Birding Areas for Spotting Critically Endangered Bird Species in India

India’s Top Five Lesser-Known Protected Areas for Spotting Critically Endangered Bird Species

 

India, renowned for its rich biodiversity, hosts an array of lesser-known protected areas that serve as sanctuaries for some of the world’s most critically endangered bird species. While famous reserves often take the spotlight, these hidden havens harbor invaluable populations of avian treasures, contributing significantly to conservation efforts. Five remarkable sanctuaries stand out as crucial habitats for safeguarding and observing critically endangered bird species, including the elusive Great Indian Bustard at Rollapadu Bird Sanctuary, the Jerdon’s Courser at Sri Lanka Malleshwara Wildlife Sanctuary, the Spoon-Billed Sandpiper at Kolleru Bird Sanctuary, the Bugun Liocichla at Eaglenest Bird Sanctuary, and the White-Bellied Heron at Dibru Saikhowa National Park.

 

  1. Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary

Bird species to Spot: Great Indian Bustard

Area: 6.14 sq.km.

Best Time to Visit: October to March

Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, situated near Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh, encompasses dry mixed deciduous forests, thorny bushes, and semi-arid short grasslands within its habitat. Established in 1988, its primary objective is to safeguard the dwindling population of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB), a bird native to arid and semi-arid grasslands. In addition to being a crucial habitat for the GIB, the sanctuary serves as a residence for various other avian species such as the Indian courser, Sarus Crane, Rufous Tailed Lark, Indian Bushlark, Common Iora, and Paddyfield Pipit. Moreover, the sanctuary offers a natural environment where blackbucks thrive, and its grasslands provide support for packs of Grey Wolves, the principal predators within the sanctuary’s ecosystem.

 

Great Indian Bustard at Rollapadu sanctuary

 

  1. Sri Lanka Malleshwara Wildlife Sanctuary

Bird Species to Spot: Jerdon’s Courser

Area: 464.42 sq.km.

Best Time to Visit: October to March

The Sri Lankamalleswara Sanctuary stands as the exclusive refuge globally for the most critically endangered bird species in India, the Jerdon’s Courser, nestled within the Lankamalai hills. Encompassing dry deciduous mixed thorn forests, this sanctuary derives its name from the renowned Sri Lankamalleswara temple, centrally located within its bounds. Initially established after the rediscovery of the Critically Endangered Jerdon’s Courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus) in 1986, this sanctuary is dedicated primarily to their preservation.

Home to nearly 200 bird species, the sanctuary remains pivotal as the habitat where the Jerdon’s Courser was exclusively found within a small scrub jungle area. Beyond its remarkable avian diversity, the sanctuary accommodates diverse wildlife, including Indian leopards, Sloth Bears, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Four Horned Antelope, Chinkara, Nilgai, Wild boar, and Indian foxes.

 

Jerdon’s Courser

 

  1. Kolleru Bird Sanctuary

Bird Species to Spot: Spoon Billed Sandpiper

Area: 300 sq.km.

Best Time to Visit: October to March

Kolleru, one of India’s largest freshwater lakes positioned between the Krishna and Godavari rivers, gained Ramsar Site recognition in November 2002. Known for its vast expanse, it consistently accommodates over 50,000 waterfowl. The area boasts lush vegetation with a documented presence of around 34 aquatic and semi-aquatic species. Notably, the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper has been sighted within this sanctuary.

Renowned as one of India’s paramount wetlands, Kolleru hosts an impressive array of over 200 bird species. It acts as both a foraging ground and a seasonal haven for resident and migratory birds, attracting thousands of avian visitors from around the world during winter. The lake sustains large populations of Spot-billed Pelicans, Painted Storks, and Asian Openbills. Additionally, the region is frequented by various other bird species, including the Common Redshank, Red-crested Pochard, Glossy Ibis, Cormorants, and Flamingos.Beyond its avian significance, Kolleru boasts a diverse fish population, including some endemic subspecies. Commercial fishing activities have identified 63 fish species across 29 families within its waters.

 

Spoon billed sandpiper found in India

 

  1. Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary

Bird Species to Spot: Bugun Liocichla

Area: 217 sq.km.

Best Time to Visit: October to March

Nestled within the Western bend of Arunachal Pradesh, the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary spans tropical, subtropical, and temperate forests, encompassing an area of over 218 square kilometers in conjunction with the Bugun community forests. This sanctuary is renowned for its distinct biodiversity—a convergence of ecosystems between the lowland tropical evergreen forests of Assam to the south and the Gori-Chen Mountain range to the north, boasting altitudes reaching 6,000 meters. The intervening space is a mosaic of temperate broadleaved and conifer forests, exhibiting a diverse array of habitats owing to its vast altitudinal range.

 

Bugun Liocichla bird spotted in eaglenest bird sanctuary

 

The sanctuary’s southern reaches harbor Tropical Wet Evergreen and Semi-evergreen Forests, primarily along river valleys and gorges, thriving below the 900-meter mark. Hosting an impressive avian population, Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary boasts over 400 reported bird species, including the Critically Endangered Bugun Liocichla (Liocichla bugunorum). Among the myriad of bird species found here are the Blyth’s Tragopan, Rufous Necked-Hornbill, Rusty-Bellied Short wing, Beautiful Nuthatch, Satyr Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon, and Hoary-throated Barwing, among others.

 

  1. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Bird Species to Spot: White Bellied Heron

Area: 340 sq.km.

Best Time to Visit: October to March

This National Park forms a crucial segment of the Biosphere reserve bearing the same name, contributing significantly to the biodiversity hotspot it resides within. Located amidst the flood plains of the Brahmaputra River and flanked by the Arunachal Hills to the north, as well as the Dibru and Patkai hills to the south, it boasts an incredible array of species. Within Dibru-Saikhowa lies the largest Salix swamp forest in northeastern India, comprising Tropical Moist Deciduous, Tropical Semi-evergreen, Evergreen Forests, and Grasslands as its primary habitat types.

Originally clothed in tropical rainforest, a seismic event in 1950 caused substantial geomorphological shifts, resulting in a significant portion of the rainforest sinking by several meters. Ongoing inundation gradually transformed the landscape into deciduous forest and swamps.

 

White Bellied Heron

 

Dibru-Saikhowa emerges as a haven for avian diversity, with over 350 described bird species thriving within its bounds. Notably, it stands as a significant site in the North-East for the observation of the highly endangered and elusive White-bellied Heron. Additionally, the Park potentially shelters significant populations of two more endangered bird species: the White-winged Wood Duck and Bengal Florican. The other fauna of the park is equally diverse, featuring the Asiatic Elephant, Tiger, Leopard, Slow Loris, Pig-tailed Macaque, Rhesus Macaque, Assamese Macaque, Capped Langur, Barking Deer, Hog Deer, Flying Squirrel, and the Ganges River Dolphin, among others.

 

Conclusion

India’s lesser-known protected areas act as guardians of invaluable biodiversity, offering sanctuary to some of the most endangered avian species on the planet. These sanctuaries not only serve as crucial conservation sites but also offer unparalleled opportunities for enthusiasts and researchers to witness these rare birds in their natural habitats, highlighting the importance of preserving these hidden havens for future generations.

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