Forest Owlet in Human-dominated Landscape of Nandurbar
Nandurbar District is located in north-west Maharashtra. Nandurbar, Dhule and Jalgaon Districts formed the erstwhile Khandesh District. Nandurbar gained ornithological importance when the Forest Owlet was reported from Toranmal and Taloda Reserved Forests. In 1872, A British officer collected 4 specimens of Forest Owlet from Taloda and after over a century the Forest Owlets are still surviving there in spite of all the odds. In 1998, the Forest Owlet was reported from Toranmal by BNHS. In 2004, six pairs and 7 individual forest owlets were reported from Toranmal but subsequent surveys in 2009 and 2011 could locate only one pair from the same area. It is difficult to infer from this if the birds have perished from the site or have moved out, but the ongoing anthropogenic pressures has resulted in considerable degradation of the forests in the entire area. The forest owlet population in Toranmal is isolated and located at a distance of about 500 km from the closest population in Melghat Tiger Reserve. Protection of forest owlet population in Nandurbar district is important considering that the species can become locally extinct due to habitat loss as it is being inferred from their absence in Odisha.
In 2004, there was a single report of Forest Owlet from Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary in Jalgaon District. But subsequent surveys could not locate the bird from Yawal WLS. In 2013, there was a confirmed record of Forest Owlet from Tansa WLS in Thane District located in Western Maharashtra. However, the distribution of Forest Owlet within Tansa WLS remained unknown.
From August 2015 to June 2016, we carried out a grid-wise occupancy survey of Forest Owlet from Nandurbar District, Yawal WLS and Tansa WLS. The survey was carried out in earlier known locations and other ranges of the Nandurbar, Yawal and Tansa Forests which have not been assessed earlier. We also examined vegetation composition and anthropogenic pressures in area supporting the Forest Owlet. The survey has helped in establishing the extent of the Forest Owlet distribution in Northern and Western Maharashtra.
This project was supported by the Maharashtra Forest Department.