A Flying Soiree: Bird Watching Tours in India
Photo credit: Björn Ognibeni - flickr
Bird watching is one of the most fascinating hobbies that has gained momentum over the years and has now become a great source of recreation for many. Previously limited only to the developed countries, this hobby is now fondly practised across the globe.
Since India is incredibly rich in its fauna and flora, it offers some wonderful birding opportunities. The favourable birding circumstances present here attract a lot of locals as well as tourists from all parts of the world. A home to a lot of rare and enchanting species, the following is a list of places that provide kaleidoscopic sights of the feathered beauties.
1. Pong Dam, Himachal Pradesh
Photo credit: Sankara Subramanian - flickr
The Maharana Pratap Sagar Dam also called as Pong dam is well-known for its migratory birds and is situated at a distance of 50 km from Pathankot.
Here, 220 bird species belonging to 54 families have been recorded so far and tens of thousands of birds swarm around the dam area throughout the year. Ruddy-shelducks, bar-headed geese, mallards, coots, Pochards, Pintails, rare red-necked Grebe and Gulls are the most frequented species to this dam.
Photo credit: Sankara Subramanian - flickr
These species come from as far as China, Siberia, Central Asia, Pakistan and Ladakh. In the seasons of summer and spring, Terns and Pratincoles visit this dam and leave the spectators totally mesmerised. In the winter season, the world famous bar headed geese and northern lapwing stage here in exponential numbers.
[Visit some of the picturesque and pleasing landscape with our Malana Village Trek tour]
The pong lake which was artificially created in the year 1970, harbours a huge variety of water birds including ducks, cranes, egrets, shorebirds, gulls and thousands of Bar-headed Geese. This blessed lake also raises the globally endangered Indian Skimmer breed and attracts passionate nature lovers around the globe. Apart from this, the lake nurses 27 species of fish and act as its spawning ground.
2. Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh
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The Tirthan valley is located at a distance of 100 km from Manali and is the base point to visit the Great Himalayan National Park. Around 200 species of birds are recorded in this valley that also include the endangered Western Tragopan, Cheer pheasant, Monal and Koklas.
[Indulge in some adventure sports on our tour exploring Dharamshala and Manali]
In the mornings, yellow-billed blue magpies and brown dippers can be easily spotted. Also found are the Asian brown and paradise flycatchers, jungle mynas, Asian barred owlets and common kestrels. While returning, a downstream walk along the river Tirthan can please your senses. Moreover, the panoramic view of the entire landscape will leave you fascinated.
3. Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh
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Dharamsala is 18 kilometres away from Kangra. The Dhauladhar range present here offer opportunities for high altitude birding. Kalij and Koklass pheasants, Himalayan Monals, Himalayan Snowcocks, Snow Partridges and other well adapted species can be found here in huge numbers.
Trekking enthusiasts can go on a trek starting from Ghalu temple, leading via Triund and Ilaka up towards Indrahar pass trek at 4200 m and get a view of the wildlife.
4. Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir
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Ladakh, the isolated cold desert poses immense birding opportunities. The Suru valley, present in the heart of Kargil at an altitude 2,700m is one of the majestic sightseeing spots of the country that breeds rare species like the Long billed Bush Warbler, White-tailed Rubythroat, Fire Capped Tit, and Little Forktail.
Photo credit: shankii - flickr
Hemis National Park is another exotic location ideal for birding. Situated at 40 km southwest of Leh, this park covers an area of 600 sq km and has exceptional bird species like the Brown and White-throated Dippers, Robin Accentor, Wallcreeper, Golden Eagle, White-winged Redstart, Lammergeier and many more.
Photo credit: Noel Reynolds - flickr
[Experience the grand view of the Stock Kangri on our tour from Hemis to Stok Trek via Matho Phu]
The wetland Shey marsh, located at 7 km from Leh also has several extraordinary species that is destined to take birders to the seventh heaven. Apart from these places, there is Nubra valley, Pura valley and Tsomoriri Lake that one should cover to sight some of the rarest bird species.
This trip comprises of birding at two picturesque destinations, the Corbett National Park and the Nainital hill station. Though Corbett is primarily a tiger reserve, it is very vast and encompasses over 50 species of mammals, 530 birds and 25 reptiles that are recorded within the reserve.
Photo credit: Bodenseemann - wikicommons
This park raises a few uncommon species like the Tawny Fish owls, Crested and Stork-billed kingfishers, Himalayan Flameback, the exquisite Wall creeper and Red-billed Blue Magpie and thus attracts passionate birders who are into the most unique bird watching tours in India.
[Visit the lake district of India, Nainital, with various tours that we offer]
Nainital with its pleasant climate is one birding destination that attracts new species every year. To name a few the Brown-fronted Woodpeckers, Altai and Black-throated accentors, can be found here. Also, found are the Blue-capped Redstarts, Chestnut Thrushes, Red-fronted Serins, Vinaceous Rosefinches and Black-headed Jays.
6. Northern Region of West Bengal
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With an enormous list of Sanctuaries and National Parks, Assam and North Bengal are promising birding prospects.
The Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, located at a distance of 28 km from Bagdogra airport sprawls over 159 sq km. This place is well-known for the green imperial, pin tailed, wedge-tailed, pompadour and yellow-footed green pigeons. Also, endangered species like the fairy-bluebirds and Himalayan pied hornbills can be found here in abundance.
[Trek between Nepal and Sikkim on our Darjeeling Singalila Trek and Sikkim Tour]
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Lava and Neora Valley National Park are major birding hot spots North Bengal. The National Park is located in the Kalimpong subdivision of the beautiful Darjeeling District and covers an area of 88 sq km where the mountain hawks, black eagles, kalij pheasants, black-throated parrotbills and barwings are found. Also, shrike-babblers, yuhinas, shortwings and redstarts can be spotted easily.
Other significant birding destinations in Assam are the Nameri Tiger Reserve, Manas National Park, Kaziranga National Park, all of which are located on the foothills of Eastern Himalayas.
Photo credit: Max Grabert - flickr
The Dibru Saikhowa National Park is located at about 12 km north of Tinsukia town of Assam and covers an area of 350 sq km. More than 350 species of birds have been recorded in this park that is naturally bounded by rivers on all sides.
An entire day can be spent here watching the outstanding grasslands where Jerdon’s babbler, marsh babbler and black-breasted Parrotbill flock around the year.
Other brilliant birding destinations in Assam are the Kaziranga National Park, Digboi Oil Fields, Nameri Tiger Reserve, Manas National Park, Orang National Park and Jokai Reserve Forest.
Located in the beautiful valley of the Noa-Dihing within the Changlang District, Arunachal Pradesh is the Namdapha National Park which covers an area as vast as 2000 sq km. The high altitude of this region has gifted this park with unique species of fauna and flora that cannot be found elsewhere in the country.
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[Explore the culture, wildlife and monasteries of Assam with our Assam Holiday tour]
With 500 species of birds, bird and nature enthusiasts can also find a few endangered species like the Grey Peacock Pheasant, Red Leaded and Ward’s Trogons. A few other species found here include the Wedge-billed Wren Babbler, Snowy throated Babbler, Hill Partridges, Beautiful Nuthatch and Wreathed Hornbill.
Photo Credit: Shayon Ghosh - flickr
Sikkim, wedged between the Himalayan region of Nepal, Bhutan, and the Tibetan uplands, is a blessing to all bird enthusiasts for this region has 30% of all the bird species in the Indian Subcontinent.
With 527 species of resident birds, there are many other species of vagrants and transients that can be effortlessly spotted here. This is one of the most surreal bird watching tours in India. Its breathtaking scenery is sure to give you an experience of a lifetime.
Maenam wildlife sanctuary, located at 65 km south of Gangtok covers an area of 35sq km. It is famous for Satyr Tragopan, one of the rarest species of Pheasants found in Eastern Himalayas. The other attractive species that can be recognized here is Fire-tailed Myzornis and Brown wood owl. Additionally, this sanctuary is also home to the red panda or firefox.
[Experience elephant and jeep safari on our North East Wildlife Tour of India]
Pelling in West Sikkim is a delightful birding destination and is located at a distance of 24 Km from Kewzing. Rusty Cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Scaly Laughingthrush, Red Faced Liocichla, Fire tailed Myzornis, Scarlet Finch, Cutia, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler and many other species are found here.
The Khecheopalri Lake, located 22 km from Pelling offers engaging scenery with the star bird, Black tailed Crake getting a lot of attention.
Photo credit: Jason Thompson - flickr
Apart from these locations, one of the other popular bird watching tours in India takes place in the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in West Sikkim, Khangchendzonga National Park and the capital city of beautiful Gangtok that offer great bird watching tours in India.
In north Bengal, the Lava and Neora Valley present the sight of a few awe-inspiring species like the Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Golden breasted Fulvetta along with pygmy wren babbler, scaly breasted wren babbler, long billed Wren babbler and Rufous throated wren babbler.
9. Namdapha Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh
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Nampadha Tiger Reserve is situated on the international border between India and Myanmar within Changlang District, Arunachal Pradesh and covers a massive area of 2000 sq km.
The colourful and diverse bird species found in this National Park provides one of the best bird watching holidays in India. Spend memorable time with your family while watching the White winged Wood Ducks, a rare and endangered species, the great Indian hornbills, jungle fowls and pheasants that throng this reserve throughout the year.
10. Eaglenest, Arunachal Pradesh
The Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary located at a distance of 350 Km northwest of Guwahati, covers an area of 218 sq km. The altitudinal range here is 500 to 3200 meters. This sanctuary along with Sessa Orchid and Pakhui Sanctuary come under the East Himalayan Bird Area.
Photo credit: Soumyajit Nandy - flickr
This place is systematically organized and maintained to offer one of the best bird watching tours in India. The diverse species found here include Temminck’s and Blyth’s Tragopan, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Ward’s Trogon, Lesser and White-browed Shortwings, Beautiful Nuthatch, Wedge-billed Wren Babbler and Fire-tailed Myzornis.
11. Kaziranga National Park, Assam
A world heritage site, Kaziranga National Park, covers an area of 378 sq km and is located in the heart of Assam. The Northern & Eastern boundaries of this park are naturally formed by the Brahmaputra River and thus offer scintillating and breathtaking ambience to all the nature lovers. The incredible diversity in birds makes this destination, a highly sought after place.
[Take an eco tour of Kaziranga National Park and get in touch with nature and wildlife again]
?Photo credit: Jamieson Teo - flickr
There are several exotic species like the Collared Treepie, Green-tailed and Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Sultan Tit, Rufous-bellied and Large Niltava. Apart from that you can also catch a glimpse of the beautiful and long-tailed Sibia, Mountain Tailorbird, Abbot’s and Marsh Babblers, Great and Oriental Pied Hornbills who have a spellbinding effect on all the birders.
12. Munnar, Kerala
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A place of eternal beauty and tranquillity, Munnar has a state-of-the-art eco-system called the shoal-grassland ecosystem. A hill station located at 125 km west of Kochi, Munnar is a birding paradise housing many endemic species like the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Nilgiri Pipit, Grey Headed Bulbul, Black and Orange Flycatcher, Broad Tailed Grassbird, Crimson Backed Sunbird and the Grey Breasted Laughingthrush.
Eravikulam National Park, located at a distance of 30 km from Munnar was built to protect the endangered species, Nilgiri Tahr. It spreads over 97 sq km and is a home to an assortment of endemic birds that flock here in astonishing numbers.
Chinnar is a unique thorny scrub forest located 60 km away from Munnar and spreads over an area of 90 sq km. This Park is the second natural habit of Giant Grizzled Squirrel, an endangered species in India.
13. Thattekad, Kerala
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, also known as the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is 58 km away from Kochi and is spread across an area of 25 sq km. Named after the internationally renowned ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali, who described this place as the richest bird habit of peninsular India, this Sanctuary now takes pride in populating around 500 bird species.
Rare birds like the crimson-throated barbet, bee eater, sunbird, shrike, black winged Kite, night heron, falcon and grey jungle fowl can easily be spotted here.
[Explore the wildlife and dense forests of Kerala on our 6 day tour in Kerala]
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Kumarakom Bird sanctuary also known as Baker estate is a part of the Vembanad backwater labyrinth that is located 80 km away from Kochi. It attracts a variety of bird species including the Lesser Whistling teal, Little Cormorants, Whiskered Terns, Pond Herons, Intermediate Egrets, Indian Shag and Cattle Egrets.
Another destination that one cannot afford to miss is the Periyar National Park which has recorded more than 250 species of birds. The nearest rail junction is Kottayam. The nearest national airports are Kochi and Madurai, at a distance of 200 km 140 km respectively.
14. Topslip / Valparai, Tamil Nadu
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The Indira Gandhi National Park is located between the Anamalai Ranges of Tamil Nadu and the Nelliampathy Ranges of Kerala and comes under the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
The Topslip area, a main birding zone lies in the Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu and covers the Park as well as the Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary spanning across an area of 108 sq km and 958 sq km respectively.
Topslip also called as Valparai has many species of avifauna including the Racquet Tailed Drongo, Black Headed Oriole, Paradise Flycatcher, Whistling Thrush and the Emerald Dove.
15. Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu
The Mudumalai National Park located about 80 km Northwest of Coimbatore was created in 1940 to become the first Wildlife Sanctuary of South India.
[Spot some of the rare species of birds on our south zone birding tour]
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This area present at the foot of Nilgiris is home to over 320 species of birds, both migratory as well as sedentary and has a mixed vegetation with a combination of tropical moist deciduous, tropical dry deciduous and southern tropical thorn. Known for Grey Junglefowl, Red Spurfowl, Grey Francolin, Emerald Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon and Alpine Swift, this place is like a home for many birders for photography and sightseeing purposes.
16. Ooty, Tamil Nadu
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Ootacamund or Ooty called “the queen of hill stations” is the capital of the Nilgiris district and is located at a distance of 89 km from Coimbatore. Situated at an altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level, the soothing climate of this place attracts tourists all round the year. This site proposes to be a transfixing birding spot and is well-acclaimed for its Nilgiri Laughingthrush, White-bellied Shortwing, Black-and-Rufous, Rusty-tailed and Nilgiri Flycatchers.
17. Brahmagiri, Karnataka
The Brahmagiri wildlife sanctuary is located in the Kodagu or Coorg district and is part of the Western Ghats. Covering 181 sq km, this sanctuary has naturally flowing rivers and streams that ultimately drain into the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea.
It takes pride in housing 12 of the 16 bird species endemic to the Western Ghats like the blue-winged parakeet and small sunbird. In addition, it also breeds a variety of vulnerable species like the Oriental white-backed vulture, white-bellied shortwing and the Nilgiri wood-pigeon.
18. Bannerghatta, Karnataka
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Bannerghatta National Park is located at a distance of 22 km south of Bangalore, Karnataka. With an area of 104 sq km, this Park is a combination of dense forest and scrubland. A home to 150 species of birds, this park is excellent for scrub birding. The endemic yellow-throated bulbul is a star attraction here that never ceases to amaze the visiting birders.
[Experience bird watching and photographing them on our birding tour in Bangalore]
19. Ranganathittu, Karnataka
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Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is located in the historical town of Srirangapatna, Mandya District, Karnataka. It occupies only 67 sq km but homes incredible number of migratory waterbirds including painted storks, Asian Open bill Storks, Eurasian Spoonbills, Woolly-necked Storks, Black-headed Ibis, White Ibis, Lesser Whistling Duck and Indian Shag.
20. Nagarhole, Karnataka
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Nagarhole National Park also known as the "Rajiv Gandhi National Park” is located at a distance of 94 km from Mysore. With over 270 species of birds, this spot is meant for serious birders.
[Spot versatile birds of South India with our South zone birding tour]
Including the critically endangered and near threatened species of Oriental white-backed vulture, Greater grey headed fish eagle and Red headed vulture, this place also has an endemic variety of species. To name a few, the blue winged parakeet, Malabar grey hornbill and the white bellied treepie can easily be spotted here.
21. Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa
Bondla Wildlife sanctuary houses a plenty of the country’s rarest species like the Malabar Grey hornbills, Ruby throated bulbuls, White rumped shamas, Indian Pittas, Heart spotted woodpeckers and the Blue bearded bee-eaters.
22. Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Canacona Taluka and is celebrated for its exotic and extremely tall varieties of deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen trees. Spread over 86 sq km, this sanctuary comes with a treetop watchtower as tall as 25 metres to spot the enchanting endemics like the Grey Headed Bulbul, Great pied hornbill, Forest Eagle Owl, Blue-Bearded Bee eater and many other non-endemic species.
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[Spot endangered bird species on our tour in Goa]
Other productive Goan birding destinations are Arpora woods, Baga hill, Mayem lake, Carambolim Lake, Chorao Island, Morjim Beach, Chapora Estuary and Saigon village.
23. Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa
Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary located in Sanguem taluk, Mollem town spreads across an area of 240 sq km. This is the largest protected area of Goa and contains the Mollem National Park in it. A birding camp in this region is all you need to discover the region's distinctive avifauna like the Drongo, Emerald dove, Fairy bluebird, Golden oriole, Greater Indian hornbill, Indian black woodpecker, Malabar grey hornbill, Malabar pied hornbill, Grey-headed myna and Grey jungle fowl.
Photo Credit: Antony Grossy
24. Rann of Kutch, Gujarat
Dhrangadhra Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary situated in the Little Rann of Kutch is the last refuge of Khur, the Indian subspecies of Asiatic Wild Ass. A variety of birds that come under 300 different species can be seen in and around the Rann during winter season. Cranes and Flamingos can be seen flocking in thousands. Many rare birds like Red-naped Falcon, Sykes's Nightjar and Sociable Lapwing are also seen here.
The Great Rann of Kutch is amazingly rich in birds but most of this area is still unexplored. Waterfowls, Great Indian and MacQueen’s Bustards and about ten different species of larks are seen around the year while the Grey Hypocolius is a winter visitor.
25. Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary, Gujarat
The Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary is located about 12 km away from Jamnagar and spreads across an area of 6.05 sq km with the adjoining area falling under the Marine Sanctuary.
Photo credit: Nikunj vasoya - wikicommons
The unique assemblage of freshwater lakes formed from the drains of Ruparel and Kalindi rivers and saline creeks from the Gulf of Kutch provides microhabitat diversity to waterbirds and paves way for an exceptional eco-system that cannot be found elsewhere in the world.
Black necked Stork, Great Crested Grebe, Shikra, Lesser spotted Eagle, Black Ibis, Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite, Pheasant-tailed Jacana and Great Thick-Knee are a few of the prominent species from a total of 259 species that are documented here.
26. Gir National Park, Gujarat
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The Gir National Park encompasses 1412 sq km and is highly popular for being the last refuge of the Asiatic Lion. The park is located 65 km to the south-east of Junagadh. Housing as many as 300 lions, this park also has a high density of Leopards.
It offers an excellent sight for bird enthusiasts with unfaltering chances of seeing the highly popular Red-naped Ibis, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Rock Bush Quail, Crested Treeswift and the Indian Scimitar-Babbler.
27. Velavadar National Park, Gujarat
Velavadar is a grassland habitat and is popularly known as the Blackbuck National Park. It is situated in the Bhavnagar District covering 34 sq km in area and is famous for the roosting site of harriers, Montagu’s and Pallid Harrier.
The reserve’s star attraction is the Blackbuck. Significant bird species found here include the Bimaculated, Rufous-tailed, Crested and Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks, Rufous-tailed Shrike, Desert and Variable Wheatears, Paddyfield and Sykes’ Warblers.
Photo credit: Chobist - flickr
28. Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh
This sanctuary covers an area of 5,400 sq km and is located on the Chambal River at a point where three states -- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh meet. Chambal is home to the endemic Gharial and marsh crocodiles and is specially gazetted under the Crocodile Conservation Project.
[Exlpore the wildlife of Kanha with our Wild Kanha adventure tour]
This is one of the bird watching tours in India which is in a birdwatcher’s dream land. This sanctuary is the best place to watch the Indian Skimmer in action. Apart from that, Thicknee, Comb Duck, Ruddy Shelduck, Bar-headed Geese, Spoonbill and Greater Flamingo can be spotted here in great numbers here. Chambal is also a proud home to the highly endangered Gangetic River Dolphin.
29. Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
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Ranthambore National Park, situated in Sawai Madhopur district of south-eastern Rajasthan, covers an area of 1134 sq km. This enormous area has documented 272 species of birds and is an absolute pilgrimage for bird watchers. A few important species are Greylag Goose, Woodpeckers, Indian Gray Hornbills, Common Kingfishers, Bee Eaters, Cuckoos, Parakeets, Asian Palm Swift, and Snipes.
30. Bharatpur National Park, Rajasthan
Situated in the town of Bharatpur is the Keoladeo Ghana National Park also called the Bharatpur National Park that spreads across an area of 30 sq km and hosts around 375 finest species of birds. Herons, egrets, cormorants, ibis, spoonbills and storks can be seen in huge numbers and in the months of winter, migratory birds like the famous Siberian Crane also comes to this location, making it an ideal location for bird watching tours in India.