Berhampur: The arrival of winged visitors to Chilika Lake, the biggest waterfowl habitat in the country, has dropped this season with 1.58 lakh fewer migratory birds sighted than the previous season.
Ornithologists said the number of birds had perhaps dwindled due to effect of cyclone Phailin.
The annual bird count conducted in the 1100 sq km vast lake on Sunday put the count at around 7.19 lakh birds 1belonging to 58 species, divisional forest officer, Chilika Wildlife Division, B P Acharya said.
Around 8.77 lakh birds of 180 species had visited the lake last winter and 8.83 lakh birds of 167 species had visited the blue lagoon in 2012, the sources said.
No new species of birds were sighted in the lake during the bird census this year and the number of fish-eating birds had also decreased, he said.
Of the 7,19,262 birds counted in the entire lake, the highest number of them, 4,15,135 was sighted in Nalabana bird sanctuary area.
Last winter, Nalabana island had hosted about 3.46 lakh birds.
The winged guests prefer to stay in the 15.59 sq km Nalabana bird sanctuary area for nesting.
Around 80 persons, including ornithologists from Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Mumbai, officials of wildlife organisations, experts and wildlife activists took part in the bird count in the lake.
"The lake was devastated by Cyclone Phailin with feeding material like weeds being washed away from the lagoon. This might be one of the reasons for the dwindling number of migratory birds," BNHS Joint Director Dr S Balchandran said.
"We will conduct more scientific analyses in terms of species and area to find out the possible reasons behind the dwindling number of the birds," Balchandran said, adding that he was conducting a study on the impact of Phailin on the migration of the birds to the lake.
Winged guests from far off places including Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, remote parts of Russia, central and South East Asia, Ladakh and Himalayas flock to the lake every winter for feeding and roosting. They start their homeward journey with the onset of summer.