Wildlife & Biodiversity

Odisha’s Chilika lake gets more winged visitors this summer despite scorching heat

Over 62,000 birds of 88 species found in lake during annual summer survey

By Hrusikesh Mohanty
Published: Friday 26 May 2023
Habitat improvement, availability of foods and eviction of the prawn enclosures in the lake are some of the reasons for more birds this year. Photo: Hrusikesh Mohanty

More birds flocked to the Chilika Lake in Odisha this summer than the previous years, despite the day temperature in and around Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon hovering 39 to 41 degrees Celsius.

As many as 62,947 birds of 88 species were found in the vast lake during the annual summer survey of birds conducted by the Chilika wildlife division of Odisha government’s forest, environment and climate change department on May 24, 2023. The census report was released officially on May 26. 

Read more: Bird watchers' paradise

In the summer of 2022 and 2021, as many as 61,350 birds of 95 species and 48,728 birds of 106 species had spotted in the blue lagoon, while in the summer of 2020, 45,056 birds of 97 species were counted.

Birds found this summer include 54,407 waterfowls of 43 species and 8,540 resident birds of 45 species, said Amlan Nayak, divisional forest officer (DFO), Chilika wildlife division.

The highest number of birds has been spotted in the Tangi range (24,285) followed by, Balugaon (20,581), Satapada (8,763), Chilika (6,694) and Rambha (2,624), sources said.

The species like grey-headed swamphen or purple swamphen were spotted the most number (8,386) followed by Asian Openbilled-stork (7,454), whiskered tern (5,033), little cormorant (4,263) and little egret (3,929), sources said.

Habitat improvement, availability of food and eviction of the prawn gherries (enclosures) in the lake are some of the reasons for more birds flocking this summer and in the last winter than the previous years, said the DFO.

Despite the scorching summer, the lake had water, he added. 

“It shows the Chilika is a favourable destination for the winged guests during the winter seasons and is the ideal habitat for the waterfowls and resident birds for the entire year,” said Jitshatru Mohanty, a retired senior forest officer.

As many as 1,131,929 birds of 184 different species were found in the 1,100 square kilometres of blue lagoon in the mid-winter water bird survey conducted on December 4, 2023. These included 10,93,049 feathered guests of 105 various species and 38,859 of 79 species of the resident birds. 

Read more: Odisha starts evicting illegal prawn gherries in Chilika

The birds, mostly from beyond the Himalayas in northern Eurasia, the Caspian region, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Baikal lake and the remote areas of Russia and neighbouring countries, visit the Chilika every winter and start their homeward journey before the onset of summer.

Some of the migratory birds preferred to remain in the lake instead of going to their native places despite the heat, the ornithologists said.

The flamingos and pelicans generally come to Chilika in delay. While pelicans start their journey with the onset of monsoon, some flamingos choose to stay in the lake over the years. 

This phenomenon has been witnessed in the lake for the last some years, said Sudhakar Mohapatra, a retired senior forest officer. “A thorough study was needed to find out the reason for their prolonged stay in the lake,” he said. 

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