Around 50 white-throated laughingthrush birds died under mysterious circumstances in the forests of Berinag sub-division of Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district on Tuesday, March 3.
Confirming the mass death, Berinag forest range officer Manoj Sanwal said that they were being sent for a postmortem following which the cause of death can be ascertained. According to eyewitnesses who reported the matter, the birds either died instantly after falling to the ground from trees or fell dead from trees.
"There are two possibilities behind the death of the birds in such large numbers. Either the group ate pesticide smeared food thrown about by people in the forest or they died of some infectious disease," NDTV quoted well-known bird watcher and natuWhite-throatedre lover of the area, Ram Narayan, as saying.
"This is the first incident of mass death of birds in the district. It may even be the first of its kind in Uttarakhand as I have never heard of mass death of birds during my 20-year stay in the Himalayan foothills," he said.
White-throated laughingthrushes, which are partially white and partially orange coloured below their neck, are local species of sub-Himalayan hill tracts. They are mostly seen in groups of 50 to 100.
These species come under the 'Least Concern' category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). "The species is highly gregarious, moves and hunts in groups forming hinting parties. Mass deaths in the species generally indicate towards accidental or intentional poisoning," The New Indian Express quoted Dr Rajat Bhargava, a senior scientist from Bombay Natural History Society as saying.
The species also has its habitation in Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Nepal, Tibet and Vietnam.