The Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha's Kendrapara district has played host to over one lakh migrant water birds this year.
While 76,268 winter migrant birds had made their way to the national park last year, the latest census findings have put the number of winged guests at 1, 12,937, an impressive 48 per cent rise.
The enumerators have for the first time spotted two rare species of birds of central Asian-origin - mallard and comb duck -at the wetland areas of the park.
That apart, more than 10,000 bar-headed geese, hordes of back-headed godwit, greater crested tern, common shell duck and blue-tailed godwits were also seen at the park.
All these species come under 'rare and threatened' category in the International Union for Conservation for Nature (IUCN) Red Book Data.
"Unable to cope with extreme cold conditions in their original habitat, the birds fly to these congenial wetland spots," said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Bimal Prasanna Acharya.
The marshy and swampy wetlands here offer a human-interference-free winter habitat for the feathered guests. There is also ample food for the birds here, Acharya said.
"Lack of human interference, ideal climatic condition, cool breeze and the river system have helped this place emerge as a hotspot for the delicate and chirpy winged species," he said.
Other prominent winged visitors to Bhitarkanika include Indian Skimmers, Grey Pelicans and White-backed vultures, lesser adjutant, grater spotted eagles. These birds have been listed under 'endangered' category in IUCN's red book, the forest official added.
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