Birding enthusiasts, fly off to these 5 Indian sanctuaries this season!

Take flight to these sanctuaries in spring and be surprised by the variety of rich avian life that you can see.
A purple-rumped sunbird greets spring joyously.
A Purple-rumped Sunbird greets spring joyously. Image: Shutterstock/PG Jayaprakash.

Spring is a great time to spot birds in India as there are both resident ones as well as the migratory ones that are ready to return. You can also see some hatchlings and young birds. Interestingly, there is a thriving bird life in several wildlife sanctuaries as well. Here are five of our picks for birding in the spring.

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Karnataka

A boat takes you around the riverine islands so that you can see the birds up close without disturbing them.
A boat takes you around the riverine islands so that you can see the birds up close without disturbing them. Image: Shutterstock/Chaithanya Krishnan.

Said to be the largest bird sanctuary in south India, spread over 40 acres, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, is close to Mysore and about 130 km from Bengaluru. As the Cauvery River flows through the sanctuary, there are small islands in between the river which are nesting sites for several birds.

You can book a boat ride here which is the best way to get close to the small islands and see the birds. The sanctuary is a great place to see Painted Storks, Egrets in breeding plumage, Stone Plovers, White-breasted Waterhen, River Tern, Cormorants, Indian Pond Herons, Black-headed Ibis and Red-Naped Ibis, among many others.

Painted storks and water birds are the big draw.
Painted storks and water birds are the big draw. Image: Shutterstock/Jim Ankan.

There have been about 228 species of birds that have been sighted in this region. If you are lucky, you can spot four resident species of kingfishers — Common, Pied, White-breasted and Stork-billed here. Other birds that have been sighted include the Paradise Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, White-browed Fantail, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, and Brahminy Kite. There is a thriving population of crocodiles, which is a bonus.

Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Kerala

Aerial view of the forest canopy of the thattekad bird sanctuary.
Aerial view of the forest canopy of the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary. Image: Shutterstock/Paulose NK.

Thattekkad which means a flat piece of wooded land is spread across 25 square km and has a connection with Dr Salim Ali, the legendary ‘Bird Man of India’, who discovered this evergreen lowland forest on the banks of Periyar. Located about 60 km from Kochi, this is also called the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.

It has a bird trail as well as a Butterfly Garden and an interpretation centre. Including the Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Asian Palm-Swift, Malabar Trogon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Black-backed Dwarf Kingfisher, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Oriental Honey Buzzard and Crested Treeswift, there have been about 240 species observed here.

The colourful male malabar trogon is one of the many bird species you can spot here.
The colourful male Malabar Trogon is one of the many bird species you can spot here. Image: Shutterstock/MohithS.

Being on the foothills of the Western Ghats, Thattekad has a rich biodiversity, including many teak and mahogany trees as part of the landscape. The sanctuary is also home to the Ashy Wood Swallow, Black Headed Oriole, Ash Tail, Crested Goshawk, Jerdon’s Nightjar, Indian Cuckoo, Yellow-browed Bulbuls and more.

Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Gujarat

Nal sarovar bird sanctuary near sanand village is mainly inhabited by migratory birds in winter and spring.
Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary near Sanand village is mainly inhabited by migratory birds in winter and spring. Take a boat to explore the wetlands. Image: Shutterstock/Nimit Shah 28.

A marshy land, Nal Sarovar means ‘Tap Lake’ and is located about 64 km from Ahmedabad. One of the country’s largest wetland bird sanctuaries, this is the place to see migratory species like White Storks, Heron, Brahminy Duck, Pelicans, Flamingos, and Waterfowl.

In fact, winter and early spring see over 250 species of wetland birds here including Pelicans, Coots, Pintails, Spoonbills, Shovelers, small Grebes, and Cormorants. The best way to get up close with these birds is to hop on to a boat that will take you inside the tall grasslands and marshes, which are home to many birds.

The lake hosts the migratory lesser flamingos and many others in large numbers.
The lake hosts the migratory Lesser Flamingos and many others in large numbers. Image: Shutterstock/Parikh Mahendra N.

The local ‘pilu’ trees which have an edible red berry fruit are commonly seen here. You can also take a horse ride around the lakeside when you are here. Some of the species that have been sighted here include Bar-headed Goose, Red-breasted Goose, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Marsh Sandpiper and Collared Pratincole. About 317 species of birds have been observed here and this is a great place to visit in spring as well.

Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh

A male rufous-necked hornbill in the eagle’s nest wildlife sanctuary.
A male Rufous-necked Hornbill in the Eagle’s Nest Wildlife Sanctuary. Image: Shutterstock/Piyapong Chotipuntu.

A protected area in the Himalayan foothills of West Kameng district in Arunachal Pradesh, the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary is a great spring birding destination. An Indian army regiment called ‘Eagle’ was stationed here years ago, which gives the sanctuary its name. The bird species sighted here include a variety of Warblers, Babblers, Ultramarine Flycatchers, Laughing Thrush, as well as the recently discovered, extremely rare, Bugun Liocichla.

The bugun liocichla was discovered only in 2006.
The Bugun Liocichla was discovered only in 2006. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

This sanctuary is where you can see species like the Ward’s Trogon, Mrs Gould’s sunbird, Tawny Wood Owl, Grey-chinned Minivet, Mountain Hawk Eagle, and Nuthatch. With 356 species sighted, you can also see birds like the Silver-eared Mesia, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Rufous-throated Partridge, Grey Peacock-Pheasant, and Barred Cuckoo-Dove in this sanctuary.

Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, Haryana

The picturesque sultanpur national park.
The picturesque Sultanpur National Park. Image: Shutterstock/Prabhas Roy.

Located in Gurgaon, 46 km from Delhi, Sultanpur National Park has four watchtowers or machans that are a boon for bird watchers. An Educational Interpretation Centre is part of the tourist complex here. Expect to spot Green-winged Teal, Tufted Duck, Grey Francolin, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Spotted Redshank, Imperial Eagle, Shikra, Western Yellow Wagtail and Eurasian Hoopoe.

An adorable green-winged teal.
An adorable Green-winged Teal. Image: Shutterstock/FloridaStock.

About 345 species have been observed here, of which there are approximately 90 migratory bird species that come here in the winter and stay on till late spring. As there is a limit to the number of people that are allowed into the sanctuary, it is best to call and book a slot. Home to an ancient lake, the sanctuary is spread over 265 acres and is also home to the Glossy Ibis, Demoiselle Crane, Black-necked Stork, Sarus Crane, Openbill Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, Spoonbill, Crested Serpent Eagle, Booted Eagle, and Sind Sparrow.

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