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Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary

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Why is Thattekkad the Prime Birding Destination In South India?

Thattekad, also known as the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, is an Important Birding Area (IBA) and an endemic rich haven for bird lovers in the Indian state of Kerala. This protected area covers 25 square kilometres and is around the banks of river Periyar.

The sanctuary is named after the well-known Indian ornithologist Dr Salim Ali, who called it “the richest bird habitat in peninsular India.” It is  523 metres above sea level and comprises evergreen tropical forests, grasslands, and marshes. The area is home to more than 275 types of birds, including many rare and unique Western Ghats endemics.

History of Bird Watching in Thattekad
Thattekad has a long bird-watching history, dating back to the 1930s when Dr Salim Ali, the father of modern ornithology in India, first visited the area. Since then, the popularity of Thattekkad has spread worldwide, and ornithologists, bird watchers, filmmakers, and nature lovers have been coming here to see amazing avian life. The refuge became known nationwide in 1983 when the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 made it a protected area.


What makes Thattekkad my favourite birding location in India? 

Firstly, it’s rich in endemics. Secondly, it’s small. Thirdly, it’s easy to reach. The Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary is 40 kilometres from the Cochin International Airport (check for flights and costs from your city) and the Angamali railway station. If you can spend three nights during the season here, you can see around 20 Western Ghats endemics and another 50 species. I’ve been to this sanctuary numerous times, and each time I discover something new. You can easily find clean accommodations that suit your budget. You can also go canoeing or trekking if you have some extra time.


Endemic Birds of Thattekad

Thattekad is home to many Western Ghat’s endemic birds. Some endemic birds in Thattekad are the Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Trogon, Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon, Blyth’s Starling, Malabar wood-shrike, Black-throated Munia, White-bellied Treepie, and Rufous Babbler. The sanctuary is also home to many migratory birds that come to the area during winter, including Indian Pitta and Jeorden’s Baza.

For the eBird list, click here!


Key Areas in Thattekkad for Bird Watching

The sanctuary has many places to watch birds. The critical areas are Urulanthanni, Cheekkod, and Charupara forest areas. Birdwatchers also go to the Bhoothathankettu Dam and the Periyar River, also within the sanctuary. The bamboo groves and grasslands near the Edamalayar Forest Range are good places to see birds. Hiring a local birding guide to find the best birding spots and learn about recent sightings is essential for a successful expedition.


Lodging in Thattekad

There are many places for people to stay in Thattekad, ranging from cheap lodges to high-end resorts. One place we recommend for bird watchers is the Bird Murmur Camp, an air-conditioned tented accommodation very close to all the key birding areas in Thattekkad. You can also do night birding within the gardens of the cap at night. The camp provides a bird-watching experience. Bird-watching guides and naturalists are available to help visitors find and identify bird species. For more details about accommodations, click here.

The Best Time to Visit Thattekad

The best time to visit Thattekad is between November and March. The weather is good, and bird activities are high. During this time, many migrating bird species make it their home. May to October is generally considered off-season, monsoon time in Kerala. Migratory birds are away, and the forest will be filled with blood-sucking leeches in the rainy season.

Other Important Birding Spots Near Thattekad

There are many productive birding locations near Thattekad, such as the Munnar Hill Station, about 90 kilometres from Thattekad. The journey can take around 45 minutes by car.

Watch a video on Birds of Thattekkad.