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Location India, Orissa
Central coordinates 87o 0.00' East  20o 45.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 81,700 ha
Altitude 0 - 50m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary (67,200 ha) and Bhitarkanika National Park (14,500 ha), located on the eastern coast, together represent one of India’s finest mangrove forests. The area was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1975 to protect the Estuarine or Saltwater crocodile Crocodylus porosus (Kar and Bustard 1981, 1990) but later it was also found to be a haven for birds (Pandav 1996). The Sanctuary has a coastline of 35 km on its eastern side known as the Gahirmatha coast, and is surrounded by the rivers Brahmani, Baitarani and their tributaries on the other three sides. The area is laden with alluvial silt brought down by the rivers and deposited in deltaic areas by regular tidal inundation. The vegetation is characterised by vast stretches of Phoenix paludosa. Pure formations of tree species such as Heritiera fomes, Excoecaria agallocha, Avicennia officinalis and A. marina occur in the Sanctuary. Other dominant tree species are Sonneratia apetala, Amoora cucullata, Cynometra iripa, Rhizophora mucronata and R. apiculata.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Baer's Pochard Aythya baeri winter  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis resident  2004  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni passage  2004  present  A1  Least Concern 
Pallas's Fish-eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Indian Vulture Gyps indicus non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa winter  2004  present  A4i  Near Threatened 
Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Bhitarkanika National Park 14,500 protected area contained by site 14,500  
Bhitarkanika Sanctuary 67,200 protected area contained by site 52,500  
Bhitarkanika Mangroves Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 65,000 protected area contained by site 65,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   -
Coastline   -
Wetlands (inland)   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism and recreation

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Bivash Pandav and Biswajit Mohanty.


Ali, S. and Ripley, S. D. (1987) Compact Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan (Second Edition). Oxford University Press, Delhi.

Dani, C. S. (1992) A checklist of birds of Orissa. Wildlife Wing, Forest Department, Government of Orissa.

Das, C. S. and Kar, S. K. (1990) The turtle paradise - Gahirmatha. Interprint, New Delhi.

Kar, S. (1991) Checklist of birds in the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Orissa. Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 31 (11&12): 3-6.

Kar, S. K. and Bustard, H. R. (1981) Status of the Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus Schneider) in the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Orissa, India. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 86(2): 141-150.

Kar, S. K. and Bustard, H. R. (1990) Results of a Pilot restocking of Saltwater Crocodiles Crocodylus porosus Schneider in Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Orissa. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 87: 195-200.

Pandav, B. (1996) Birds of Bhitarkanika mangroves, eastern India. Forktail (12): 9-20.

Subramanya, S. (1996) Distribution, status and conservation of Indian heronries. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 93(3): 459-486.

Wetlands International (2002). Waterbird Population Estimates - Third Edition. Wetlands International Global Series No. 12, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park. Downloaded from on 22/10/2014

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