Wildlife experiences in India not only comprise going on tiger safaris and visiting national parks but also involve birding. India makes up 12 percent of the total number of bird species in the world. There are roughly 1,200 bird species spread across various parts of the country. From the towering Himalayas to the gentle backwaters of Kerala and even the Northeast, India is rich in its birdlife.
Wildlife enthusiasts, birders, and ornithologists greatly enjoy the activity of birding in India. Due to the varied landscapes and suitable habitats spread across the country, India has naturally become a bird watcher’s paradise. In India, people often see a fair share of native as well as migratory birds. One glance at the abundance of India’s avifauna is bound to captivate anyone. Keeping this in mind, there are various tailor-made tours and trips that help satisfy a birder’s desire to witness birds in distinct parts of India.
However, if you’ve already visited the popular spots, it’s time to choose these 10 off-beaten birding places in India:
Situated in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand state, Munsiyari is a scenic village. Nestled in the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas and offering breathtaking vistas of its surroundings, this scenic hill station is perched at an altitude of 2,298 meters above sea level. People often compare this hill station to Kashmir for its beauty.
Munsiyari, a major hot spot for tourists and hikers alike, is also popular as a bird-watching destination. Munsiyari is a hidden gem, as not many bird watchers frequent the place. The thick forests of deodar, pine, and Rhododendron surround Munsiyari, where various species of birds reside. Along with resident birds, migratory species like the Himalayan griffon and serpent eagle are also found here. Other birds commonly spotted here are Chukar partridge, White-browed fulvetta, winter wren, variegated laughing thrush, and white-throated tit, to name a few. With more than 300 recorded species of birds, Munsiyari is recognized as a bird-rich area.
Manila – Uttarakhand
The tiny hamlet of Manila is located in the Almora district of Uttarakhand. It is set at an altitude of 1,820 meters and is approximately 45 kilometres away from the famous Jim Corbett National Park. Encompassing tranquillity and pristine landscapes, Manila offers spectacular panoramic views of the Himalayas. It is notable for Maa Neela Devi, a deity temple that many tourists visit.
Manila is bordered by dense forests, and it houses numerous bird species. The most popular bird to spot here is the Cheer peasant, a vulnerable species of the pheasant family. Other birds commonly seen in Manila and the Kumaon region are the Verditer Flycatcher, Kalij Pheasant, which is an exotic bird of Kumaon, Rufous Sibia, blue whistling thrush, black-headed jay, and many more.
Chiplun – Maharashtra
Chiplun is a small city that lies in the district of Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. This pleasant destination is well-known for its white-sand beaches as well as its splendid mango and cashew grooves. Chiplun is adjacent to the Vashti River, and the Western Ghats lie towards the east of the city. Due to these ghats, there is a wide range of biodiversity where different types of birds can be spotted.
Chiplun has more than 350 species of birds, both local and migratory. One of the prominent birds observed is the oriental dwarf kingfisher, a brightly coloured yet tiny bird found in Chiplun. Its distinguished coral red dagger bill helps in finding insects, worms, fish, frogs, and lizards to eat. It stays near streams or ponds in lowland forests.
On the other hand, the blue-eared kingfisher is familiar to the city and often recognized through its bluish ear stripe. This small bird is found in dense, shaded forests and hunts in streams. Other species of birds seen in Chiplun are eagles, barbets, Hornbills, robins, sunbirds, drongos, and more.
Bhitarkanika – Odisha
Bhitarkanika Mangroves, or Bhitarkanika National Park, is situated in the state of Odisha. The Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary is nearby the national park, and both are overrun by four rivers: Baitarani, Brahmani, Dhamra, and Pathshala. Hosting various types of mangroves, Bhitarkanika is the second-largest mangrove ecosystem in India. It is also famous for housing a large population of saltwater crocodiles in the country.
Situated near the coast of Orissa is the Bhitarkanika Bird Sanctuary, lying close to the deltas of the Baitarani and Brahmani Rivers The mangrove forest, combined with the river systems, creates an ideal habitat for animals and birds alike in Bhitarkanika. Almost 320 species of birds are found here, including extraordinary species of kingfishers. The brown-winged kingfisher, common kingfisher, collared kingfisher, Pied kingfisher, white-throated kingfisher, stork billed, black-capped and ruddy are the eight types of kingfishers spotted in Bhitarkanika. Other than these, birders can also see mangrove whistlers, oriental darters, black-headed ibis, Eurasian oystercatchers, and many more.
Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary – Goa
Huddled in the foothills of the Western Ghats, the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest wildlife preserve in Goa. Possessing an abundance of biodiversity, this sanctuary has a variety of plant, bird, and animal life. Here, visitors can find the popular Dudhsagar waterfall, the Devil’s Canyon, and a number of historic sites.
The sanctuary heavily forests the area and covers tropical evergreen forests on the west coast. Residing in these are more than 100 bird species, including rare and exotic types. While the state bird of Goa, the ruby-throated yellow bulbul, is common, birders can even witness golden orioles, paradise flycatchers, emerald doves, Malabar pied hornbills, crested serpent eagles, grey-headed mynas, and various others. Forest explorations merged with vivid bird species make Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary a haven for bird watchers.
Chidiya Tapu – Andaman Island
As the name suggests, Chidiya Tapu, or Bird’s Island, is located at the southernmost tip of South Andaman Island. Rich mangrove forests and stunning ocean views characterize this destination. The unique flora and fauna of the island have given rise to exotic and endangered species of plants and animals.
This tropical island is a birdwatcher’s paradise as it hosts numerous types of birds, from indigenous to exotic and even migratory. Sightings of different types of wood pigeons, woodpeckers, cuckoos, doves, black-naped orioles, and treepies are common. After getting familiar with the birds on Chidiya Tapu, visitors can further enjoy snorkelling and other water activities on the island.
Mishmi Hills – Arunachal Pradesh
The Mishmi Hills are situated at the Northeastern tip of India, near the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. It covers pristine tropical forests, bamboo groves, alpine meadows, shrubby woods, and sloping grasslands. The hills also provide gorgeous scenery of the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains, the Shivalik Ranges, and the lower Himalayan regions.
The forest area near the hills is considered to be the best biogeographical zone in the entire Himalayas, providing rich biodiversity. Aside from unique birds, the Mishmi Hills are home to various eastern Himalayan bird species that are otherwise difficult to discover. Around 680 different varieties of birds can be found in the hills, including the rusty-throated wren babbler, Sclater’s monal, Temminck’s tragopan, pale-capped pigeon, rufous-necked hornbill, Ward’s trogon, Himalayan shortwing, and many others.
Latpanchar – West Bengal
The small village of Latpanchar is situated in the Kurseong division of the Darjeeling district. Sitting at an altitude of 4,000 feet, Latpanchar’s unique location has attracted tourists from all over. The village gives an excellent view of the snow-capped peaks of the Kanchenjunga ranges. The core area of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary also lies conveniently close to Latpanchar.
Apart from offering heavenly vistas of the mountains and forests, Latpanchar is also a favourite destination for birders. It houses nearly 250 species of birds, many of which are considered rare. Birds such as the unique Himalayan Pied Hornbill, scaly thrush, black bulbuls, ashy-backed shrike, kingfishers, spotted eagles, minivets, magpies, and several others are seen in Latpanchar.
Patna Pakshi Vihar – Uttar Pradesh
Patna Pakshi Vihar, or Patna Bird Sanctuary, is a protected sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh. It comprises a natural freshwater shallow wetland or lentic lake. This serves as an important breeding ground for migratory birds in the winter. The water quality of the lake supports an array of avifauna as winter arrives. Although Patna Pakshi Vihar is the smallest bird sanctuary in the state, it manages to record 106 bird species and another 300 different migratory birds that visit the sanctuary.
The resident birds include aquatic birds as well, such as the lesser whistling duck, northern pintail, Eurasian wigeon, green-winged teal, little grebe, sarus crane, Egyptian vulture, laughing duck, oriental magpie-robin, purple sunbird, and many more.
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary – Kerala
The serene Thattekad Bird Sanctuary is one of the ‘richest bird habitats in peninsular India’, as described by notable ornithologist Salim Ali. The sanctuary sits on the banks of the Periyar River and encompasses evergreen lowland forests.
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary’s luscious topography has birthed rich and varied bird species. There is a dense population of over 300 migratory and resident birds. Both forests, as well as water birds, visit Thattekad. The sanctuary highlights the uncommon Sri Lankan Frogmouth, while birdwatchers sight other bird species such as the orange-headed thrush, Jerdon’s nightjar, cormorants, whiskered terns, collared scops owl, and several others. A specific region within the sanctuary earned the nickname “Cuckoo Paradise” due to its abundant varieties of cuckoos, including drongo, Indian hawk, and large hawk cuckoos.
Birding in India is a rewarding experience that brings one closer to nature. The richness of India’s ecosystem has given rise to various popular as well as hidden destinations for bird watchers. Keep the above-listed birding locations in mind the next time you plan to go bird-watching in India.
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