Chamundi Hills, near Mysuru, is home to animals like leopards and monitor lizards, and supports a variety of local and migratory birds.

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news Environment Friday, February 11, 2022 - 14:13
Written by  Girisha

Chamundi Hills, near Mysuru, is a nature lover’s paradise. The reserve forest spread across 613 hectares is home to a plethora of birds and animals. And over the last few years, birdwatchers have started noticing more peacocks – the male birds prancing around with their fan of blue and green feathers, the smaller females with their grey and brown plumage. It has also become a common sight for residents living near the hills to find peacocks perched on trees near their homes and to hear their distinct squawk.  “Earlier, we never used to see peacocks in the area, but over the last five to six years we are seeing peacocks in Chamundi Hills,” says Bhagya, who has been a resident of Tavarekatte, which lies on the edge of the hills, for the past 30 years.

Locals also say that peacocks are sighted in good numbers in plantations close to the hills, where they come early in the mornings to quench their thirst. So, what has led to this sudden increase in peacocks in these hills? And as the area around the reserve forest gives way to more residential buildings, what does it mean for the peacock population?

Being a scrub forest, Chamundi Hills is home to animals like leopards, wild pigs and monitor lizards. It is also a place where you can spot a variety of local and migratory birds like bulbuls, sunbirds, drongos and flycatchers – making it a must-visit for birdwatchers. “We have doused forest fires as and when they occurred making the hills safe during the summer. Besides, water holes were created so birds can quench their thirst,” says a forest officer, to explain the number of birds that are found in the hills. While forest officials, too, have noticed an increase in the number of peacocks, no official count has been done, according to the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Kamala Karikalan.

The DCF adds, “The peacocks may have found the place conducive to settle and their population has grown. We have planted fruit-bearing trees in forest areas including Chamundi Hills and de-silted water holes which may have contributed to the increase in numbers.”

Maharaj, a resident of Lalithadripura, another village on the edge of the hills, is an avid bird watcher and also acknowledges that there has been a rise in peacock numbers over the last five years. He says that ever since the hills have been fenced off and a vegetative green cover has grown over the forest, the peacock population has thrived.

He also points out, “People from nearby villages used to venture into the hills to collect firewood but with the thick vegetative cover and the presence of some leopards, they are too afraid to enter the hills. The lack of disturbance might be another reason for the rise in peacock numbers.”

However, Maharaj worries that the foraging ground for peacocks has reduced to a great extent and this might affect the bird population. Earlier, farmers close to the hills used to grow ragi, jowar and lilva beans among others, and peacocks used to come there and feed on insects, small creatures, seeds, and reptiles. But now, with residential layouts replacing these farms and agricultural lands, the peacocks have very little space to forage around the hills and this could threaten their numbers in the long run, according to Maharaj.

Chamundi Hills isn’t the only place to see an increase in the number of peacocks. Shivaprakash, who is part of Mysore Nature, an organisation made up of amateur naturalists and birdwatchers, says. “The population of peacocks has gone up in the last 15 years or so in the areas surrounding Mysuru. Earlier, one had to travel to Mahadevapura, about 20 km from Mysuru, to sight a peacock. But, nowadays, peacocks are regular visitors to residential areas of Ramakrishnanagar, Lingambudi Lake area and other adjoining areas of the city.”

But Shivaprakash isn’t worried about the dwindling foraging areas in and around Chamundi Hills. He says that peacocks are good at coexisting with humans. “Some birds like cattle egrets, peacocks, and sparrows are known to live alongside humans because these birds are adventurous in nature,” he says. He adds that peacock numbers won’t reduce as long as people do not disturb them.

Girisha is a freelancer who writes on forests and wildlife.