A 'Birds of India' feature
10 Top Birding Destinations in India
India offers some of the best birding in the world. Over 1250 birds have been recorded in the country, and most places offer a fair sample of the avian diversity. The species richness is due, in no small measure, to the habitat diversity. That means one needs to travel to different parts of the country to see the special birds which have adapted to a life in the area.
To select the 10 most popular birding destinations in the country, Birds of India took responses from 71 international and Indian birders. Each selected their 3 top destinations, and the sites which recorded the maximum votes are listed below. The one popular site that just missed out was Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. Ladakh is a great birding destination in the Indian summer months, when all other places loose their attractiveness. You can read more about Ladakh here.
This list does not pretend to cover the best birding destinations in India, and is in no particular order. It is more a list meant for novice birders, and birders who have had little prior experience of birding in India, and has been prepared to raise awareness and promote birding in the country. For other birding areas worth visiting please visit our 'Sites' section here.
Also read Bikram Grewal's companion article 'On Wild Wings - The best places to see birds in India'.
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The Kutch area comprises of the Banni Grasslands, the coastal parts and the Great Rann of Kutch in the northwestern state of Gujarat.
The area is at the crossroads of Palearctic migration and is a big draw for birders who come to see a great congregation of raptors, cranes and waterbirds in winter. Top birds here include the Grey Hypocolius and Indian Bustard.
Kutch birding takes a week and it is best to arrange a trip here with a guide or through a professional travel company. A Kutch trip can be combined with a visit to Thol. MORE
Thattekad is a small Bird Sanctuary in the southern state of Kerala.
Based in the biodiversity hotspot of the Western Ghats, Thattekad is a great place to see some rare endemic birds and is especially a good place to find frogmouth and owls.
Guided birding is recommended in Thattekad and some homestays offer a package deal. 3-4 days minimum is required. A visit to Thattekad can be combined with a visit to the hill station of Munnar. MORE
Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Rajasthan
Keoladeo Ghana National Park is better known simply as Bharatpur, the town where the sanctuary is located in Rajasthan in northwestern India.
For long India's premier birding site, Bharatpur has lost some of its sheen in recent years due to the lack of water which is the main draw for the greatest congregation of water-dependent birds in India during the winter.
Bharatpur is the best place to have your first birding holiday in India, with your rickshaw puller being more than a competent guide. A Bharatpur visit can be combined with Chambal. Spend 3 days, if you can, in Keoladeo and around. MORE
For many very birders, the best 'birding mile' in India is a walk along Algarah Road in Lava. Lava is located at about 8,000 feet in the Eastern Himalaya in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. The Neora Valley National Park adjoins Lava town.
The Eastern Himalayans is a biodiversity hotspot, and the mist-covered evergreen forests are home to some of the most sought after birds. Top birds in Lava and Neora include the Satyr Tragon and the Rusty-bellied Shortwing.
Bird density in Lava is low and one has to seek out targeted species. Plan to spend at least 4 days to make the most of Lava. Include the bird-rich foothill area of the Duars if your schedule permits. MORE
The Bugun Liocichla was the last big news in the birding world. This spectacular bird was discovered in 2006 by Ramana Athreya at Eaglenest Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh.
Eaglenest lies close to the western Border of Bhutan and aside from the liocichla, is home to a vast variety of Eastern Himalayan specialties including the Ward's Trogon and Beautiful Nuthatch.
Eaglenest Sanctuary is difficult to reach and has no permanent accommodation. It requires a fully guided tour. But the rewards far outstrip the hurdles. A minimum of 6 days is required to do full justice to the area. MORE
Corbett National Park is justly famous for its rich wildlife. It is located in the foothills of the Western Himalaya, in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
Much of Corbett falls in the biodiversity rich terai region covering a wide variety of habitats. Big mammals including the Asiatic Elephant and the tiger are top draw at Corbett. But the birds are also a big attraction, with over 500 species recorded from the area. Top birds here are Ibisbill, Great Slaty Woodpecker and a variety of raptors.
Corbett offers good tourist infrastructure for a wildlife holiday in India. You may need to spend 4-5 days, and can combine it with higher elevation birding at Pangot and Sattal. MORE
Pangot and Sattal are two different destinations in the Kumaon Himalaya which are popularly combined for a complete central Himalaya birding experience. Both are located in the Nainital District of Uttarakhand.
Pangot (1900meters) showcases higher altitude birds, while Sattal covers the lower Himalayan range of 1300meters. Pangot is famous for the elusive Cheer Pheasant, and the Koklass is a good second. Sattal offers a great variety of middle-elevation Himalayan birds.
Sattal is a tourist site, while Pangot is more of a specialized birding destination. It is best to hire a guide in Pangot. Keep aside at least 5 days for satisfactory birding. MORE
The coastal state of Goa is wedged between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats in the Konkan region of the Central west coast of India.
The close juxtaposition of two different biomes results in a veritable smorgasbord of birds which include vast number of shore birds and rare Western Ghat endemics. 8 species of kingfishers can be found here and endemics include Nilgiri Wood Pigeon and Wynaad Laughingthrush.
Goa is India's top tourist destination and birding facilities here are the best in the country. Goa birding needs a week and is ideally combined with a leisure holiday. MORE
The Little Rann of Kutch or LRK is the southern extension of the Great Rann. It is similar to the Great Rann but is more approachable and offers excellent wildlife viewing facilities.
LRK is famous as a refuge for the Asiatic Wild Ass. The flat and dry open terrain is also a great attraction for wintering migrants which can be found in great numbers here. Best birds include MacQueen's Bustard and the endangered Sociable Lapwing.
LRK has some wonderful eco-tourist facilities and trained guides. Plan to spend up to 4 days here and also visit nearby Nal Sarovar to observe a variety of water-dependent birds. MORE
Kaziranga National Park is truly one of India's most attractive wildlife destinations. Located in the north-eastern State of Assam, Kaziranga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kaziranga is seasonally flooded by the mighty Brahmaputra River and is a rich mix of grassland, swamps and woodland. It is the place to see India's Top 5 big mammals. The birdlife here is also rich and varied as it is in most well-protected places in the NE. Key species for birders include the rare Bengal Florican and the Pallas's Fish Eagle.
Kaziranga offers comfortable wildlife viewing facilities. Guides are present and are needed. 4 days is the minimum required here. Combine Kaziranga with a visit to Nameri. MORE
A Birds of India presentation by Sumit Sen; Aug 2011
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Last updated 12 Aug 2011 Contact Us