India Bird Watching

Top 10 Bird Watching Destinations & Sanctuaries in India

• Number of Important Bird Areas(IBA) in India : 467
• Number of Ramsar Sites : 25
• Number of Bird Species Recorded in India : Around 1300 bird species – both residential and migrant.
• Number of Endemic Birds in India : 53 bird species

India is home to more than 1300 species of birds and the varied ecosystems, at different altitudes, moreover provide a huge variety in birding opportunities.

Every State in India has amazing birding areas, this also extends to certain cities as well and their outskirts.

The number of Endemics is high, and at certain places such as in the South of India and the Andaman-Nicobar Islands, there are a huge variety of local endemics.

We take a look at the 10 Birding Hotspots in India and some of the species which one can find there :

1. Western Ghats & Nilgiri Mountains - South India:

In Peninsular India, primarily comprising of the Southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala & Tamil Nadu lie the Western Ghats – India’s oldest mountain range and one of the most biogeographically rich places in the world. It’s biomass goes toe to toe with that of the Amazon and species diversity is similar.

Demarcated by the Deccan plateau of Central India on its Northern Side, the habitat of the Western Ghats consists of Tropical Rainforests, Deciduous Forests, Shola Grasslands, Scrub Forests as well as Montane Forests.

There are 22 endemic species in Southern India.

Key Birding Spots in South India:

• Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary – Goa
• Nagarhole National Park – Karnataka
• Thattekad Bird Sanctuary – Kerala
• Erivakulum National Park – Kerala
• Munnar – Kerala
• Valparai – Tamil Nadu
• Top Slip – Tamil Nadu
• Ooty – Tamil Nadu

Key Birds of South India:

• Black-chinned Laughingthrush or Nilgiri Laughingthrush
• Wayanad Laughingthrush
• Nilgiri Blue Robin
• White Bellied Blue Robin
• Nilgiri Flycatcher
• White Bellied Blue Flycatcher
• Nilgiri Wood Pigeon
• Black & Orange Flycatcher
• Nilgiri Flycatcher
• White-bellied Treepie
• Malabar Grey Hornbill
• Malabar Parakeet
• Nilgiri Thrush
• Yellow Throated Bulbul
• Flame Throated Bulbul
• Square-tailed Bulbul
• White Browed Bulbul
• Broad-tailed Grassbird
• Grey Headed Bulbul
• Malabar Barbet
• White-cheeked Barbet
• Malabar Lark
• Malabar Woodshrike
• Southern Hill Myna
• Blyth’s Starling
• Heard-spotted Woodpecker
• Grey Junglefowl
• Indian Blue Robin

2. Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a cluster of 300 or so islands located in the Bay of Bengal. It lies in the South-East direction relative to India, to the West of Myanmar.

Though the archipelago has numerous islands, around 90% are uninhabited, and tropical rainforests cover the majority of these areas in addition to the long coastlines – literally a paradise for wildlife.

It is definitely one the most interesting places for birders around the world as it is home to 27 endemic bird species and subspecies along with 250 or so of the remaining species here, providing ample opportunities for an excellent birding itinerary.

At present, access is only permitted at a few places on the Islands, most of it is the Andamans. Hence, it may be agreed that there are species waiting to be discovered or recorded here still.

Key Birds of Andaman and Nicobar:

• Narcondam Hornbill
• Sunda Teal
• Nicobar Scrubfowl
• Hume’s Hawk Owl
• Andaman Woodpecker
• Andaman Hawk Owl
• Andaman Scops Owl
• Great Nicobar Serpent Eagle
• Andaman Wood Pigeon
• Andaman Crake
• Nicobar Drongo
• White-headed Starling
• Andaman Treepie
• Andaman Coucal or Brown Coucal
• Edible Nest Swiftlet
• Andaman Green Pigeon
• Nicobar Sparrowhawk
• Andaman Masked Owl
• Nicobar Parakeet
• Andaman Shama
• Andaman Flowerpecker
• Andaman Cuckooshrike
• Nicobar Bulbul

3. Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary – North East India:

Ask any birder in India which their dream destination for bird-watching is, and a unanimous cry will be “Eaglenest”!

Made popular with the recent discovery of the Bugun Liochichla in 2006 – an endemic bird of Eaglenest aptly named after the local Bugun tribe.

Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary located in Arunachal Pradesh is contiguous with 02 other Tiger Reserves and it’s relative isolation with a low population distribution has ensured that it remains as one of India’s last large pristine forest stretches.

Fire Tailed Myzornis

These forest tracts also form precious Wild Elephant Corridors, hence one has to be weary while walking at Eaglenest.

The accessible birding areas lie between 500m – 2800m above sea-level covering a range of habitats from Lowland Evergreen Forest, Temperate broad-leaved Forest, Bamboo, Coniferous and Scrub.

Close to 500 species are recorded here and it has been declared an Important Bird Area(IBA).

Key Birds of Eaglenest:

• Bugun Liocichla - endemic
• Blyth’s Tragopan
• Temminck’s Tragopan
• Snow Partridge
• Ward’s Trogon
• Fire-tailed Myzornis
• Beautiful Nuthatch
• Grandala
• Hodgson’s Frogmouth
• Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler
• Chestnut-breasted Partridge
• Winter Wren
• Bar-winged Wren Babbler
• Long-billed Wren Babbler
• Rufous-throated Wren Babbler
• Pygmy Wren Babbler
• Rufous-necked Hornbill
• Wreathed Hornbill
• Yellow-rumped Honeyguide
• Bhutan Laughingthrush

4. Mishmi Hills – North East India:

Located in the Eastern Himalayas, gently rising from 200m in the floodplains of the snow-fed Dibang River(one of the main tributaries of the Brahmaputra River), to the foothills of the Shivalik mountains at around 1200m, all the way up to meet the snowy reaches at 5000m above sea level.

Fire Tailed Myzornis

This range stretches eastwards from Arunachal Pradesh into China where it further continue in an alien land, where species are yet being discovered.

The forest types range from Tropical Evergreen, Tropical Semi-evergreen, Sub-tropical broad-leaved, Sub-tropical Alpine, Temperate broad-leaved, Temperate Conifer, Alpine Meadow, Bamboo, Sub-alpine Woody Shrub and of course Grasslands.

Fire Tailed Myzornis

Around 600 bird species are recorded here including the endemic Mishmi Wren Babbler.

Key Birds of Mishmi Hills:

• Mishmi Wren Babbler – endemic
• Hodgson’s Frogmouth
• Chevron-breasted Wren Babbler or Cachar Wedge-billed Wren Babbler or Wedge-billed Wren Babbler
• Sclater’s Monal
• Ward’s Trogon
• Blyth’s Tragopan
• Temminck’s Tragopan
• Marsh Babbler
• Fire-tailed Myzornis
• Black-breasted Parrotbill
• Jerdon’s Babbler
• Bengal Florican
• Long-billed Wren Babbler
• Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler
• Bar-winged Wren Babbler
• Pygmy Wren Babbler
• Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler
• Purple Cochoa
• Green Cochoa
• Rufous-necked Hornbill
• Hill-blue Flycatcher
• Beautiful Nuthatch
• Pale-capped Pigeon

5. Maguri Beel Wetland – North East India:

Maguri Beel is a large wetland in Assam formed by the meeting of two tributaries of the River Brahmaputra : The Lohit & Dibru Rivers. It is the gateway to the Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere and an IBA(Important Bird Area) of the World.

A “Beel” is a local word for ‘lake’ & “Maguri” the word for ‘catfish’. It is an area steeped in fishing culture, sadly due to overfishing, the catfish do not survive here today. However, that does not deter the thousands of birds which gather here. It is an important winter migratory ground for several waders and home to various grassland species as well as resident waders.

One drifts calmly on the paddle-boats here as you silently make your way across the marshy lake looking at grassland birds, raptors and the waders galore.

Key Birds of Maguri Beel:

• Baikal Teal
• Falcated Duck
• Eurasian Curlew
• Bar-headed Goose
• Baer’s Pochard
• Ferruginous Duck
• Baikal Bush Warbler
• Jerdons Babbler
• Marsh Babbler
• Striated Babbler
• Chestnut-capped Babbler
• Yellow-bellied Prinia
• Black-throated Parrotbill
• Swamp Francolin
• Bluethroat
• Striated Grassbird
• Pied Harrier
• Hen Harrier
• Pheasant-tailed Jacana
• Bronze-winged Jacana

6. Nameri National Park – North East India:

Contiguous with the Pakke Tiger Reserve to its North, Nameri National Park is a biodiversity haven at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas of Assam.

The glacier-fed Jio-Bhoreli River runs through the park, its sediment and fresh water supply breathing life into the area.

Nameri is a Tropical Evergreen Forest and Semi-evergreen Forest interspersed with Moist Deciduous Forests and Grasslands formed by the rivers which drain their waters here.

You find Cane & Bamboo patches inside the forest, which are home to a huge variety of wildlife.

Nameri is definitely one the birding hotspots of India, and there are nearly 400 bird species to be found here.

Key Birds of Nameri:

• White-winged Wood Duck
• Ibisbill
• Wreathed Hornbill
• Rufous-necked Hornbill
• Blyth’s Kingfisher
• Blue-eared Kingfisher
• Crested Kingfisher
• Ruddy Kingfisher
• Green Cochoa
• Ferruginous Duck
• Pallas’ Fish Eagle
• Long-billed Plover
• Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher
• Daurean Redstart
• Black Baza
• Jerdon’s Baza
• Pied Falconet
• Oriental Hobby
• Amur Falcon
• Blue-naped Pitta
• Slender-billed Oriole

7. The Sundarbans – East India

The Sundarbans is the largest delta in the world. Here, the 02 mightiest rivers of India - Brahmaputra & Ganges - along with the river Meghna, drain their waters into the Bay of Bengal thus creating the world’s largest mangrove forest and a biodiversity hotspot.

The word “Sundarbans” comes from the mangrove species Heritiera minor locally known as Sundari. This habitat is made up of 56 islands of mangrove forest which harbours countless species whose behaviour is rooted in the tidal patterns of the area.

Not only a home for wildlife, the Sundarbans delta also provides for almost 4 million people of West Bengal, many of whom visit the forest daily for firewood and honey collection. Accounts of conflict with man-eating Royal Bengal Tigers are chilling and it gives the otherwise gentleman-like tiger, a notorious reputation.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Tiger Reserve and an Important Bird Area of the World : over 300 bird species, 40 mammal species, 35 Reptiles Species & 08 amphibian species have been recorded here in these 10000 sq.km of forest.

Key Birds of Sundarbans:

• Masked Finfoot
• Mangrove Whistler
• Mangrove Pitta
• Spoonbill Sandpiper
• Collared Kingfisher
• Brown-Winged Kingfisher
• Black Capped Kingfisher
• Ruddy Kingfisher
• Stork-billed Kingfisher
• Greater Adjutant
• Black-necked Stork
• Buffy Fish Owl
• White-bellied Sea Eagle
• Pallas’ Fish Eagle
• Whimbrel

8. Pangot, Nainital and Sattal– North India

In the foothills of the West-Central Himalayas lies the Kumaon region, made famous in the writings of the legendary Tiger Books of Jim Corbett.

Part of the Shivalik range, Sattal, Nainital and Pangot are at an altitude close to 2000m above sea-level is covered with Rhododenron, Pine & Oak forests, home to over 250 Himalayan bird species – a sea of tranquil and a paradise for bird watchers.

Ibisbill Mann

Sattal literally translated to “Sat”(Seven) “Tal”(Lakes) – a confluence of 7 freshwater lakes from the Himalayan Mountains – beautiful spectacle.

These stunning forests in the state of Uttarakhand provide great birdwatching opportunities with stunning landscapes both rural and wild.

Key Birds of Pangot, Nainital and Sattal:

• Cheer Pheasant
• Koklass Pheasant
• Chukar Partridge
• Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture
• Himalayan Griffon
• Black-headed Jay
• Rufous-bellied Woodpecker
• Brown-fronted Woodpecker
• Himalayan Woodpecker
• Grey-headed Woodpecker
• Greater Yellownape
• Lesser Yellownape
• Speckled Piculet
• Bar-tailed Treecreeper
• White-tailed Nuthatch
• Slaty-headed Parakeet
• White-browed Shrike Babbler
• Blue-winged Minla or Blue-winged Siva
• Rufous-bellied Niltava
• Hill Partridge
• Chestnut-headed Laughingthrush
• White-throated Laughingthrush
• Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush
• Black-throated Tit
• Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler
• Black-chinned Babbler
• Green-tailed Sunbird
• Mrs.Gould’s Sunbird
• Maroon Oriole
• Slaty-backed Forktail
• Spotted Forktail
• Brown Dipper

9. Little Rann of Kutch – West India

A vast 5000 sq km expanse of arid and muddy salt-flats, inland from the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat, lies the Little Rann of Kutch – part of a geographical landscape which over 66 million years ago was a part of the Arabian Sea.

It gets its name as it is a southern extension of the larger salt marsh which is the Greater Rann of Kutch, however the protected areas of the Little Rann of Kutch are ecological hotspots and extremely fruitful birdwatching area for spotting Raptors, Waders and several species of ground birds.

Fire Tailed Myzornis

The Little Rann of Kutch until many centuries ago had large tracts of estuarine saline water, however over time through excessive silting by its seasonal rivers caused as a result of tectonic movements, it now lies as a semi-barren and unique ecological landscape which floods briefly during the monsoons and transforms itself into a marshland in which the resident and migratory bird species revel.

There are around 300 bird species recorded here, 42 species of mammals including the endemic Indian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur)which can be found in the area of Dasada.

Key Birds of Little Rann of Kutch:

• Short-eared Owl
• Greater Hoopoe-Lark
• Lesser Flamingo
• Cream-coloured Courser
• McQueen’s Bustard or Houbara Bustard
• Crested Lark
• Greater Short toed Lark
• Indian Courser
• Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
• Greater Flamingo
• Sociable Lapwing
• White-tailed Lapwing
• Variable Wheatear
• Syke’s Lark
• Collared Pratincole
• Demoiselle Crane
• Pied Avocet
• Red Necked Phalarope
• Spotted Sangrouse
• Marsh Harrier
• Pallid Harrier
• Montagu’s Harrier
• Peregrine Falcon
• Greater Spotted Eagle

10. Keoladeo National Park –North West India

India’s most famous bird watching site has been Keoladeo – Ghana National Park or Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.

This small wetland of 29 sq.km provides feeding and nesting grounds to over 400 bird species, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ramsar Site as well as an IBA(Important Bird Area).

This former hunting ground and now protected habitat consists of Scrub forest, Savanna grassland and large Wetlands with naturally constructed earthen mounds to provide perching spots for the thousands of birds which feed on the varieties of fish, invertebrates and aquatic plant species in the rain and Yamuna river-fed waters of the wetlands.

The misty winters and the breaking sunlight are a birdwatcher and photographer’s dream and lacs of birders and photography enthusiasts visit the birdwatching shrine that is Bharatpur each year.

An array of waterbirds, waders, ground birds and raptors – Bharatpur has something for every nature lover.

Key Birds of Bharatpur:

• Sarus Crane
• Indian Courser
• Siberian Rubythroat
• Demoiselle Crane
• Dusky Eagle Owl
• Marsh Harrier
• Pallid Harrier
• Greater Spotted Eagle
• Imperial Eagle
• Common Crane
• Dalmation Pelican
• Rosy Pelican
• Great-white Pelican
• Spot-billed Pelican
• Greater-painted Snipe
• Black Bittern
• Painted Stork
• Woolly-necked Stork
• Eurasian Spoonbill
• Glossy Ibis
• Bar-headed Goose
• Comb Duck or Knob-billed Duck
• Tufted Duck
• Ferruginous Duck
• Black-tailed Godwit
• Ruff
• Pheasant-tailed Jacana
• Bronze-winged Jacana
• Brown Crake
• White-tailed Lapwing
• Marshall’s Iora
• Large-tailed Nightjar
• Collared Scops Owl

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