The Indian subcontinent is blessed with a rich natural landscape that attracts birds from across the globe. This makes for a vibrant birding experience because on top of enjoying the sights and sounds of the birds themselves, you get to enjoy the magnificence that is the landscape. Bird sanctuaries are very popular here. Areas such as Rajasthan, Kerala, Jammu and Arunachal Pradesh are sprawling with them. The sanctuaries attract migratory birds all year round supplementing the domestic birds found therein. If you need to see a variety of colourful birds, India is the place to be. Some of the top birding hotspots include the following:
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Rajasthan
Also known as Keoladeo National Park, it is home to over three hundred and sixty bird species and is one of the most popular birding areas in the world. In 1971, it became a protected sanctuary. UNESCO also declared it a World Heritage Site. The park is a combination of wetlands, dry grasslands, woodlands and swamps making it attractive to a wide variety of birds, especially during breeding seasons like waterfowls and migrant ducks in winter. These include storks, cormorants and herons. The Sarus Crane, the tallest flying bird, is also found here. Others are eagles like the Greater Spotted Eagles, Crested Serpent Eagles and Imperial Eagles. Peregrines, Ospreys and bee-eaters are also call Bharatpur home. It is no surprise therefore that it is often regarded as one of the best bird areas in the world. Some views spots include the Sunrise Spot and the Painted Stork Colony. The park is open all year round, morning to evening. As for accommodation, Bharatpur Ashoka Forest Lodge and the Shanti Kutir are the only facilities found inside the park. Others like the havelis, palaces and old buildings converted to hotels can be found within the precincts of the park. There are arranged birding tours which include luxury tourist trains like the Palace on Wheels.
Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, Haryana
This sanctuary is found in Gurgaon. It is 46km from New Delhi and 15km from Gurgaon town. Its spectacular nature consists of an extensive collection of flora and fauna. The sanctuary is heavily visited during the winter season as birds migrate here then. More than three hundred species relocate from across the globe giving birders a variety of birds to watch. The Amur Falcons, known for their long-distance migration use the park as their central Asian flyway. The falcon is part of the almost 180 long distance migration species that utilize the park as part of their migration. Other birds include Grey Francolin, Indian Roller, White Ibis, White-throttled Kingfisher, Egrets, Storks, Weaver Birds and Eurasian Thick-knee. The park has four watchtowers (machans) for your birding pleasure. In addition to that, there is an education centre where visitors can learn more about the birds. Paths, walkways and picnic areas are also available for the taking. There is also a guest house for those looking to spend the night.
Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary, Odisha
Regarded as the largest inland salt water lagoon, Chilka Lake is a 1100km2 pear-shaped lake found in Odisha. It is populated by small islands with unique ecosystem that has a wide range of aquatic flora and fauna. The impressive diversity of birds found here makes for a satisfying birding experience. These include White Bellied Sea Eagles, Jacanas, Greylag Geese, Flamingos and herons. Popular spots to visit within the sanctuary are Birds Island, regarded a heaven for birdwatching and Nalabana, for long-distance migratory birds. Others are Brahmaputra, Satapada, Kalijai, Parikud and Malud. Again, winter is the best time to visit if you want to see migratory birds. As for accommodation, several state-run and private lodges and rest-houses are available.
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, Kerala
This is another one of the most popular birding sites of the country. It is located in Kumarakom at the eastern bank of Vembanad Lake and is hence also known as Vembanad Bird Sanctuary. It covers an area of 14 acres. Its landscape consists of mangrove trees, coconut groves and several flowers. The most famous birds in this sanctuary include egrets, herons, India Darter and little Cormorant. The Siberian Crane, Brahminy Kite, flycatchers, teals and larks can also be seen. This park is perfect for nature walks as the views are breath-taking. The best way to enjoy bird watching is through a houseboat or motorboat cruise. Another way is by having nature walks. Accommodations available include hotels such as Aquarius Hotel and Royal Riviera. There is an interpretation centre in the sanctuary for visitors operated by Kerara Tourism Development Corporation. The best period to visit the sanctuary is between November to March when it is breeding season.
Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Gujarat
The Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary is located 64km from Gujarat in Western India. It is made up of marshes and a lake and is one of the largest wetland bird sanctuary in India. There are more than two hundred and fifty species of birds, both resident and migratory, that have been recorded. Some of the prominent species are the Brahmany Duck and the Sarus Crane. The park also hosts white storks, heron curlews, fishing eagles, flamingos, kingfishers, avocets and swallows. Visits to the lake is between 6 am and 5:30pm. However, the best time to visit is early in the morning when the lake is calm and the flock of birds are quiet by the lake. Boat rides can be procured from local boatmen. Horses are also available around the lake for those who would prefer horse rides. The park has an interpretation centre for visitors and tourists.
Manjira Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary is found in Sangareddy, India along the course of river Manjira. A reservoir was created to provide drinking water to Hyderabad and Secundrabad. Within the reservoir, 9 small islands with extensive marshes have formed. The islands act as nesting ground for a number of water birds. It was originally a crocodile sanctuary but has over time attracted a variety of bird species. Over seventy bird species can be seen. Flocks of Cotton Pygmy Goose and Common Teal are a common sight. The Lesser Adjutant and the Indian Skimmer, which are vulnerable, have been spotted. Near-threatened species found here include the Painted Stork, Oriental White Ibis and darters. Asian Openbills, peacocks, spoonbills, kites, little egrets and partridges are some of the other birds that can be seen. The park has an educational centre that provides information to the visitors about the sanctuary. Mode of transport around the lake includes boats in order to facilitate a wonderful bird watching view. Visitors’ accommodation are in bungalows at Sadasivapet, Singur and Sangareddy. The best period to visit the sanctuary is between November and March during breeding seasons.