The number of migratory birds visiting the Chilika Lake in Odisha has dropped this season with 53,000 fewer winged visitors sighted at the lagoon compared to the last year.
The annual bird census, undertaken in the brackish water lagoon on Wednesday, put the count to 893,390 birds of 147 different species.
Last winter, 947,119 birds of 167 different species had visited the lake. Of them 374,756 were sighted at the 15.59 sq km Nalabana bird sanctuary, said Divisional Forest Officer (Chilika wildlife division) Bikash Ranjan Das.
This time, altogether 320,826 birds were sighted at Nalabana bird sanctuary, he said.
The increase in the water level of the lagoon due to heavy rain during the monsoons might have led to the decline in the number of birds visiting the lake this year, the DFO said.
Moreover, this year, the census was conducted about 10 days ahead of schedule, he said.
Das said River Lawping, a local bird, was sighted at the lake for the first time. This species is usually found on river beds. But the enumerators have found one such bird at Chilika, he said.
Around 100 people, including ornithologists from Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), officials of wildlife organisations, several ornithologists and wildlife activists took part in the bird count between 6am and 11am on 3rd January.
The lagoon hosts migratory birds every year during the peak winters. Birds from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and other remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and southeast Asia, visit the lake to escape the biting cold in their native places. They start their homeward journey with the onset of the summer season.