Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Aves (Birds) Order: Gruiformes Family: Heliornithidae
Masked Finfoot (Heliopais personata), also called Asian Finfoot, is a local resident in India (Assam and West Bengal). Size: 56 cm.
Identification: The Masked Finfoot is a brownish bird with black facial mask and yellowish bill. The male has a prominent black throat and foreneck while the female has a white throat and foreneck surrounded by a prominent black border. The legs and 'lobed' feet are pea green.
Distribution: The masked finfoot ranges from Bangladesh and northeast India to Southeast Asia, the Malay Peninsula, and Sumatra. The preferred habitat is the Sunderbans mangrove - a tidal swamp of about 10,000 sq km in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta.
Habits: The rarely seen Masked Finfoot avoids strong sunlight and prefers to feed in the late afternoon and early morning, during the low tide. They rarely fly, and when they do, it is only a few feet above the water. The flight, however, is very fast. When alarmed, this secretive species usually prefers to hide in the bushes. These birds keep singly or in pairs.
Call: Generally quiet, the Masked Finfoot utters an occasional bubbling call.
Food: Finfoots predominantly take insects, especially adult and larval midges, mayflies, and dragonflies but also grasshoppers, flies, and beetles. Mollusks, crustaceans, worms, millipedes, and spiders are recorded in their diet. Frogs, tadpoles, small fish, and small amounts of seeds and leaves are eaten. Some items are picked from rocks and fringing or overhanging vegetation, with birds sometimes jumping out of the water to take prey. They also forage on land, especially along banks.
Breeding: Breeding habits of Masked Finfoot are poorly known. They nest in dense forest. Breeding season July-August. Nest is a circular pad of twigs; located 1-3 m up on a horizontal branch. Eggs normally 5-8, creamy in colour.
Status: The Masked Finfoot is classed as globally Vulnerable with a small population
(2,500–10,000 birds in 2000) that is declining due to the loss and degradation of wetlands,
deforestation, mangrove destruction, agriculture, disturbance, and hunting.