Bhubaneswar, Jan 22 (Agencies): There is a 13 per cent decline in the number of domestic and migratory birds this winter compared to previous year in Orissa's world-famous Chilika Lake, says the latest bird census.

"During the annual bird census conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, 804,452 birds were spotted at the lake against last year's 924, 578," an official of the state wildlife department said.

Chilika, spread across the districts of Puri, Khurdha and Ganjam along the east coast, is the largest brackish water lake in Asia covering an area of over 1,100 sq km.

It is considered one of the hotspots of bio-diversity in the country and a great attraction for the tourists for fishing, bird watching and boating.

The lake, about 100 km from here, is considered as the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian subcontinent. About a million migratory birds visit the lake in October and return in March.

"At least 90 officials and experts were engaged in the latest counting. They spotted 169 species of birds. Of them, 103 were migratory. Last year the number of species sighted was 180, of which 114 were migratory," the official said.

C.S. Kar, a scientist with the state wildlife department, said: "The less number may be attributed to high-water level in the lake triggered by untimely rains in December."
Kar, who was also involved in the census, said there was still a possibility of more birds arriving at the lake in the next few days.

"If you look at the figures of past five years, the number of birds visiting the lake range from 700,000 to 900,000. The figure is very much within the range this year," he said.

Last year birds like flamingos, grey and purple herons, egrets, spoonbills and storks were spotted at the lake.