Obese birds extend stay at Chilka

Conservation Efforts Bear Fruit

Obese birds extend stay at Chilka

A rare but a pleasant change in the winged visitors’ behaviour at Chilka Lake in Orissa has surprised bird watchers and ornithologists. One of every 15 birds that flew into the lake has decided to extend its stay. 

Migratory birds from across the globe flock Chilka Lake in Orissa in the winter to have their seasonal sojourn in the picturesque water body. But this time around many of them have stayed back in the lake instead of making their homeward journey at the end of the bird season.

This interesting development came to light when the Chilka wildlife division of the state forest department conducted a “summer bird census” in the brackish water lagoon - Asia's biggest – a few weeks back.

The bird census revealed that instead of returning to their respective places of origin, nearly 60,000 migratory birds were still enjoying their stay in the Nalabana bird sanctuary located inside the lake. Besides, some of the birds were also sighted on the tree tops in villages in and around the lagoon.

Chilka Lake, considered to be one of the biggest winter homes for the migratory birds in the country, had played host to about 9.24 lakh avian guests last winter.
The outcome of the bird census came as a big surprise to many as migratory birds arrive in Chilka Lake around October-November every year and usually make their homeward journey by April end. The avian species which had extended their stay in the scenic water body included flamingos, pelicans as well as different types of ducks.

If experts are to be believed, “obesity” could be one of the major reasons behind the migratory birds’ having extended their stay in the lake! “With the availability of plenty of food in the lake, some of the birds tend to eat more and get overweight in the process. As a result they face difficulties in flying for longer distances. Therefore, they have perhaps extended their stay to get themselves trimmed and fly back home subsequently”, said Ajit Kumar Patnaik, the Chief Executive Officer of the Chilka Development Authority (CDA) which looks after the 1100 sq km lake.

Proper maintenance of the Chilka Lake mouth connecting the Bay of Bengal by the CDA has resulted in the adequate growth of marine grass, a major food for the migratory birds. In the year 2000, the marine grass was growing inside the lake within an area of 20 sq km. That has gone up to more than 80 sq km now.

Safety and secured surroundings, according to some experts, could also have played a key role in some of the avian guests’ decision to extend their stay in the Orissa lake. Chilka was once known as a poachers’ paradise and migratory birds were being killed in regular intervals every bird season.

With relentless efforts of the government agencies and non-governmental organisations, poaching in Chilka Lake has gone down drastically. The reduction in the poaching activities has allowed the birds to move around in the lake freely without any fear.
Whatever may be the reason, the recent development has definitely made the bird lovers in the state extremely happy. “The migratory birds have once again displayed their love for Chilka. The lake continues to be their favourite destination”, said Rabi Goud, a Bhubaneswar resident who had been visiting Chilka every winter since long to have a look at the winged guests.

The CDA, in the meantime, has also decided to go for a detailed study on the entire habitation process of the migratory birds in the picturesque lagoon with the help of Mumbai-based Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
“We had approached the BNHS for the study and they have agreed to do it. The Rs one-crore project will be completed within a time span of five years”, Patnaik said.

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