Rare birds by the river in Rajshahi

Migratory birds are seen in Rajshahi.
Migratory birds are seen in Rajshahi.

Phillip Round, the ornithologist from UK, visited Bangladesh seven times in search of the white-tailed shilafidda. It was on his seventh visit in March 2014 that he spotted the bird on a char (river island) off Rajshahi. Studies revealed that this near-extinct bird species has been living on this char for the last 20 years. Another bird, the slender-bill gull, was sighted only twice in this country, in Cox’s Bazar. It has now been spotted on the Rajshahi char.

Founder of Bangladesh Bird Club, Enam ul Huq, said, “As far as I know, there is only one town in Bangladesh where 10 rare bird species can be seen. At least six birds on the global extinct list are on this char next to Rajshahi town. There is no other sandbar in the country so rich in rare birds.” He stressed the need to reserve a specific area of the char for the conservation of the birds.

Professor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University and wildlife expert ANM Aminur Rahman said there are at least 10 species of rare birds on the char. He has been visiting the area since 2011 and saw the most birds here last year. He said the migratory birds had already started arriving even though winter hadn’t set in yet.

Bird experts have demanded that this river island be protected. They say that the birds should not be disturbed by the crowds of curious people who come to take photographs. The farmers have to be conscious too.

Last February, the Bangladesh Bird Club and the Rajshahi Bird Club held a meeting by the river Padma and also a photography exhibition on birds of Rajshahi.

The local boatmen have become somewhat bird specialists themselves, ferrying bird lovers back and forth. They know when the birds arrive and leave and even know the English names of some of the birds. They prevent hunters from killing the birds. They have learnt how to live alongside the birds and that is another reason the feathered fauna have made this their sanctuary.


On 1 October it was seen that the birds had flocked to a newly arisen sandbar, filling the silence with their calls. Rare species were spotted here too.

More birds were sighted again on the char on 14 October. These included the black stork, the white-necked stork, spotted geese and more.

Alongside the birds, there are otters, turtles, wildcats and other animals on the river islands.

Vice president of the Bangladesh Bird Club Anu Tareq, who lives in Rajshahi, often visits the area to watch birds by the Padma. He told Prothom Alo that they spotted many rare birds on the shoal. Some flying spotted geese have even crossed the Everest to come here. Rare gulls have also been seen and are reproducing on the river’s sandbars.

Anu Tareq says the people of the chars have a special relationship with birds. He visited some local residents there and found they had a dove’s nest in their home. They never hunted birds.

Boatman Nurul Islam lives in the village Keshabpur of Rajshahi. He has been carrying visitors of the area on his boat for the last 12 years. He knows a lot about birds, when they migrate, where they gather, what distance to maintain and so on. He is also studying and has taken his under-grad exams this year. He is in touch with Rajshahi Bird Club, Bangladesh Bird Club and other bird experts. Over the mobile phone, Nurul Islam said that the migratory birds had started arriving.