The White Egret or heron (stork), known as Sada Bok in Bengali, is now rarely seen to stand beside water bodies to catch its prey.
The number of canals, water bodies and rivers being dumped and large trees and bamboo groves being felled, these birds have lost their habitats and are on the verge of extinction from rural areas now a days. Moreover, its palatable meat and its staying standing at a place without moving, makes it an easy prey for the hunters.
Belonged to family Ardeidae, the egret of heron has white or buff plumage, and develops fine plumes (usually milky white) during the breeding season. With its sharp, needle like, elongated beaks, bright-white bodies, conspicuous sharp eyes and long legs, the White Egret is not a biologically distinct group from the heron and has the same physical structure. The herons are usually 45 to 150 centimetre long in size.
The entire Chalanbeel areas of Natore and Pabna districts, the Beel Kumari of Tanore upazila, the entire riverside of the Baranoi, Atrai, Shiba, Musa Khan, Narod and Sarmongla rivers and beside every ponds and water-bodies, these white egrets were seen to fly in flocks with clamouring calls and were being noticed to catch their prey by silently standing beside those water bodies.
Now, most of those rivers, canals, beels and water bodies being dumped, those white herons or egrets are not visible elsewhere. Among other reasons, indiscriminate hunting and catching the birds using traps and poisoning, want of food in water bodies, loss of habitat due to logging of large trees and specially, due to cutting of mango groves and the impact of climate change are mainly responsible for drastically waning the number of the birds.
According to sources, only five species of the egret or heron are now visible in places of Rajshahi region although earlier eight species were available. Though killing and hunting of all sort of wild birds and wild animals are banned and a punishable offence in our country, some dishonest people indiscriminately hunt the bird through gunfire, arrows and by setting baits and nets. Some even hunt herons with their pet heron by evading the vigilance of law enforcers.
In a recent visit to the fields of Regional Wheat Research Centre and the Regional Rice Research Centre in Rajshahi, a huge flock of white herons were seen to stand silently in the fields to catch aquatic insects and frogs from there. The gathering of such a large number of white herons is a source of enchanting beauty. But due to impact of global climate change and the deforestation, the egrets or herons seem to fleeing away from our environment.
Veteran bird lover and a reputed forester Mollah Rejaul Karim said, like egrets or herons, many species of birds were getting extinct from our environment. A mass consciousness, a strict enforcement of anti-hunting act, restoring the water bodies, stopping logging of large trees and preserving forests and water bodies are the ways to save those prized natural birds from being extinct.