Jumping Jack: The Lesser Florican

Rajasthan is home to some wonderful species like the Yellow wattled Lapwing, Rufous-fronted Prinia, Singing Bushlark, Baya Weaver bird, Rain Quail, Red collared Dove, Indian Bushlark etc. Of particular interest, is a bird called the “Lesser Florican”, one of the smallest bustard species in the world.

Sadly, much of the grasslands that support these birds have now been converted to agricultural fields. In places where grassland-ecosystems do thrive, often they are considered as wastelands [1]. There are also reports of the Lesser Florican’s population declining [2].

For years, the bird has attracted the attention of birdwatchers due to its peculiar courtship behaviour. In the month of September, the Lesser Florican becomes a Jumping Jack!

The courtship behaviour of this bird involves the males making a series of jumps upto a height of 2-3 metres from the ground. This is done by them to attract females and establish territory.

Video: The courtship display of the Lesser Florican.* Recommend using earphones while watching video.

Interestingly, the origin of the sound you hear is not the vocal chords of the bird, but in fact its wings!! [3, 4]. A closer look at the bird reveals its beautiful black and white plumage, with a few feathers sticking out from its head like a cap.

Image: The lesser florican caught mid-air.

The most important note for birders and photographers is to be aware that the months of September and October is the breeding season for the Lesser Florican in the north. So care must be taken to not disturb the birds**.(Check out this piece on how photography disturbs breeding birds). One must maintain safe distance between yourself and the bird, minimise time spent in the vicinity and keep very quiet and calm, for our actions must not interfere with the bird’s way of life.

*Video was taken from over a 100-300m distance with a digital camera with 60x optical zoom. Keep safe distance from the bird and do not disturb its way of life.

**In 2012, the Ministry of Environment and Forest banned the photography of the Great Indian Bustard during its breeding season.

References

  1. Bindra, P. S. (2018, August) The fall of a florican. The Hindu. Republished in Conservation India.
  2. Goswami, R. (2015). Lesser florican population drastically declining in grasslands of Ajmer. Hindustan Times.
  3. Lad, P. M. 2016. The Lesser Florican’s multi-purpose wings. Sanctuary Asia. 36: (4) 44–45. Last available: https://www.sanctuaryasia.com/magazines/features/10271-the-lesser-floricans-multipurpose-wings.html 
  4. Rahmani, A. (nd) Is the lesser florican jumping to extinction. RoundGlass Sustain.

Further Reading:
Pittie, A. et al (Ed.). (2009). Indian Birds: Journal of South Asian Ornithology. Special Issue: Dr Ravi Sankaran Memorial Issue. Volume 5(4)

Conservation India (2011). Lesser Florican and Humans — Conflict or Co-existence?

Broome, N. M and Bajpai, S. (2019). Phasepardhis and the lesser florican (commentary). Mongabay.

Nature Observations

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My name is Adithi Muralidhar. I am a nature enthusiast based in Mumbai, India.

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