KENDRAPARA: There has been a healthy rise in number of migratory birds flocking Bhitarkanika National Park, India’s second largest mangrove forest after Sundarbans, this year.The annual bird census conducted by the Forest department on Monday revealed that 1,18,326 winged guests belonging to 105 species arrived in the park as compared to 1,09,059 birds last year.
The number of avian guests increased this year due to availability of open space after eviction of illegal prawn gheris on vast tracts of land, said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Bhitarkanika Bikash Ranjan Dash. Six rare Common Pochard birds were sighted during the census after five years in the park. As many as 16 teams comprising 100 personnel, which included ornithologists from Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in Mumbai, officials of wildlife organisations and wildlife activists, took part in the census. The rise in avian count is a good sign for bird conservation programmes in India, Dash said.
The water bodies, wetlands and mangrove forest of the park have come alive with the arrival of the winged visitors from as far as Central Asia and Europe. The migratory birds started arriving in Bhitarkanika from November as the park provides them a hospitable alternate habitat compared to the extreme freezing conditions in their natural environment in Siberia, China, Japan and other countries in northern hemisphere.
The birds often frequent open wetlands which have enough fish, prawns, frogs, snakes and molluses. The area is an extensive feeding ground for the birds because of the availability of abundant fish and its distance from human habitats. The important species which have arrived at Bhitarkanika include Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Yellow-Lapwing, Spoonbill, Large Whistling duck, Bare-headed goose, Black-headed Gull, Godwit, Marsh Sandpiper, Open-billed stork, Little Cormorant, Median and Large Egret, Purple, Grey and Night Heron, Darter, White Ibis, Cattle Egret, Grey-backed Shrike, Ruddy kingfisher, Red-necked Phalarope, Western Reef Egret, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Blue-Winged Leaf Bird, Great Thick-knee, Great Knot, Tawny Pipit and Goliath Heron, the DFO informed.As per reports, Forest officials had counted 1,12,937 migratory birds of 83 species in 2018. However, their numbers dropped significantly to 76,268 in 2017. As many as 1,06,356 birds were sighted in 2016 and the number was 81,401 in 2015.