You have been travelling across the country all these years, going places after places, visiting hill stations, beaches, lakes and waterfalls. But have you paid some attention to the chirp and flutter of the feathered friends? Have you listened to the beautiful song of a cuckoo and responded to it with a return-song? It is time to wake up the curious bird watcher within you. It is time to visit the amazing bird sanctuaries in India.
Must-Visit Bird Sanctuaries in India
Birds are there everywhere you go, but if you want to see an abundance of avian life, you have to go to their natural habitats. India is an “Ornithologist’s Paradise” gifted with so many incredible bird sanctuaries, which are the most favorite destinations of the bird watchers all over the world. Each bird sanctuary is an abode of thousands of resident and migratory birds, which give a great treat to your eyes. Here is a list of 6 must-visit bird sanctuaries in India that will bring you closer to nature.
1. Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary – a Perfect Spot for Bird Lovers
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, also known as Keoladeo Ghana National Park, located in the state of Rajasthan, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the incredible bird sanctuaries in India. Once a duck shooting preserve of Maharajas of Bharatpur since the 1850s, it was declared as a bird sanctuary in 1976. Spread over an area of 29 Sq.km, its wetlands are popular wintering areas for thousands of migratory birds, including water fowls and the endangered Siberian cranes, which come from as far as Siberia and Central Asia. Considered as one of the richest bird areas in the world, this sanctuary is a home to more than 350 species of resident and migratory birds, including Cranes, Storks, Pelicans, Spoonbills, Herons, Moorhens, Ducks, Sandpipers, Egrets, Geese, Hawks, Warblers, Bee eaters, Bulbuls and Eagles.
You can use cycle rickshaws run by trained guides or go by boat or explore on foot to enjoy bird watching and will never feel desperate because birds are available in abundance. The park is open from sunrise to sunset. October to March is the best time to visit when the migrant birds join the resident birds. Bharatpur railway station is 5 km away from the sanctuary. Delhi and Jaipur international airports are 180 km away and Agra domestic terminal is 55 km away.
2. Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary – Spend a Nice Weekend in Nature’s Lap
If you are planning to spend your weekend in a quiet place in a relaxed manner, then Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary shall be the best choice. Located at Gurgaon district in Haryana, it is one of the pristine bird sanctuaries in India, and an ideal place to watch birds, relax and learn. The lake around which the park is built gets water from Yamuna River throughout the year. Spread over an area of 1.43 Sq.km, it is a home to more than 250 species of resident and migratory birds. During winter, hundreds of species of migratory birds visit here from Siberia, Afghanistan, and many European countries. Siberian Cranes, Common Teal, Black winged Stilt, Greater Flamingo, Ruff, Common Greenshank, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Rosy Pelican, etc., are some of them. Resident birds include Purple Sunbird, Common Hoopoe, Painted stork, Little Cormorant, Paddy field Pipit, Common Spoonbill, Egret, White-throated Kingfisher and many others.
Walking around the park you can watch the birds and click some wonderful photographs for your album. There are four watchtowers to view the rich avian population and an interpretation center to learn more about them. October to February is the ideal time to visit, when the area will be crowded with a large number of migratory birds. It is 50 km from Delhi and 15 km from Gurgaon in the Gurgaon-Farukh Nagar Road. Nearest rail head and airport are at New Delhi.
3. Chilika Bird Sanctuary – a True Heaven of Birds in the Brackish Lagoon
Chilika Lake located near Puri in Orissa is the largest salt water lake in Asia and a paradise for bird lovers. This pear shaped lake is spread across 1100 Sq. km and is studded with a number of small islands of favorite tourist spots, including Breakfast Island, Honeymoon Island, Birds Island, Nalabana, etc. It is one of the best bird sanctuaries in India and the largest wintering grounds for migratory birds coming from Siberia, Russia, Mangolia, Caspian Sea, Aral Sea, Central and South-East Asia and Himalayas. It is a home to over 160 species of birds including White bellied Sea Eagles, Flamingos, Brahminy kites, Spot billed Pelican, Purple Moorhen, Spoonbill, Gray lag Geese and Herons. It is one of the world’s largest breeding grounds of flamingos. Chilika Lake is one of the only two lagoons in the world where the famous Irrawaddy dolphin is found; the other one is Songkhla in Thailand.
Boating in the serene water of Chilika Lake, watching the colorful world of birds and visiting the exciting attractions of nearby islands will be a memorable experience. October to March will be the ideal time to watch migratory birds. The nearest airport is Bhubaneswar at 120 km away from the Lake, from where buses and taxis are available. Nearest railway station is 5 km away at Balugaon in the Howrah-Chennai route.
4. Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary – a Fairy Land of Feathered Friends
Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary in Ahmedabad, measuring 123 Sq. km, is one of the largest bird sanctuaries in India and an ideal wintering ground for a large number of migratory birds. It was declared a “Ramsar Convention Site” in 2012 considering the international significance of its wetlands. Thousands of migratory birds from Siberia, Europe and Central Asia arrive here to spend winter. Over 250 species of birds are seen here, two third of which are waterfowls. Some of them are Rosy Pelicans, Dalmatian Pelicans, White Storks, Lesser and Greater Flamingos, Purple Moorhen, Brahminy ducks, Herons, Sandpipers, Crakes and Egrets. It is a thrilling experience to have a boating trip through the shallow and quiet water of the lake in the early morning and coming face to face with the flocks of flamingos, pelicans and ducks.
Boatmen and guides will guide you through the best spots of birds and many attractive islets in the lake. Other than bird watching, you can enjoy horse riding at the lake side. An Interactive interpretation center provides information on different species of birds in the sanctuary. November to February is the ideal time to visit. Nearest railway station and airport are at Ahmedabad at about 60 km from the Lake.
5. Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary – a Backwater Journey to Bliss
If you want to experience the magnificence of natural beauty and exotic avian life, you should visit Kumarakom Bird sanctuary in Kerala. Located at 13 km from Kottayam and spread across merely 14 acres on the banks of Vembanad Lake and Kavanar River, Kumarakom is one of the most beautiful bird sanctuaries in India. With lush green vegetation dominated by mangrove trees, paddy field and coconut groves, Kumarakom provides an excellent abode for resident and migratory birds. Local birds like cuckoo, heron, egret, darter, moorhen, Brahminy kite, kingfishers, water fowls, etc., and the migratory birds like Siberian crane, lark, fly catcher, teal bird, etc., are the main attractions of the sanctuary. Migratory birds come here from as far as Siberia and Himalayas.
You can enjoy a boat ride through the tranquil waters of Vembanad Lake and watch the birds closely. Early morning is the best time to watch the birds. November to February is the best season to watch a large number of migratory birds. You can also have a boat ride to nearby Pathiramanal Island, which is a home to rare varieties of migratory birds. Kottayam is the nearest rail head at 14 km away, from where buses, auto rickshaws or taxis can be used to reach Kumarakom. Cochin international airport is at 106 km away.
6. Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary – the “Pakshi Kashi of Karnataka”
Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary, located 3 km away from the famous town Srirangapatna in Karnataka, comprises of six islets on the banks of Kaveri River and covers an area of 0.67 Sq.km. Declared as a bird sanctuary in 1940, Ranganthittu attracts about 3 lakhs visitors annually and is considered as one of the most visited bird sanctuaries in India. It is a home to more than 170 species of birds. During winter months, thousands of migratory birds arrive here from Siberia, Australia, Latin America and different parts of the world. Colorful birds like Painted stork, Egrets, Heron, Ibis, Snake bird, River Tern, Spoonbill, Pelicans, Darters, Streak throated Swallows, etc., are the great attractions of tourists.
Take a boat ride and the expert oarsmen will take you to the six small islands and the popular locations where flocks of birds are spotted in abundance. Other than birds you can also see a large number of crocodiles sunning themselves on small rocks. Best season of the sanctuary is from November to June. Visiting time of the bird sanctuary is from 8.30 am to 6 pm. Mysore is the nearest airport at 19 km away. Bangalore international airport is 125 km away. Nearest rail head is Srirangapatna at 3 km away.
Before you start your trip to any bird sanctuary, do not forget to carry a good pair of binoculars, a good camera and a ‘Field Guide’ showing pictures of birds and tips to identify them. The world of birds is quite amazing; explore it and add colorful wings to your dreams.