As per the latest census report released by the forest department, 1,13,226 feathered species from trans-Himalayan region flew to Bhitarkanika wetland sites in Kendrapara district for their winter sojourn this year.

The census findings have found a substantial 66 percent rise in the number of winged guests than the preceding year. While 68,514 winter migrant birds had made their way to the
national park in 2013, the latest census put the number of winged guests at 1,13,226, official data said.

The enumerators spotted two rare groups of birds of central Asian origin from wetland spots of the park. The rare group of avian species sighted are greater scaup and ferragon pochard. These species were sighted for the first time in Bhitarkanika, said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Kedar Kumar Swain.

These winged species come under rare and threatened category. Unable to cope with extreme cold in their original habitat, the feathered species preferred these congenial wetland spots, he said.

The annual winter sojourn of birds in large numbers has re-established the marshy wetlands of Bhitarkanika as one of Odisha's prominent bird habitats, he said.
    
Harsh cold and snow fall in trans-Himalayan region has resulted in exodus of large number of migrant species to Bhitarkanika. This apart, lack of human interference, congenial environs and rich food reserve here proved ideal for the avian visitors. The enumerators also found that these species were fatigued after their long flight, said the official.

There is ample food security for the birds as the place is dotted by innumerable water inlets and nullahs.Lack of human interference, ideal climatic condition, cool breeze and the river system here all have emerged to the liking of these delicate chirpy winged species. This in itself is a positive sign and thus further research on the behavioural pattern of these threatened species is being taken up, Swain said.

Enumerators have also spotted hordes of Back-headed Godwit, Greater Crested Tern, common Shell duck and blue tailed Godwits, which come under rare and threatened category. The prominent species, who have also made Bhitarkanika their winter home are Brahmin Duck, Bar-headed Geesse, Godwin, Pintail, painted stork, seagauls, commonteal and tawny eagle.
    
Other prominent winged visitors to Bhitarkanika this time are Indian Skimmers, Grey Pelicans and White-backed Vultures, Lesser Adjutant, Greater spotted Eagles. All of these species are conferred endangered status under International Union for Conservation for Nature (IUCN)’s Red Book Data containing the list of highly threatened animals worldwide, Swain said.

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