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The Umrangso Story: How an Assam village turned from hunting ground to a paradise for Amur Falcons

Two Amur Falcon birds radio-tagged last year have come back for roosting after traversing over 29,000-km migratory route from Siberia

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An Amur Falcon (forest department)

HAFLONG: Come November 21 and view hundreds of Amur falcons (Falco amurensis), the longest traveling migratory birds, capturing the blue sky of Umrangso in Assam’s Dima Hasao district.

In a bid to boost tourism in Dima Hasao district and to create awareness about the bird’s conservation, the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council in collaboration with Dima Hasao Tourist department, Dima Hasao Forest department, District Information & public relation department along with Falcon Festival Organizing Committee is organizing the six edition of the Falcon festival on November 21 and 22 at the Golf Course near Tumbung village at Umrangso.

Already, hundreds of bird lovers from various parts of the state have started thronging Tumbung village and tourists were also seen camping at the golf course since the Amur falcons began arriving.

The camp site at the festival venue

Earlier, due to lack of awareness, these migratory birds were killed for sport, fun and meat. The killings stopped after awareness campaigns were launched by the forest department, NGOs and social activists on providing safe passage to the migratory birds.

“The forest department has deployed its staff in the roosting area for a round-the-clock vigil to provide safety to the birds,” said the forest department.

The two days festival will host beat contests for local bands, beauty pageant and cultural programs displaying the tribes living in Dima Hasao district. The festival will also organize a competition for school students, however this year due to the Covid pandemic the said programs will only be participated by locals.

During the festival, one can also enjoy unique and lip-smacking tribal cuisines. It will be also a plastic-free festival.

Amur falcon, a small raptor of the falcon family, breeds in south-eastern Siberia and northern China and migrates in large flocks in winter across India and over the Arabian Sea to South Africa. These migratory birds from Siberia and China stop at Umrangso during their annual journey to South Africa.

Amur Falcons at Tumbung village

The males are dark grey with reddish-brown thighs and under-tail coverts, reddish-orange eye-ring and feet. Females are duller above, with dark scaly markings on white underparts, an orange eye ring and legs. Only a pale wash of rufous is visible on their thighs and undertail coverts.

Their diet mainly comprises insects, such as termites. During their migratory period over the sea, they are believed to feed on migrating dragonflies.

Every year, hundreds of these birds travel to the northeastern states of Nagaland and Manipur for roosting. On their way, many use Umrongso as a ‘stopover’ before they reach the neighbouring states.

Recently, Chiulon and Irang, two of the five Amur Falcon birds radio-tagged last year in Manipur’s Tamenglong district have come back for roosting after traversing over 29,000-km migratory route from Siberia.