10.74 lakh birds flock to Chilika, largest wintering ground in Indian subcontinent

Odisha deploys 106 personnel for bird counting on the vast waters of the lake.

January 05, 2022 12:07 pm | Updated 06:22 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR:

A folk of flamingos is seen at the Nalabana bird sanctuary inside the Chilika Lake in Odisha. File photo

A folk of flamingos is seen at the Nalabana bird sanctuary inside the Chilika Lake in Odisha. File photo

Chilika Lake, the largest brackish water lake and wintering ground of the birds in the Indian subcontinent, saw a million of birds, including uncommon Mongolian gull, visiting the waterbody this year.

As per the water bird status survey-2022 conducted in the Chilika, a total of 10,74,173 birds of the 107 water bird species and 37,953 individuals of 76 wetland dependent species were counted at the entire lagoon. Last year, the count in Chilika was over 12 lakh. Bird census members reported rare sighting of the uncommon Mongolian gull.

The census was undertaken jointly on Tuesday by the Odisha State Wildlife Organisation, the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) and the Bombay Natural History Society. A total of 106 personnel, including bird experts from government and non-government organisations, were deployed. The Chilika Lagoon was divided strategically into 21 segments for the census.

A total of 3,58,889 birds (97 species) were counted in Nalabana Bird Sanctuary inside Chilika – a decrease by 65,899 from the previous year. The decrease is attributed to high water level and presence of water in cultivated fields in adjoining areas. Water birds love to flock on large mudflats.

“Among the three pintail species of ducks, the northern pintail (1,72,285), gadwall (1,53,985), Eurasian wigeon (1,50,843) accounted for over one lakh in this year’s count,” says the report. However, the population of gadwall and Eurasian wigeon was less than that of the previous year.

There was marginal decrease in the number of species such as the northern shoveler, tufted duck and red crested pochard. An increase in population of northern pintail, common coot and common pochard was noticed.

“The increase in numbers for the greater flamingo at Nalabana mudflat indicates that the restoration at Nalabana is effective. This year’s greater flamingo count was highest in last one decade. It is largely due to appropriate management of mudflats,” the CDA said. Overall, the local resident species such as purple swamp-hen, purple heron, Indian moorhen, and jacanas were found in higher numbers.

Chilika lake hosts birds migrating from thousands of miles away from the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea, remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and South East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas. The winged guests find the vast mud-field and abundant fish stock here suitable to congregate.

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