Number key in state bird tag

House sparrow then, Indian Roller now. Chief minister Nitish Kumar appears to be in two minds over which winged species should get the state bird status.

As the chairman of the state wildlife board, Nitish had proposed in its last meeting on January 8 to notify the house sparrow as the state bird after expressing concern over its dwindling number. He had also directed the forest officials to conduct a survey on the habitat and numbers of the bird and initiate conservation steps.

However, when the forest department sent a formal proposal in this regard to the chief minister, Nitish returned it to the department asking them to cite reasons why house sparrow should be granted the state bird status and why shouldn't the Indian Roller get a similar tag, when the numbers of both the birds are reducing drastically in Bihar. Indian Roller is locally known as Neelkanth (Blue Throat)

A senior officer of the forest department said: "On the basis of the resolution taken in the meeting of the wildlife board, we had sent a formal proposal to the chief minister to notify house sparrow as the state bird. However, the CM returned the proposal asking the department to give supporting reasons behind declaring house sparrow as the state bird. He also asked us to give reasons why not Neelkanth be declared the state bird. Accordingly, the department is in the process of resubmitting the proposal."

Members of the wildlife board claimed that the agenda of the last meeting was only about conservation of house sparrow. However, Nitish expressed his desire to notify it as the state bird.

A member of the board said on Thursday: "According to the agenda of the meeting, deliberations were being held on conservation of house sparrows. It was during the deliberations that the chief minister said 'we had declared house sparrow as the state bird four years ago' and asked the officers of the forest department whether it has been notified (again) or not. The officers informed him that the corresponding notification has not been done yet. The CM then proposed that the notification be done at the earliest to expedite steps for its conservation. Accordingly, the board took the corresponding resolution."

Arvind Mishra, the state co-ordinator of Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN) and a member of the wildlife board, said: "While house sparrows can be seen around human habitation in the urban areas, Neelkanth are mostly seen in deserted rural areas. It can be seen sitting on the wires on the roadsides in rural areas and it settles on bamboo and coconut trees during breeding season."

He added that Neelkanth was the state bird of undivided Bihar. Later, house sparrow got the tag for the state and Koel was made the state bird of Jharkhand.

"The number of Neelkanth has fallen drastically over the recent years because of excess use of insecticides and pesticides and domestication," said Mishra.

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