Year of compilation: 2004
AVIFAUNA: This is one of the most important bird areas in the Nilgiris. The shola in this IBA harbours several endemic and habitat-specialist bird species such as the Nilgiri Laughingthrush, White-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx major and Nilgiri Wood -Pigeon Columba elphinstonii. Grassland species of conservation interest include the Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis, which is a common species in suitable habitats in the IBA. The remnant grasslands also provide foraging ground to many raptors such as the Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, White-eyed Buzzard Butastur teesa, Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, and Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus, to name a few. The Common Kestrel breeds in this IBA. The plantations in this IBA are the least important habitat type, and support mainly generalist species such as the Grey Tit Parus major, White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus and warblers in winter (Zarri et al. 2002). The wattle plantation in Avalanche also supports a small wintering population of the Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra. During a recent survey of this species in the Nilgiris Upper Plateau, 12 of the 16 individuals birds sighted altogether were recorded from this IBA (Zarri and Rahmani, in press). The Woodcock Scolopax rusticola, which was once a prized game bird, has severely declined over the last few decades in most parts of its range in India. It is still found in Avalanche, but is an extremely rare winter visitor. The water reservoir in this IBA is devoid of vegetation, and supports no significant bird species except a few Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and Large Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo. Fish fauna is limited to two species, one of them the highly prized game fish, Rainbow Trout Salmo gairdneri, which was successfully introduced here in 1911 to the detriment of many endemic species. The site lies in the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area (EBA), where Stattersfield et al. (1998) have listed 16 restricted range species. Eight of them are found in this IBA. All the five restricted range species associated with Wet Temperate sholas and Subtropical Broadleaf Hill Forest (Stattersfield et al. 1998) are found, which proves that some shola habitat is still available despite extensive plantation in the past. The occurrence of such species also necessitates further protection of the site. Avalanche is located in Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forests). Fifteen species represent this biome. Only two species, the White-cheeked Barbet Pomatorhinus horsfieldii and Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii have been recorded to date. The Indian Scimitar Babbler is much widely distributed, so it may not be the best example of this biome. The site is an important wintering area for many birds that are listed in other biomes such as Tickell’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis, Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris, Brownbreasted Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui, Blue-headed Rock-thrush Monticola cinclorhynchus and Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea.
OTHER KEY FAUNA: Troops of Nilgiri Langur Trachypithecus johni are frequently seen all through this IBA, while Bonnet Macaque Macaca radiata is occasionally present near the settlements. Among the large cats, Tiger Panthera tigris and Leopard P. pardus are sighted, the leopard being more frequent. Several other small mammals, such as Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Brown Palm Civet Paradoxurus jerdoni, Striped-necked Mongoose Herpestes vitticollis, and Common Mongoose Herpestes edwardsii have also been recorded. Packs of Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, and Golden Jackal Canis aureus are also to be seen. Nilgiri Marten Martes gwatkinsi is rarely seen, perhaps because of its elusive behaviour. Among the herbivores, Sambar Cervus unicolor and Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak are fairly common, while Nilgiri Tahr Hemitragus hylocrius can also be sighted near cliffs.
Ecologically this IBA is most affected by large-scale plantations, like the rest of Upper Nilgiris Hills. Wattle regenerates through seeds, forming impenetrable thickets, which interfere with wildlife movement. Another serious but little recognized problem in this site is the rapid invasion of grasslands by Scotch Broom Cytisus scoparius. Given the alarming rate of its spread, the already scarce grassland habitat and its specialist avifauna are under threat. Growing tourism, tree felling and firewood collection are other problems. The construction of dams in the mid 1960s had a severe negative impact on the ecology by submerging important wildlife habitats in the valleys, and indirectly by blocking wildlife movement paths. Pressure has mounted on the remaining forests from the new settlements that are associated with the dams.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Avalanche (Nilgiri). Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/01/2022.