All images by Ramki Sreenivasan
Thattekad or Thattekkadu Bird Sanctuary is located in south-west India, in Kerala's Ernakulam District. It is the only bird sanctuary in Kerala and was set up in 1983.
Situated between two branches of the Periyar River, Thattekad is a hotspot of endemism and is famed for its bird diversity. The total area under the sanctuary is roughly 25 square kilometers comprising of undulating terrain with a peak altitude of 488meters. Several marshy areas (called vayals) occur in areas bordering the Periyar and Idamalayar Rivers. A part of the sanctuary is submerged by the Bhoothathankettu Irrigation Dam.
Thattekad falls in a transition area between the South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests (IM0150) and the South Western Ghats montane rain forests (IM0151) bio-geographic zones. The ecoregion represents the band of moist deciduous forests that surround the montane evergreen rain forests in the southern part of the Western Ghats Mountains. In parts, here, the southwest monsoon rains promote a wet evergreen forest. Most of the natural vegetation in the ecoregion has been cleared or converted, and the remaining forests are severely fragmented.
Champion and Seth (1968) classify these forests as a Southern Indian Moist Deciduous Forest. Forest Type includes Tropical Evergreen forests, Tropical Semi-evergreen forests, Moist Deciduous forests, Riparian forests, Plantations of Teak, Rosewood, Mahogany & fruit orchards.
These lowland forests are characterized by the following species: Adina cordifolia, Albizzia odoratissima, Alstonia scholaris, Bombax ceiba, Canarium strictum, Dalbergia latifolia, Dipterocarpus indicus, Dysoxylum malabaricum, Eleocarpus tuberculatus, Emblica officinalis, Grewia tiliaefolia, Holoptelea integrifolia, Hymenodictyon excelsum, Lagerstroemia lanceolata, Lagerstroemia speciosa, Lannea coromandelica, Machilus macrantha, Miliusa velutina, Nephelium longata, Palanquium ellipticum, Pterocarpus marsupium, Schleichera oleosa, Spondias pinnata, Radermachera xylocarpa, Tectona grandis, Terminalia bellerica, Terminalia paniculata, Terminalia tomentosa, Toona ciliata, Vitex altissima, Xylia xylocarpa, etc. The surrounding grasslands consist of Chrysopogon zeylanicus, Arundinella ciliata, Arundinella tuberculata, Themeda tremula, and Sehima nervosum etc.
Sri Lanka Frogmouth
Thattekad's birdlife is rich and varied. Around 250 bird species have been recorded in the small area and the list keeps growing. 14 of the regions 20 endemics can be found here. They include: Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, White-bellied Treepie, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Grey-headed Bulbul, Wynaad Laughingthrush, Rufous Babbler, Malabar Lark and Crimson-backed Sunbird. Other good birds include Red Spurfowl, White-bellied Woodpecker, Malabar Trogon, Brown-backed Needletail, Oriental Bay Owl, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Black Baza, Malabar Whistling Thrush and Black-throated Munia.
The presence of extremely capable bird guides makes bird-watching in Thattekad a rewarding experience. The best-known guide is K V Eldhose, a birding legend of Thattekad. That, plus the bird-richness of the area, means that a visit here is a great bird-watching experience.
Where to stay
There are several places to stay in and around Thattekad. There is a Forest Department Inspection Bungalow with 6 beds plus dormitory accommodation for 50. There is also a three-storied watch tower inside the Sanctuary with two beds. Simple homestays are available, as are many luxurious tented facilities. The camps are outside the sanctuary on the southern side of the river.
Entry and travel
Road: 13kms. from Kothamangalam via Chelad.
Railway station: Aluva - 48kms.
Airport: Cochin International Airport - 44kms. Kochi (Cochin) Airport - 71kms.
Important Facts and figures
Area: 25.16 sq. km
The Asst Wildlife Warden,
Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary
Njayappilli P.O, Kothamangalam
Phone: (0485) 2588302
Temperatures: High 32C; Low 20C. Winter November - February.
Location: Between 10º 7' to 11º N and 76º 40' to 76º 45' E
Nearby attractions: The hill station of Munnar
Best season: October to March
Wildventures Thattekad Trip
Eldhose Bird Tours
A Birdwatcher' Guide to India by Krys Kazmierczak and Raj Singh