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Although Tal Chhapar Sanctuary in Churu District is famous for Blackbuck Antilope cervicapra, it is also popular with bird lovers. It is a flat saline depression, which used to get inundated during good rainfall years but after blockage of water channels of the Gopalpura hills and illegal establishment of salt works, the water regime has been changed and Tal Chhapar does not get as much water as it used to get. The Tal Chhapar was a hunting reserve of the Maharaja of Bikaner and it was famous for Blackbuck and Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo shoots. The Maharaja of Bikaner had 200 wooden life-size dummies of Demoiselle Cranes in various poses to hoodwink the wild cranes and induce them to come near the waiting guns (Rahamni 1997). The last crane shoot took place in 1962. The dominant species of trees are Prosopis cineraria, Zizyphus nummularia, Capparis decidua and a variety of grasses sedges, the most important sedge being Cyperus rotundus. The Sanctuary also supports salt-loving small bushes and grasses.
AVIFAUNA: Tal Chhapar is situated in northwestern Rajasthan and thus lies on the migratory path of many birds. The most spectacular migration seen here is that of harriers. Montagu’s Circus pygargus and Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus are more common, while Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus and Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus are found in smaller numbers. Besides these, the globally threatened Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca is also found. Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus appears to be quite common. Tal Chhapar attracts many other raptors too (Sharma 1998; Sharma and Singh 1989). The European or Kashmir Roller Coracias garrulus passes through the area on migration during September and October, whereas the Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula, Crested Lark Galerida cristata, Indian Ring Dove or Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto, Little Brown Dove or Laughing Dove S. senegalensis and Indian Roller Coracias bengalensis can be found throughout the year. Bluetailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus and Green Bee-eaters M. orientalis are commonly found, for this is their breeding ground. The Black Ibis Pseudibis papillosa is frequently seen. However, the most famous migratory phenomenon is the arrival of the Demoiselle Cranes Grus virgo in the first week of September and their stay till March. According to the records of the Forest Department, up to 2,000 of these cranes are seen. This would be twice the 1% population threshold determined by Wetlands International (2002). The cranes are attracted to the tubers of Cyperus (Rahmani 1987). Another important species is the Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus. It is not unusual to see more than 100 birds grazing in the grasslands of Tal Chhapar. Earlier records show that they used to come in much larger numbers when the tal (wetland) used to remain under water for a much longer period. Till the early 1990s, the Oriental White-backed or White-rumped vulture Gyps bengalensis used to breed in and around Tal Chhaper. Many nests were located, during a survey in 1993-94, on Khejri Prosopis cinerea trees, sometimes as low as 4 m (Rahmani 1987). The Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus was also seen during winter. The Red-headed or King Vulture Sarcogyps calvus and Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus are the Near Threatened species found in this IBA. Tal Chhapar was selected as an IBA mainly due to its importance as the migratory path for a large number of birds, and also as an important feeding area for Demoiselle Cranes and Bar-headed Geese.
OTHER KEY FAUNA: The most famous large mammal of Tal Chhaper is the Blackbuck Antilope cervicapra. Nearly 1,000 of these are present. The other major mammals are the Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Indian Fox Vulpes bengalensis, Red Fox Vulpes vulpes pusilla, Jungle Cat Felis chaus and Desert Hare Lepus nigricollis dayanus (Rahmani 1987). Chinkara Gazella bennettii is present in the surrounding sand dunes but rarely see in Tal Chhapar proper. Among the reptiles, Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx hardwickii is abundant. The Monitor Lizard Varanus bengalensis is also found, but in comparatively small numbers.
Key contributor: Asad R. Rahmani.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Tal Chhapar Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/01/2022.