Less number of birds visited the famous Chilika lake in Odisha compared to last year but more varieties of species swooped down on the biggest waterfowl habitat in the country this winter.
The annual bird count conducted in the 1100 sq km vast lake showed about 8.77 lakh birds of 180 species visited Chilika with wildlife personnel spotting at least 17 Goliath Herons, a first time visitor to the water body, Divisional Forest Officer, Chilika Wildlife division, BP Acharya said.
Goliath Heron, also known as Giant Heron, a very large wading bird of the Heron family, was spotted by enumerators in Sundarapur area inside the lake during the annual bird census conducted by wildlife wing of the state forest department.
About 8.83 lakh birds of 167 species had visited the lake last winter.
"It was found during verification that there was no mention of Goliath Heron in the records and experts are of the opinion that it could be a new specie to have visited the lake this winter," the DFO said.
Mallard, a duck specie, also re-visited the lake this time after a gap of several years. About 20 such birds were spotted in Sundarapur area, he said.
Altogether 85 persons, including ornithologists from Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai, state wildlife officials, ornithologists and wildlife activists took part in the bird count in the lake held on Sunday.
Of the total 8,77,322 birds of 180 different species counted in the entire lake, the highest number of 3.46 lakh winged guests were sighted in the 15.59 sq km Nalabana bird sanctuary area, an island in the water body.
The winged visitors from far off places including Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, remote parts of Russia, central and South East Asia, Ladakh and Himalayas, escaping severe cold, descend on the lake every winter for feeding and roosting and start their homeward journey with the onset of summer.
Attributing climatic change and global warming as some of the reasons for declined number of birds visiting the lake this year, ornithologists said earlier, not very long back, over 15 lakh birds had visited the lake.
The officials said highest number of 1.81 lakh Eurasian Wingeon visited the lake followed by Northern Pintail (1.03 lakh), Gadwall (95,120).