Salinity drop hits Chilika bird count this year
Hrusikesh Mohanty, TNN May 28, 2013, 12.40AM IST

BERHAMPUR: Close to 18,000 birds have shunned the biggest waterfowl habitat in the country this summer, as compared to last year.

This season, 59,687 birds of different species have visited the 1,100-sq km lake, the summer bird count conducted by the Chilika wildlife division recently, has revealed. Last summer, 77,609 different birds had visited the lake, sources said.

"The shifting of the mouth towards the outer channel of the lake has resulted in the reduction in tidal water influx, which has changed the salinity of the water in central and northern sectors. This may have affected the bird population in the lagoon this summer," divisional forest officer (Chilika wildlife) B P Acharya said on Friday.

The weeds in the northern sector of the lagoon could be another reason for the drop, he added.

The presence of lesser whistling ducks (8,050), black-tailed godwits (6,911) and little cormorant (6,561) were the highest in the lake, the DFO stated.

The winged guests, who had flown to Chilika last winter, have continued to stay in the lake this summer, despite the mercury hovering around 40°C in the lake. They include Eurasian pigeon (25), gadwall (10) and northern shoveller (6).

Similarly, greater flamingoes (655) and grey pelicans (177) also had their presence in and around the Nalabana bird sanctuary in the lake, which continue to attract tourists to Chilika this summer, sources said. "The Chilika is not only the paradise of birds in winter, but is a safe haven for them for all seasons," the DFO said.

U N Deo, a noted ornithologist, pointed out that the birds, which were unable to fly back to their own habitats because of illness, have stayed back in the lake.

During last winter, around 8.77 lakh waterfowls of 180 species had flown into the lake. The winged guests mostly from beyond the Himalayas in the Northern Eurasia, Caspian region, Siberia, Lake Baikal and the remote areas of Russia and neighboring countries visit the Chilika every winter and start their backward journey with the onset of summer.