Odisha forest officials have sighted 179 mangrove pitta birds in the first ever census conducted of these exotic and colourful birds in the country.

The habitats of these beautiful birds are confined to mangrove forest areas in Odisha's Bhitarkanika and Sundarban in West Bengal.

The census was carried out for the first time in the country to study the population analysis of these birds, said Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division, Goipnath Sudarshan Yadav.

Of the wetland sites in Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary covered for the census, the enumerators sighted the highest number of these birds in Mahipura river mouth in the national park area.

Mangrove pitta are colourful birds which have black head with brown crown, white throat, greenish upper parts, buff under-parts and reddish vent area. It is found in mangrove forests where it feeds on crustaceans, mollusks and insects, he said.

"The objective of the census is to record the growth pattern of these birds. These birds are yet to be conferred endangered category. The census in the coming years could throw light whether these feathered species are threatened", Yadav said.