Number expected to be considerable this year given high water level

Migratory birds have started arriving right on cue at Odisha’s Chilika lake, the largest brackish water lagoon in the country with estuarine character.

According to officials of Chilika Wildlife Division, some species have been spotted and the number is expected to increase in the next few weeks with the onset of winter.

Sudhakar Kar, senior wildlife scientist involved in the study of migratory birds, says three species — pintails, shovellers and gadwalls — were sighted in the lagoon area. These migrate from the cold northern polar regions. The fall in temperature in their home habitat compels these bids to migrate to Chilika, as it is an ideal nesting place with food in abundance.

Mr. Kar expects the arrivals to peak during December, January. The return journey of the birds starts in February. Last winter, 8,83,060 migratory birds belonging to 167 species nested in the lake.

The water level has been on the higher side this year. Ornithologists believe this means there will be an abundance of food during the peak period of migration as insects, molluscs and other riverine fauna will breed in large numbers.

Now, with the water level receding in most parts of the lake, perching ground is available for the birds, which require dry, well-stocked areas to nest in.

Measures have been taken to protect the birds from poachers. Though the number of avian guests is currently on the lower side, officials have set up camps in the Nalabana bird sanctuary area of the lake. In the coming weeks, more camps will come up in other parts of the lake.

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