Indian Scimitar-babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii ©Michael Clark
Birding Odisha

Odisha or Orrisa as it used to be known, is a state located on the east coast of India, by the Bay of Bengal. It was established on 1 April 1936 as a province in British India, and consists, predominantly of Oriya speakers. 1 April is therefore celebrated as Utkal Divas (Odisha Day).

Odisha is the ninth largest state by area and the eleventh largest by population. Oriya is the official and most widely spoken language. Odisha has a relatively unindented coastline (about 480 km long) and lacks good ports, except for the deep water facility at Paradip. The narrow, level coastal strip, including the Mahanadi River delta supports the bulk of the population. The interior of the state is mountainous and sparsely populated. Deomali at 1672m is the highest point of the state.

Odisha is subject to intense cyclones. The most intense one, in October 1999, Tropical Cyclone 05B caused severe damage and some 10,000 deaths.

Odisha is home to the Hirakud Dam, one of the longest dams in the world and has several popular tourist destinations. Puri, with the Jagannatha’s temple near the sea, and Konark, with the Sun Temple, are visited by thousands of tourists every year. The Lingaraja Temple of Bhubaneswar, the Jagannatha Temple of Puri, the Sun Temple of Konark and the Barabati Fort of Cuttack are important in the archaeological history of India.

The capital of Odisha is Bhubaneswar. It is famed for its magnificent temples, numbering around a thousand. Cuttack, which is the former capital is 29km from Bhubaneswar. With the rapid expansion of two cities and better road connectivity, the two cities are now almost conjoined and considered as twin cities. The city of Puri is nearby, at a distance of around 60 kilometres on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Puri is a holy city and the site of the annual festival of the deity Jagannath. It is one of the four Dhams (holy places) of Hinduism. The world-famous ‘car festival’ (rath yatra) is celebrated in Puri.

The Chota Nagpur plateau occupies the western and northern portions of the state, while along the coast are fertile alluvial plains and the valleys of the Mahanadi, Brahmani, and Baitarani rivers, which empty into the Bay of Bengal. These alluvial plains are home to intensive rice cultivation. A major nesting ground for the Olive Ridley sea turtles can be found in the Beaches of Odisha; in Devi, Gahirmatha and Rushikulya are known nesting sites for the L. olivacea Indian Ocean population. In 2007, around 130,000 turtles nested on the beaches of Gahirmatha.

Although much of Orissa’s forest cover has been denuded lately, one of the greatest attractions of Odisha is its still vast expanses of unspoiled natural landscape that offer a protected yet natural habitat to the state’s incredible wildlife. There are many wildlife sanctuaries in Odisha. The Simlipal National Park Tiger Reserve is a huge expanse of lush green forest with waterfalls, inhabited by tigers, elephants, and other wildlife. The Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary has been protecting estuarine crocodiles since 1975.

Chilka Lake, a brackish water coastal lake on the Bay of Bengal, south of the mouth of the Mahanadi River, is the largest coastal lake in India. It is protected by the Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary, which harbors over 150 migratory and resident species of birds.

The highest mountain peak in the state is Deomali (1672 m), which is situated in Koraput district in southern Odisha. It is also the tallest peak of the Eastern Ghats. It is part of the Chandragiri-Pottangi mountain system. Location: 18°40’3″N 82°58’59″E

Owing to its salubrious climate, the state of Odisha has a 33% of its land covered by forests. Commonly classified into two categories namely tropical moist deciduous and tropical dry deciduous, these forests are the store houses of Bamboo, Teak, Rosewood, Sal, Piasal, Sanghvan and Haldi. The hills, plateaus and isolated areas of the northeastern part of the state are covered by the tropical moist deciduous forests whereas the second types of the forests are located in the southwest region of the state.

Out of a total geographical area of 155,707 km², the state of Odisha has recorded 52,472 km² of forest area. Whereas the actual forest cover as per the records of Forest Survey of India is 47,033 km². Upholding the best possible example of bio diversity, the state is home to about 7,000 plant species including 120 Orchid species and 63 varieties of Mangrove trees which make the state second largest mangrove ecosystem in India. Tremendous growth of the forests naturally accounts for a widespread habitat for various species of wild animals. The Red Data book of IUCN has recorded a total of 473 species of birds and 86 species of mammals, 19 species of amphibians and 110 species of reptiles including three crocodilian species. Out of these around 54 species in total are endangered.

The WWF identifies several terrestrial ecoregions in the state of Odisha. The Odisha semi-evergreen forests occupy the coastal plain and low hills in the eastern part of the state, bordering the Bay of Bengal. Monsoons from the Bay of Bengal and the ocean influence foster the growth of semi-evergreen forests, of which only 4% remain, the remainder of the ecoregion having been cleared for intensive agriculture and urbanization. The Lower Gangetic plains moist deciduous forests cover a small area of eastern coastal Baleshwar District, in the easternmost corner of the state.

The majority of the state is covered by the Eastern highlands moist deciduous forests ecoregion, which harbours forests of Sal Shorea robusta and other broadleaf trees. The Northern dry deciduous forests occupy an inland portion of the Mahanadi River basin, which lies in the rain shadow of the Eastern Ghats. The Chhota Nagpur dry deciduous forests, another dry forest ecoregion in the rain shadow of northern Odisha’s highlands, lies mostly in neighbouring Jharkhand state, but extends into northern Odisha.

Mangroves can be found along Odisha’s coast, notably the Bhitarkanika Mangroves and the mangroves of Chilika Lake. Orissa’s mangroves are part of the Krishna-Godavari mangroves ecoregion.

Home to a variety of wild animals, the state has declared considerable tracts of land as areas protected for these animals only. These protected areas constitute 10.37% of the total forest area and 4.1% of the total geographical area of the state. Odisha has three mass nesting beaches of endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, which makes it the largest nesting ground of the species. Chilika lagoon in the coast of Orissa is one of the largest habitats of Irrawaddy Dolphin. Odisha government conducting various programme to protect the species.

Tigers, leopards, lions and elephants, Wild Buffaloes, Capped Langur, Sambar, Barking Deer, Wild Boar, Gaur, Slow Loris, Barking and Spotted Deer, Sloth Bear Mongoose, Flying Squirrel, Porcupine, Turtle, Monitor Lizard, Python, Sambar, Pangolin, Crocodile and Four Horned Antelope also find shelter in the forests of the state. Not only the animals, but birds are also a very important constituent of the fauna of Odisha. With its lakes inviting huge numbers of migratory birds each year, the state is a real paradise of the bird lovers. Grey Hornbill, Indian Pied Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Indian Trogon, Red Jungle Fowl, Hill Mynah, Peafowl and Alexandrine Parakeet can be seen here along with some of the beautiful resident birds.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 566

    (As at December 2018)

    State Bird: Indian Roller Coracicas Benghalensis

Useful Reading

  • Birds of Odisha A Pictorial Encyclopaedia

    | By Pramod & Gloria Dhal | Dhara Shreeradha Trust | 2019 | Hardback | 720 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 9789388824002 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Threatened Birds of Odisha

    | By Asad R Rahmani & Manoj V Nair | Oxford University Press | 2015 | Paperback | 180 pages, colour photos, colour maps | ISBN: 9780199466504 Buy this book from NHBS.com

Abbreviations Key

  • BS Nalbana

    InformationSatellite View
    Nalbana Island is the core area of the Ramsar designated wetlands of Chilika Lake. It was declared a bird sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972.
  • BS WII IBA Chilka Lake

    InformationSatellite View
    It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent. The lake is home to a number of threatened species of plants and animals.
  • NP Bhitarkanika

    InformationSatellite View
    215 species of avifauna including eight varieties of Kingfishers. Birds such as Asian Open Bill, Cormorants, Darters, Black Ibis, Egrets, are frequently seen in the park…
  • NP Nandankanan Zoological Park

    InformationSatellite View
    Literally meaning the Garden of Pleasure, Nandankanan is a combination of a beautiful botanical garden, a zoo and a sanctuary. Situated 20 km from Bhubaneshwar, Nandankanan provides perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The quiet environment of Nandankanan is set amidst a vast expanse of the Chandaka forest where the flora and fauna flourish in their most natural habitat and environment…
  • NP Simlipal

    InformationSatellite View
    231 species of birds nest in these forests. Red Jungle Fowl, Hill Myana, Peafowl, Alexandrine Parakeet, Crested Serpent Eagle are common. The Grey Hornbill, Indian Pied Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill and Indian Trogon are also found in the reserve. Apart from the large number of mammals and bird species, the park has a sizeable population of reptiles which includes snakes and turtles. The Mugger management programme has helped the Mugger crocodile to survive and flourish on the banks of river Khairi…
  • NP TR Sanjay

    InformationSatellite View
    Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, Spotted deer, Sambar deer, wild boar, Nilgai, Chinkara, Civet, Porcupine, Monitor lizard, and 309 species of birds are found here. Among the many birds here are the Golden Hooded Oriole, Racket-tailed Drongo, Indian pitta, Rufous treepie, Lesser adjutant, Red-headed vulture, Cenareous vulture, White-rumped vulture, Egyptian vulture and Nightjar.
  • WS Baisipalli

    InformationSatellite View
    It is 168.35 square kilometres (41,600 acres) of sanctuary land, home to bears, elephants, leopards, Sambar Deer, and spotted deer
  • WS Balimela

    InformationSatellite View
    t covers an area of 160 km². The terrain is hilly, and covered with mixed deciduous forests. It is in the Eastern Highlands moist deciduous forests ecoreg
  • WS Balukhand-Konark

    InformationSatellite View
    The sanctuary has an area of 72 km², and is located along the Bay of Bengal coast, between the towns of Puri and Konark.
  • WS Chandaka Forest & Elephant Reserve

    InformationSatellite View
    …Prominent birds of the sanctuary are Peafowl, Red jungle fowl, Crested serpent eagle, Great horned owl, Black-headed oriole, Paradise Flycatcher, Coucal and stone curlew. Kumarkhunti reservoir, during winter, serve as transient roosting and feeding ground for several migratory duck species, notably, Garganey and common Teal, Pintail, spot billed and bramhiny Duck and white eyed Pochard. Lesser whistling Teal, Dabehick, Cotton Teal, Nakta, lesser Cormorant, bronze winged Jacana, white breasted Waterhen, pied, white breasted and little blue King fishers and red wattled Lapwings are other resident birds around. In July the reservoir transform in to an abode of migratory birds, mainly, open billed Storks, pond Heron, Egrets and Cormorants. Butterflies are abundant during monsoon and post monsoon months…
  • WS Debrigarh

    InformationSatellite View
    Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary, an important site for in-situ conservation of wildlife and its habitat in the state of Odisha is home to an immense array of biodiversity, over 40 species of mammals, 234 species of birds, 41 species of reptiles, 12 species of amphibians, 42 species of fishes, 39 species of odonates, 85 species of butterflies and 38 species of spiders and extremely important in the national context because of significant population of Schedule-I species like Leopard, Indian Gaur and Four-horned Antelope. The fauna includes Indian leopard, Indian elephant, sambar, chital, and gaur.
  • WS Hadgarh

    InformationSatellite View
    The sanctuary lies in the catchment of Salandi river, a major tributary of the river Baitarani. Besides the Salandi river, the other perennial and seasonal streams are Mukta stream, Ghagara stream, Pitanau stream, Andheri stream, Suranga stream, Chakratirtha stream and Bentokholi stream.
  • WS Kapilasa

    InformationSatellite View
    Important fauna include Asian elephant, Bengal fox, Golden jackal, Gray langur, Indian crested porcupine, Indian giant squirrel,[9] Indian peafowl, Sambar deer, Striped hyena, Wild boar,[5][7] and various varieties of birds, lizards etc.
  • WS Karlapat

    InformationSatellite View
    This sanctuary is home to many wildlife species like tiger, leopard, sambar, nilgai, barking deer, mouse deer, a wide variety of birds like green munia, Great Eared-nightjar and various reptiles.
  • WS Kondakameru

    InformationSatellite View
    It covers an area of 430 km², mostly small hills and valleys. It is in the Eastern Highlands moist deciduous forests ecoregion. The major plant communities are mixed deciduous forests and scrublands.
  • WS Kuldiha

    InformationSatellite View
    Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the district of Balasore in the state of Orissa. The forests of the region cover the Nato hills and the Sukhupata hills merging with the Similipal National Park…
  • WS Saptasajya

    InformationSatellite View
    The Saptasajya Wildlife Sanctuary (alternatively, Saptasajya Reserve Forest) is a relatively small protected forest reserve of 20 km2 (8 sq mi) in the Chota Nagpur Plateau region. It is a mixed deciduous forest dominated by the Sal tree.It got officially recognized as a sanctuary in 1970. The fauna mainly consists of wild goats, buffaloes, cows, leopard and a variety of birds.
  • WS TR Satkosia Gorge

    InformationSatellite View
    Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 1976, with an area of 796 km². Saktosia Tiger Reserve was designated in 2007, and comprises the Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjacent Baisipalli Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Shishir - Born to be Free

    Last update September 2014 - My blog is about nature, environment and wildlife - I am an agriculturist by profession.Photography is my passion and bird watching is my hobby. I am a nature lover work for nature conservation.

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