Birding in Kerala

When it comes to birding in South India, you can’t choose a better location than Kerala. The coastal state is hailed as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India and is home to 516 species of birds.

What makes Kerala a biodiversity haven is its ideal location on the southern tip of India. To its west lies the boundless Arabian Sea and to its east rise the Western Ghats or Sahyadri mountains that trap the south-westerly monsoon winds coming in from the sea to cause heavy downpour for four to five months every year, thereby creating a hotspot of diversity for both flora and fauna. Within this fertile, verdant and river-streaked region, one finds an interesting variety of bird habitats: lowland forests, lakes, wetlands, bluffs and backwaters. One finds bird sanctuaries and tiger reserves, national parks and backwater lagoons – all holding out an excellent prospect of birding in Kerala.

Our Kerala birding tour is highly recommended to those wishing to see and photograph the birds of peninsular India, particularly the birds of the Western Ghats. Of the 516 species of birds found in Kerala, at least 16 species are endemic to the state, but the count could be as high as 33. The Great Hornbill, though not endemic, is the state bird of Kerala and one of the many avian attractions of our Kerala birding trip, owing to its gorgeous looks comprising the black-and-white plumage, the yellow bill, and the curious casque atop the bill.

Many beautiful birds of Kerala inhabit the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, which used to be the favourite haunt of India’s most renowned and respected ornithologist, Salim Ali. A flat, lowland rainforest, Thattekad is the only tropical bird sanctuary in India. It is home to 350 bird species, including several exotic and pretty ones like Malabar Grey Hornbill, Orange-headed Thrush, Indian Pitta, Whiskered Tern, Ceylon Frogmouth, Large Billed Leaf Warbler, Drongo Cuckoo, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Yellow-browed Bulbuls, and Jerdon’s Nightjar among many others to keep you hooked during your South India birding holiday. Thattekad is where you also get to spot many of the 16 endemic birds of Kerala.

Not far from Thattekad is the Periyar National Park, located high in the picturesque ‘Cardamom Hills’ and home to about 266 species of migratory and resident birds, especially those of the Western Ghats. This elevated birding hotspot is surrounded on three sides by low plains and therefore it sees an interesting intermingling of different bird species, both from the plains and hills, and from the dry and wet regions. Periyar National Park is the watershed of the Periyar and Pamba rivers, and a tour through it is likely to reward a birder with the sightings of birds like Nilgiri Flycatcher, Nilgiri Thrush, Blue-winged Parakeet, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Black-necked Stork, Oriental Darter, Little Spiderhunter and Black Baza, among others. Even more recent discoveries like Eurasian Woodcock, Grey-necked Bunting, and Steppe Gull can be spotted here.

For birding in Kerala’s backwaters, no site can better Kumarakom bird sanctuary. Spread over an area of 14 acres on the bank of the Kavanar river, this bird sanctuary can be explored on foot or by boat. It is the wintering habitat for many migratory birds – especially the Siberian Crane – from Siberia and the Himalayas. Here, a birder may sight a variety of kingfishers, egrets, cuckoos, cormorants, storks, waterfowls, herons, bitterns, shikras, crakes, jacanas, parrots, teals and flycatchers. Alongside bird-watching, one may also enjoy a boat ride in the labyrinthine backwaters of Kerala, an intricate system of canals, lakes and lagoons with extraordinary natural beauty.

An equally impressive diversity of avifauna can be seen at the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the second largest wildlife sanctuary of Kerala. A huge number of peacocks, jungle fowl, woodpeckers, cuckoos, owls and babblers inhabit this sanctuary. On the side, one may spot wild animals such as tigers, elephants, and Indian bison.

Yes, an added perk of a birding holiday in Kerala is the captivating spectacle of wildlife, the elephants, tigers, gaurs, bears, ibexes and many exotic mammals, reptiles and fishes that one gets to see at the wildlife reserves of Kerala.

We at India Birding Tours have put together the best birding trip of Kerala, keeping in mind the endemic birds of the Western Ghats, so that our clients get to make the most of their Indian birding holiday. We have the wherewithal to cover the other birding hotpots of Kerala, like the high altitude forests of Munnar and the Thrissur Kole Wetlands, which is home to about 241 species of birds, including Oriental Darter, Spot-billed Pelican, Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Black-bellied Tern, Greater Spotted Eagle and Cinereous Vulture.

Our team of seasoned birders and local guides pool in their expertise to give you the best experience of birding in south India. Rest assured that you won’t have a single dull day.

Fun Things To Do On Birding Tour Of Kerala:

  • Enjoy boat ride in the backwaters of Kumarakom
  • Stay in a houseboat and enjoy local cuisine
  • Go sightseeing in Munnar, dubbed as the ‘Kashmir of South India’
  • Visit spice plantations in the ‘Cardamom Hills’ of Kerala
  • Jeep safari in Periyar Tiger Reserve
  • Make culture trips to villages

Endemic Birds of Kerala

Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, Wayanad Laughing Thrush, Nilgiri Thrush, Nilgiri Laughing Thrush (black chinned), Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Nilgiri Pipit, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Grey-headed Bulbul, Black-and-rufous Flycatcher, Broad-tailed Grassbird, Kerala Laughing Thrush, Rufous Babbler, White-bellied Blue-flycatcher, White-bellied Treepie.

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