During the winter months the Odisha Bhitarkanika National Park plays host to thousands of birds. This year saw a record number of feathered friends visiting.

This year has been unusually good for bird watchers at the Odisha Bhitarkanika National Park in Orissa. They have spotted upto 81,000 migratory birds as well as resident birds at the park. Last year, the total count of birds was just 52,242.

According to the Divisional Forest Officer Manoj Kumar Mohapatra, at least 111 species of birds were spotted.

Visitors

The annual bird census was conducted on December 26, 2012 at the park in Kendrapada, about 170 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar. The major highlight of the census was that as many as 36,000 Black-tailed Godwits were spotted. The Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) is a large, long-billed shorebird. It is a member of the Limosa genus, the godwits. There are three subspecies, all with orange head, neck and chest in breeding plumage and dull grey-brown in winter. They have a distinctive black and white wingbar. They have a discontinuous breeding range stretching from Iceland to the far east of Russia.

Another interesting fact at the census was that enumerators spotted a rare group of birds which they are yet to identify.

Besides the Black-tailed Godwit the other prominent species visiting the park were the Brahmini ducks and the Bar-headed geese.

The Brahmini ducks are a small resident population in north-west Africa and Ethiopia. But, the main breeding area of this species is from south-east Europe across central Asia to south-east Asia. These birds are mostly migratory, wintering in the Indian subcontinent.

The Bar-headed goose breeds in Central Asia in colonies of thousands near mountain lakes. It winters in South Asia, as far south as the Indian peninsular. It lays around three to eight eggs at a time in a ground nest.

The Bhitarkanika park, also a wildlife sanctuary, is home to over 200 species of birds, including 98 varieties of migratory birds.

The sanctuary is widely known as the world’s largest rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtles.

Every year, more than a million migratory birds from places as far as Siberia and Iraq flock to various sites in Odisha in October, spending the winter here before returning in March.