In fact, their myth and belief is scientifically true as the species consume a lot of insects and termites during its migratory stopover roosting sites otherwise the insects will damage the crops, fruits and vegetables. They strongly believed that the god had sent the bird to protect their crops during the critical hour to combat famine in the area.

They never usually harvest any of the crops or vegetables until the species left for its next refueling migratory stopover. It heralds winter as hundreds of thousands of Amur falcon flaps their wings over the sky of Phallong, Dailong, Barak, Lenglong and other villages of Tamenglong district indicating that the harvest is going to be plenty.

In this way, a strong bond of love and relationship was evolved with our brethren Rongmei tribes with the bird species and still prevalent in Dailong village, some 12 kilometers away from Tamenglong district headquarters in Manipur. The relationship slowly grown to a number of beautiful traditional songs, dances, rhymes and become a very much integral part of the rich cultural traditions of the colorful and vibrant people of Rongmei tribes particularly belonging to Gonmei, Pongringmei, and Pammei.

"Chakaan pat mun kazi ye, Khoipuina kaliap guang nga, Khokupuina san kangzang. mei guai guang zao lo Rongmei khou khoipuina, Sam kangzami. Hei Raguang ta thuanna bam bu ye"

This is a folk song still sung by the Rongmei tribes particularly in Dailong village since time immemorial glorifying the arrival of Amur falcon. The meaning of the song is - "As the Amur falcon flaps its wing in the sky, it heralds winter and the harvest is going to be plenty, Oh! Come everyone and see the Amur falcon hovering and dancing in the sky. Hey! People are praising God….."

They live in close communication with nature, and their natural environment has a major influence on their lifestyle. The intimate interaction with the surrounding natural environment slowly evolved the living rich cultural traditions of the indigenous Rongmei tribe which has been drastically changed after the conversion of the villagers into Christianity during the last century. The goodies of the past are no more amongst the younger generations of the present day, particularly their looks towards our natural environment.

In the North-east and Manipur, particularly, in the hill districts where people are pride themselves as traditional hunters, it would be pity soon enough if they are left with no birds and animals to hunt at all. It needs to be admitted that the message of conservation are yet to reach the interior hills of Manipur. Every young boy was seen carrying a catapult and adults carrying guns and they would not let even a small bird to fly freely in the sky. There has been paradigm shift in the rich indigenous cultural traditions of these people which severely affected the environment. One can see hunting and harvesting of Amur falcon in most of the village even though it is not in the large scale as in Nagaland.

There are 69 species of raptor reported from India. The Amur falcon is an international bird, touching the shores of three continents – Asia, Africa and Europe during its migration. It is noteworthy for undertaking one of the most arduous annual migrations of any bird of prey. The congregation of thousands to tens of thousands of falcons at their communal roosting sites in southern Africa is said to be one of the most spectacular bird of prey phenomena in the world.

Amur falcon (Falco amurensis)



The name of the species had been derived from Amurland, an unofficial term for a territory in Northeast Asia, which was formerly controlled by the Qing Dynasty and now belonging to Russia. It is considered as a part of Manchuria in some of its definitions. Russia officially received this territory by way of the Treaty of Aigun in 1858 and the Treaty of Peking in 1860.

The real shocking and heart-breaking threat to this majestic species came from Nagaland when news was trickled by Ramki Srinivasan of Conservation India (CI) about the massacre and industrial scale slaughter of the species at Doyang area of Wokha district, during October, 2012 which led to an international outcry and drawn the attention of the world for the conservation of the species.

Classification:

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Falconiformes
Family Falconidae
Genus Falco
Species Amurensis
Falco amurensis, Radde, 1863 -


The species is known as

Rongmei Akhuaipuina
Meeteilon Kharang khongang
Liangmei Ahoipuina
Zemei Hohoimena
Hmar Sielsi


Description of the species:

The male is a largely dark grey bird, with a chestnut lower belly and thighs, and a white under wing, visible in flight. The female is similar in size to the male but differs markedly in plumage, having cream or orange under parts, with dark streaks and bars, grey upperparts.

Biometric measurement:
Wing length 23 cm.
Bill depth or culmen 2 cm.
Bill length 1.5 cm.
Tarsus 6 cm.
Tail length 13 cm.
Weight 93 cm.
Wingspan 66 cm.

Biometric measurement of the bird rescued from Thinungei village on 01/11/2016.

Wing length 23 – 30 cm.
Bill depth or culmen 2 cm.
Bill length 1.5 – 2 cm.
Tarsus 6 cm.
Tail length 13 cm.
Weight 93 gm. – 150gm M 110 – 190 gm F
Wingspan 63 – 71 cm.

Biometric measurement of the bird from Phallong village taken on 24/11/2014 by the author


To be continued....


* R.K. Birjit Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is Asst. Professor, State Coordinator, Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN), Manipur and Member Manipur Biodiversity Board (MBB)
The writer can be contacted at bsningthemcha(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on October 08, 2017.


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