At least 10 nests of the highly endangered white-bellied sea eagles have been sighted in Orissa’s Bhitarkanika National Park.

While four nests were sighted in the Bagagahana area of the park, about 170 km from the capital Bhubaneswar, the others were spotted in the Eakakula and Barahamundia areas, divisional forest officer Ajay Kumar Jena said.

“Although in previous years we had sighted the nests of white-bellied sea eagles in the park, they were restricted to four. This is the first time that such a large number of nests have been spotted,” Jena told IANS.

Last year, forest officials had rescued an injured fledgling of the species from a nest at Eakakula, treated its wounds and then released it.

Each female white-bellied sea eagle lays two eggs at a time and fledglings take about a month to emerge from the eggs. The bird can spread its wings up to a distance of seven feet and local people call it ‘Kurabala’, or the king of birds.

Other rare and endangered birds like the brahminy kite also nest on tall trees near riverbanks and creeks within Bhitarkanika. “Spoonbills and black-necked storks have also been sighted on a few occasions in the Gahiramatha coast and the Habalapatia areas of the sanctuary.”

Orissa has three prominent bird habitats – Bhitarkanika, Nalabana Island in the Chilika Lake, about 100 km from here, and the Nandankanan botanical garden on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar.

Migratory birds rush to these locations during winter but they never nest. However, local birds gather in the first week of July and stay up to September every year if the weather is conducive.

The Bhitarkanika sanctuary is also known for its estuarine crocodiles and as a rookery of Olive Ridley sea turtles.