More birds flock to Chilika this summer: Is that all good news?

As many as 61,350 birds of 95 species were counted in and around the Chilika lake during the annual avian summer count May 26
Birds in Chilika. Photo: Hrusikesh Mohanty
Birds in Chilika. Photo: Hrusikesh Mohanty

Odisha forest and environment department officials counted 61,350 birds of 95 species in and around the state’s Chilika lake during the annual avian summer count May 26, 2022, official sources said June 4.

As many as 48,728 birds of 106 species had been spotted in the lagoon last summer, while 45,056 birds of 97 species had been counted in the summer of 2020.

Birds found this summer included 48,254 waterfowl of 42 species and 13,096 resident birds of 53 species, PK Panda, assistant conservator of forest, Chilika wildlife division, said.

The highest number of birds were spotted in the Rambha range (21,088) followed by Tangi (17,929), Balugaon (12,804), Chilika (5,064) and Satapada (4,465), sources said.

Little Cormorants were spotted in the highest numbers (8,025), followed by Little Egrets (6,680) and Asian Openbill Storks (5,597).

“Habitat improvement, availability of food, eviction of prawn gherries (enclosures) in the lake are some of the reasons for more bird flocks this year, during the winter as well as summer,” Sushant Nanda, chief executive, Chilika Development Authority, said.

S Balchandran, senior ornithologist from Bombay Natural History Society, said local migration of resident birds might be the reason behind the increase in the bird population this summer.

When water bodies near the lake dried up due to the heat, the birds naturally migrated to Chilika, which is a perennial water body. This might be one of the causes for the increase in bird numbers during summer, he said.

He said a detailed study was however needed to note migration patterns of birds to the lake during the summer.

Chilika, also the biggest waterfowl habitat in the country, had hosted as many as 1,074,173 birds of 183 species last winter. These included 1,036,220 migratory birds of 107 species and 37,953 of 76 wetland dependent species.

Birds from northern Eurasia, the Caspian region, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Lake Baikal and the remote areas of Russia and its neighbouring countries visit the Chilika every winter and start their homeward journey before the onset of summer.

Flamingos and pelicans generally come to Chilika in November-December. While pelicans start their return journey with the onset of monsoon, some flamingos, however, choose to stay back at the lake. This phenomenon was witnessed in the lake for the last few years, Sudhakar Mohapatra, a retired senior forest officer, said.

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