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Top 5 Bird Sanctuaries in India

by James Wilmshurst

When you think of an excellent birdwatching destination, India may not immediately spring to mind. But, in the shadow of the better-known big game, there is an astounding variety of birdlife to be found all over the country. Here’s our pick of 5 of the top bird sanctuaries in India:

1. Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Kerala

A Grey Hornbill on a branch of a tree in Thattekad bird sanctuary

A Grey Hornbill keeping watch

In the southern state of Kerala you’ll find Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, one of the most important birding destinations in India. An evergreen, lowland forest described by eminent ornithologist Salim Ali as the ‘richest bird habitat of peninsular India,’ you’ll find hundreds of rare and endemic species around the park.

With ETG you can explore the area with village walks, bicycle trips and kayaking on the lakes. Experiences will range from early morning to late evening and change depending on the weather. To really immerse yourself in the lush natural surroundings, we’d recommend staying at the nearby Hornbill Camp, twenty tent-houses that lie just across the river.

2. Chambal Sanctuary

On the Chambal river at the tripoint between Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, lies the Chambal Sanctuary. This area was demarcated to protect several critically endangered marine species, including the gharial, river dolphin and red-crowned roof turtle. The area is also however listed as an important bird area as it is also home to over 320 species of resident and migratory birds, many of which are vulnerable: the Indian skimmer, Pallas’s fish eagle and the sarus crane to name a few. While staying at the fantastic Chambal Safari Lodge, you can also experience remote village life in the surrounding hamlets and watch low key puja ceremonies on the small, atmospheric ghats.

3. Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Greater Spotted Eagle flying above Satpura National Park with its wings outstreched

A Greater Spotted Eagle keep watch over Satpura

The picturesque Satpura National Park makes a spectacular birdwatching destination. In addition to the big mammals, of which there are plenty, there are abundant eagles, herons, kites and buzzards to name just a few – you can see the full, lengthy list of species on their website. Until recently, it was almost unknown as a tourist destination; today, with only 3 lodges across the park, a visit is still invariably quiet and serene, creating the ideal location to spot unusual aviary life. You can explore the park by boat, jeep safari or walks – which is unique to a national park in India.

4. Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Rajasthan

A remarkable bird sanctuary near Agra, Bharatpur sits on the north-south avian migration route. As such, it is considered one of the best water bird sanctuaries in the world. It attracts over 400 species, but it is perhaps most famous for being the home of the rare Siberian crane. In the park, you can walk, ride bicycles or take a rickshaw or boat.

5. Ranganathittu, Karnataka

birds fishing in Ranganathittu bird sanctuary in karnataka

Painted Storks looking for fish in Ranganathittu bird sanctuary

The largest bird sanctuary in Karnataka, Ranganathittu makes a fantastic day trip from Mysore or Bangalore. Its landscape is unusual in that its comprised of a series of islands and islets, so you travel around by boat. A ranger can guide you through the park and point out the many migratory bird species.

Shout-outs for incredible birdlife also go to Jim Corbett National Park and Kaziranga National Park. It’s also worth noting that birdwatching opportunities aren’t just restricted to national parks. Areas like Kerala, Karnataka and Rajasthan team with a variety of birds as well states further afield like Gujurat, Assam and Orissa.  Pangot & Vanghat in Uttarakhand are the pick of the bunch for ETG though.

If you’d like to chat about birdwatching or other wildlife opportunities on your trip to India, please do get in touch on 020 3627 3086 or request a call back here. To see examples of birding itineraries check out our South and North India birding options. 


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