By Grazielle Mae A. Sales, PGIN-CMO
Ilocos Norte is now set to enforce protective actions for reported flocks of rare bird species named Spotted Imperial Pigeons in the town of Pasuquin.
Categorized as ‘vulnerable’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, the Spotted Imperial Pigeon (SIP) or Ducula carola is a species of bird endemic in the Philippines. The decline is owed to forest loss and its congregatory habits which facilitated widespread hunting, with large numbers caught during the 1950s in Luzon.
Records since 1980s show 12 congregation sites in Luzon, Mindoro and Mindanao but all had declined subsequently. By the 1990s, it had become rare and local in the Sierra Madre mountains with utmost 20 in a flock.
“You don’t find them (SIP) that easily anywhere in the Philippines. So, when it was reported that this type of bird regularly come in flocks along the shoreline of Pasuquin, a number of bird watchers became excited and rushed to the province,” said Dr. Petrus Calope, a conservation enthusiast and local birder who introduced bird watching and monitoring in Ilocos Norte.
Calope added that an estimate of 55 in a flock was reported by the bird watchers who had recently visited the pigeon’s congregation sites in the coastal barangays, Davila and Dilavo in Pasuquin. The ‘flocking’ itself continues to puzzle local and visiting birders alike.
“If they need mere saltwater, they could have flocked to other coastal places such as in Laoag or Bacarra. So I think there must be something in the shorelines of those barangays,” said Calope, positing that the behavior “might be a part of the birds’ preparation for the breeding season.”
“This is why we’re planning to get support for a research as to where these groups of birds are coming from so that we can learn more about their life cycle and can plan better for their protection,” added Calope.
The provincial government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN) through its Tourism office and the local government units involved were already tapped to devise a conservation inventory for the SIP which includes the security for its congregation sites.
Manuals will also be distributed to the locals to urge them to avoid bird trapping or capturing and to help authorities protect SIP’s natural habitat.
“Bird watching’ is already an attraction in Ilocos Norte, particularly with the Paoay Lake being a sanctuary to various bird species including the migratory Great Cormorant.
“But unlike Great Cormorant, this bird (SIP) is not common. This is what international bird watchers are looking for that’s why we are anticipating more arrivals by next year,” Calope said.
Calope also believes that capitalizing on the bird’s “rarity and singular presence” in the province can have a “very positive effect” on the tourism industry of Ilocos Norte.
“This is a big boast on the province’s tourism industry since the presence of the birds attests to Ilocos Norte’s uniqueness, not only in terms of culture but also on biodiversity,” Calope said.
With Ilocos Norte being a ‘refuge’ to diverse species such as the migratory birds in Paoay Lake and the humpback whales visiting the town of Pagudpud, PGIN is now taking actions to promote ‘greening’ and biodiversity conservation.
Governor Imee Marcos lauded the local birders’ efforts and agreed to support the advocacy.#