South India

 
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© Sumit K Sen 2005
Southern India Map with birding hotspots
(Map Copyright © Sumit Sen 2005)

Introduction

Southern India is recognized here as comprising of the peninsular states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Union Territories of Pondicherry and Lakshadweep Islands. Going by accepted tradition, the much acclaimed birding destination of Goa has been considered to be a part of western India in this presentation though its avifauna is very similar to the birds of South India. The region is bounded by western and northern India to the north, the Arabian Sea to the west, the Bay of Bengal to the east and the Indian Ocean to the south. 

Nearly 600 bird species can be found in the area of which 20 are endemic only to the area with an additional 20 shared with Sri Lanka. Most of the endemics are found in the Western Ghats area which is internationally recognized as a biodiversity hotspot and is an Endemic Bird Area (EBA) - the 'Western Ghats EBA'. South India also supports some rare and globally threatened species like the Indian Bustard, White-rumped Vulture, Jerdon's Courser, Yellow-throated Bulbul, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, White-bellied Shortwing and Nilgiri Laughingthrush. The great diversity and richness of bird life makes the entire region a paradise for bird watchers and a must visit area.

© Mohanram Kemparaju
Southern Hill Myna (Gracula indica) ~ a southern endemic

Western Ghats: The Western Ghats or Sahyadri Hills of southwestern India are formed by the Malabar Plains and the mountains running parallel to the west coast and is the high rising border of the Deccan Plateau. The Ghats cover an area of about 160,000 km² and stretch for 1,600 kilometers from India's southern tip at Kanyakumari to the Surat Dangs in the Satpuras in south Gujarat. The Western Ghats Zone is also characterised by a series of forest gaps or breaks, that are actually valleys that break the continuity of the mountain ranges and accordingly of the biological components as well. Some of the major ones are the Palghat Gap, the Moyar Gorge or Gap and the Shencottah Gap. Wide variation of rainfall patterns, coupled with the region’s complex geography, produces a great variety of vegetation types in the Western Ghats. These include scrub forests in the low lying rain shadow areas and the plains, deciduous and tropical rainforests up to about 1,500 meters, and montane forests and grasslands above 1,500 meters. The Zone covers barely five per cent of India's area, but its biological richness can be best understood when one realises that 27 per cent of all the species of higher plants recorded in the Indian region are found here and about a third of the plants, almost half the reptiles, and more than three-fourths of the amphibians known in India are found in this area. The Western Ghats is recognized as one of the richest and most threatened reservoir of plant and animal life on Earth and is a key 'Biodiversity Hotspot'.

Key Sites:

South Indian Endemics:

© Ramki S
Crimson-backed Sunbird

Malabar Grey Hornbill

White-cheeked Barbet

Nilgiri Wood Pigeon

Jerdon's Courser

White-bellied Treepie

Crimson-backed Sunbird

Nilgiri Flycatcher

Black-and-orange Flycatcher

White-bellied Blue Flycatcher

White-bellied Shortwing

Grey-headed Bulbul

Yellow-throated Bulbul

Broad-tailed Grassbird

Wynaad Laughingthrush

Nilgiri Laughingthrush

Grey-breasted Laughingthrush

Rufous Babbler

Malabar Lark

Nilgiri Pipit

Malabar Parakeet

References
- Birds of Southern India - Richard Grimmett & Tim Inskipp. Helm Field Guide
- Birds of Western Ghats, Kokan and Malabar - Satish Pande et al. BNHS/Oxford
- Conservation International. Biodiversity Hotspots. Conservation International, 2000.
- Western Ghats Ecosystem - Tewari, D. N. International Book Distributors, 1995.

Websites
Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots
WWF: North Western Ghats
WWF: South Deccan
Plateau
National Geographic: Satellite map

   
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Sumit K Sen 2001 - 2009    I   
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