Tour Overview - Birding in South India
Etched along the western coast of the Indian Subcontinent, The Western Ghats is one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world. It’s a land gifted with undulating tropical forests, rolling tea estates and stunning highland vistas. It is this diversity in the landscape and the ecology of the rainforest that has given rise to species of birds and mammals that are found nowhere else on our planet.
This wide-ranging tour is curated as a celebration to many of these remarkable beings: From The Malabar Whistling Thrush, the White-bellied Minivet, Nilgiri Laughingthrush, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, the Sri Lanka Frogmouth to the exquisite Malabar Trogon, the Indian Pitta and the Great Hornbill.
Detailed Itinerary - Birding in South India
On arrival at the airport our representative will meet you. He will hand over the travel related documents and transfer you to the hotel for an overnight stay.
From Bangalore, we head southwards to Ranganathittu. Our early bird greetings are from the Indian Roller and the Black Drongo perch along the wires of the roads we travel along. En Route, our first stop is in the little town of Kokkare Bellur. The place is good for sightings of Painted Storks and Spot-billed Pelicans. After that, we can venture further around the scrub and woodland to search for the likes of Jerdon’s Leafbird, Blue-faced Malkoha, Blue-tailed Bee-Eater, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Red-naped Ibis and the Purple Rumped Sunbird. We continue our journey towards Ranganathittu, where we take a boat ride on the Cauvery River.
On this cruise, you are transported to a different world with wonderful winged creatures. The riverine reed beds cover the banks of the islands. Over here, we can spot the Great Cormorants and Black-Headed Ibis roosting at the top of trees. This place is teeming with waterfowl like river terns, Asian Openbill and Red Watled Lapwings. Through the cruise you even witness scaled Mugger Crocodiles, basking along the riverbanks. This is the largest freshwater crocodile in all of India.
While cruising, you can even encounter Lesser Whistling Ducks, Indian Shag, Stork Billed Kingfisher, Egret, Cormorant, Oriental Darter, and Herons. The Great Stone Plover and river terns also nest here. The region is also home to massive flocks of streak throated swallows and around 50 individuals of Pelicans. After this delightful sojourn, we rest at a lovely hotel in the city of Palaces.
An early start this morning and we travel towards the Mudumalai hills, which is one of the largest areas of protected forests in India. Along the way, we make a few pit stops to take advantage of the habitats or roadside sightings and, by mid-afternoon, we will arrive in the hills and can begin birding can ensue via foot through a wide range of different areas. The scrubland nearby supports small numbers of Yellow-wattled Lapwing, White-naped Woodpecker, and the native Malabar Lark, and, if the weather is conducive, then we can even look upward in search for Redheaded and Indian Vultures soaring the hot thermals.
We will then check in to the lodge from where we can continue our quest for birds, looking around the property till we are served with supper and call it a day for rest.
On this day, we will enjoy birding in the broad-leaved riverine forests and the watch the canopies Mudumalai and Masinagudi. Here, many native and localized species occur here, including Grey-headed Bulbul, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Grey Junglefowl, Malabar and Plum-headed Parakeets, the vocal Indian Scimitar Babbler, Puff-throated Babbler, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Nilgiri, Thick-billed and Pale-billed Flowerpeckers, the incredible white-throated race of Orange-headed Thrush, Loten’s Sunbird, and the seldom-seen White-bellied Minivet.
On the trail, we will hear the nonstop calls of the endemic White-cheeked Barbet as we search for other more largely distributed species such as the Brown Wood Owl and Brown Fish Owl, Jungle and Spotted Owlets, Blackrumped and Greater Flamebacks, Vernal Hanging Parrots, Crested Treeswift, Jerdon’s Bush Lark, White-browed Fantail, Yellow-crowned, and Streak-throated Woodpeckers, Indian Nuthatch, White-browed and Yellow-browed Bulbuls, Hume’s Whitethroat, Indian Golden Oriole, Indian Blue Robin, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Bay backed Shrike, Orange Minivet, and Golden-fronted Leafbird.
This area is usually a reliable site for Indian Elephant, and we hope to come across these wonderful beings. Additional sightings include the bold Dhole (Indian Wild Dog), Sloth Bear, Leopard, and even Bengal Tiger, though we will need a hefty dose of luck and effort to witness any of these spectacular beasts! After dinner, we will call it a day and recharge for the next day ahead.
This morning, our journey is towards the Blue Mountains close to Udhagamandalam, among the highest mountains in all of Southern India. The scenery is spellbound with an ambience of rhododendrons and flowering orchids. The higher reaches of the Western Ghats are studded with strands of moist evergreen forest, better known as sholas, it is here where you are likely to find many of the endemics of southern India.
As we spend the day soaking in this vibrant environment, we will continue on our quest to spot the enthralling medley of birds. These may include the stunning Nilgiri Laughingthrush, Black-and Orange Flycatcher, the White-spotted Fantail, Nilgiri and Rusty-tailed Flycatchers, the shy Nilgiri Blue Robin, the splendid White-bellied Treepie, and rare and highly elusive Nilgiri Thrush, which has also been recorded in this region. Apart from these, many of the other species that we may find here are Vernal Hanging Parrot, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, the gorgeous Heartspotted Woodpecker, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Little Spiderhunter, and the migratory Blue-capped Rock Thrush. Our day of productive birding comes to an end at the lodge with dinner and some good night’s rest.
Our day begins with the search of the rarely seen Nilgiri Wood Pigeon and other species such as the Ashy Prinia, Indian Black-lored Tit, Western Crowned Warbler, the localized White-browed Bulbul, Indian Blackbird, and Puff-throated Babbler moving in the thickets.
Our journey then moves towards Parambikulam. If time permits, we will begin birding as soon as we reach our destination. Post a lovely dinner, move around the lodge in search for the remarkable Sri Lanka Frogmouth and the many nocturnals like the Oriental Scops Owl, Brown Hawk-Owl, and with a bit of luck on our side, the beautiful Spot-bellied Eagle Owl.
The lodge here is situated in close proximity to a major birding hotspot where we will spend most of our time navigating through this biodiverse landscape of Parambikulam. This tropical forest is nestled in the foothills of the Western Ghats, and it sings with the chorus of monkeys and birds at the crack of dawn. Some of the specialities we will be searching for include the spectacular White-bellied Treepie, the laughing Malabar Grey Hornbill, retiring Red Spurfowl with the bamboo vegetation, Grey Junglefowl, the stunning Malabar Trogon, the singing Malabar Whistling Thrush, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, and Crimson-backed Sunbird. There are chances of seeing animals such as Gaur (a forest-dwelling buffalo), Asian Elephant, the Indian Giant Flying Squirrel, Wild Boar, Nilgiri Langur and the Bonnet Macaque.
We wake up early morning as today we have some extra time to continue our search for the Western Ghats’ spectacular winged wonders. The list goes further to include the Indian Peafowl, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, the industrious Great Hornbill, Blue-winged Parakeet, stunning Malabar Barbet, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Bluefaced Malkoha, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, the large White-bellied and Heart-spotted Woodpeckers, Lesser Yellownape, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Common Emerald Dove, Malabar Woodshrike, the elusive Indian Blue Robin, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Dark-fronted Babbler, Flamethroated Bulbul, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Southern Hill Myna, Malabar Starling, Rufous Babbler, Black-hooded Oriole, and perhaps the localised Black-throated Munia. Post Lunch, we shall depart for our journey to Munnar.
Eravikulam National Park is situated in the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats. The reserve has been established to protect a goat called the Nilgiri Tahr. The region also supports a great selection of birds. These include the very seldom seen Painted Bush Quail, White-bellied Blue Robin, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, and the endemic Nilgiri Pipit. There are other species that we might stumble upon as we continue birding, such as Red-rumped Swallows, Blue Rock Thrush, White-bellied Blue Robin, Dusky Crag Martins, and the remarkable Loten’s Sunbird. After a day of fruitful birding, we will head back to our lodge for supper and rest.
From Munnar, our journey is towards the south of Kerala; our destination is the Periyar Tiger Reserve. On arrival, check in and rest for the night.
Periyar National Park has a medley of many different habitats, with grasslands, evergreen forests, ravines it is no surprise that this makes it an ideal birding hotspot. Our day here will encapsulate many different species, including the Wynaad Laughingthrush. Other birds we seek out are White-rumped Spinetail, Brown-backed Needletail, Indian Swiftlet, Crested Honey Buzzard, Black Eagle, Changeable and Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagles, the remarkable Black Baza, Grey-fronted Green, and Mountain Imperial Pigeons, the uncommon migratory Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Grey-breasted Prinia, Thick-billed Warbler, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Southern Hill Myna, and Forest Wagtail, among many other more widespread species.
There are chances of viewing some of the mammals of the South of India. These sightings may come by on our afternoon boat trip along banks of Lake Periyar, where there are chances of seeing the Indian Elephant, Gaur, Wild Boar, and Sambar Deer.
There are species of birds in and around the periphery of the lake such as Wooly-necked Stork, Western Osprey, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Ashy Woodswallow, and White-browed Wagtail while occasionally Great Hornbill can be seen gliding across the sky.
After a final morning’s birding near Periyar National Park, we will take an afternoon drive to Kochi where we will stay overnight and enjoy our final dinner in India.
This morning the tour will conclude in Kochi. Depart to the International Airport for your flight back home.