Bristled grassbirds are here

A bristled grassbird perched on a reed at Kalir Char, Kushtia on 28 August 2020.
A bristled grassbird perched on a reed at Kalir Char, Kushtia on 28 August 2020.Abu Taher
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Amid the extensive floods across the country, a sandbar has risen in Kalir Char of river Padma in Kushtia. Grasslands have spread out on some parts of the sandbar that was too high to be inundated. Bird watcher Abu Taher captured a picture of a bird from this grassland on 26 August. It was a bristled grassbird. From the passerine’s movement, it seemed that the bird had its nest on the sand bar. This is definitely good news for ornithologists.

Researcher Inam Al Haque went to the grasslands of Tanguar Haor in April 2018 and managed to place rings around the legs of six of these birds. This species of birds had appeared after a century, creating quite a stir in Bangladesh. The bird is regularly found here since then.

There are 10 species of birds in the country that are endangered worldwide. Of them, two species migrate to Bangladesh during the summer due to the grasslands. They breed during April to June. So, the grassbirds’ presence on the sandbar at the end of August was a bit surprising.

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Bristled grassbird is a very rare breed of the grassbird. According to a study by researcher Sayam U Chowdhury and his team, Bangladesh is a major breeding ground for this species. They are available at the grasslands on the sand bars along rivers Padma and Jamuna. They are also available in Nepal, India and Pakistan, but not like Bangladesh in numbers.

It is estimated that only 10,000 bristled grassbirds are surviving in the world, with 500 in Bangladesh. There are only three species of this grassbirds in Bangladesh. One of them is striated grassbird which is easily found. The chirping of this bird can be heard all day along at the haors or sandbars. The other one is bristled grassbird. There are great similarities between these two birds. Though they can hardly be identified by their looks, they can easily be recognised by their tweets. Perhaps this is why the species were not identified properly in the country. The third species is Bangla grassbird.

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Over a hundred species of birds are found in the grasslands. They would lose their habitat without the small grass on the sandbars. The significance of the grasslands at our haors and rivers are underestimated. Grass harvesting starts at the end of winter and go on till mid-summer for a little profit. Most of the people use the grass as fuel or to make houses and sometimes in the betel nut farms.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the grass harvesters could not sell the grass for the usual price. This led to the preservation of the grasslands and helped the grassbirds to survive.

Crop yields would fall without the grassbirds as the they eat so many insects every day. Due to the birds, forests are growing in our sandbars which is helping the sandbars to harden and become fertile. We are just destroying the grasslands instead of growing them. If the grass is lost, the birds will be lost too and humans will have to suffer more than the birds.

*This piece, originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten here for the English edition by Nusrat Nowrin.

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