IN065
Khichan


Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Khichan, 150 km north of Jodhpur in the northern part of the Thar Desert, Rajasthan, is a small village off the main tourist track. The village has recently been recognized as a tourist spot by the Rajasthan Tourist Development Corporation, mainly due to the presence of large wintering flocks of Demoiselle Cranes Grus virgo. Khichan is located in a sandy desert area, so it has the typical xerophytic vegetation of the Thar. Among the tree species, Prosopis cineraria and Salvadora sp. are the commonest plants.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Every year towards the end of August and in early September, just after the monsoon ceases, Demoiselle Cranes fly in from their breeding grounds on the steppes of Eurasia and Mongolia. The village is transformed overnight into a noisy crowded place, as krok-krok calls fill the air. The cranes have been attracted because for the last 150 years, villagers traditionally have fed them in a feeding house locally known as Chugga ghar. The number is about 4,000 (Rahmani 1997) but villagers claim that sometimes up to 10,000 are seen. The West Central Asia breeding population, which comes to the Indian subcontinent (especially western India) is estimated to be 100,000 birds, (Wetlands International 2002). Khichan has been selected as an IBA because it holds more than around 4% of the wintering population. Besides the Demoiselle cranes, Khichan holds most of the desert fauna and flora. The Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps is sometimes seen in the vicinity, especially during summer when it comes to drink water from the two lakes, which also attract assorted numbers of ducks and waders, but not in any significant number. The Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata, a coastal wetlands bird (Grimmett et al. 1998) has been sighted here. Among the globally threatened species, Oriental White-backed Gyps bengalensis and Long-billed Gyps indicus vultures are still seen, albeit in very small numbers. Stoliczka’s Bushchat Saxicola macrorhyncha may be present in the surrounding scrub areas.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The common mammals found in Khichan are the Red Fox Vulpes vulpes bengalensis and Chinkara Gazella bennettii, Bluebull Boselaphus tragocamelus is spreading due to availability of water from the Indira Gandhi Canal Project.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Disturbance to birds by stray animals and visitors; Encroachment.

Since the Demoiselle cranes were often disturbed by dogs and passing villagers, a small feeding place (50 x 60 m) was set up at the edge of the village. However, this area has now become too small for the huge flocks of cranes that come to feed, so a new solution should be found. Further problems have ensued from new settlers encroaching upon vacant government land, and building houses, which now hamper the preferred flight-path of the birds. This has created tension in the village between conservationists who want to assure the safety and peace of the cranes, and politicians who see the new settlers as potential voters, and support their stand. The local authorities have already had some of the unauthorised constructions removed under police escort, but the opposition continues to pressurize them. The Rajasthan Tourism Department wanted to build a hotel very close to the crane roosting site ‘to boost tourism’, but this illconceived plan was dropped after protests by the conservationists that the tourist complex would disturb the movement of the cranes.

Acknowledgements
Key contributors: Asad R. Rahmani, Manoj Kulshreshtha, Krishna Kumar Vyas and Satyanarain Rajpurohit.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Khichan. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/05/2022.