Check Out These Off-Beat Birding Sites This Winter

It's that time of the year when migratory birds fly in and make India their home for a few months. Also, these hotspots house some rare birds, and native ones too. Be assured you will not be disappointed
Check Out These Off-Beat Birding Sites This Winter

Bhigwan, Maharashtra

This increasingly popular birding site is spread across the backwaters of the Ujani Dam. In winter, it hosts a large number of migratory birds, including ducks and flamingos. Baramati is the nearest big town but you can also make a day visit from Pune (100 km by road).

Set off in a country boat from Kumbhargaon or Diksal and you can get really close to the birds. Some of the local boatmen are excellent birders and it helps to know the local names of birds. You can also combine a visit to Bhigwan with a visit to Mayureshwar Sanctuary known for the chinkara or the Indian Gazelle.

Chintamani Kar Bird Sanctuary, West Bengal

Located on the southern outskirts of Kolkata, this sanctuary is home to a large number of birds. Winter is the best time to visit. You have to approach through Narendrapur (within easy driving distance from Kolkata). 

Eagle Nest Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh

A coral-billed scimitar babbler at Eagle Nest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh
A coral-billed scimitar babbler at Eagle Nest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh Dibyendu Ash/ Wikimedia Commons

Tucked inside the West Kameng district, the sanctuary has over 450 bird species. Frequent visitors to the area recommend entering the sanctuary through its northern gateway, Tenga (on the Tezpur-Bomdila-Tawang highway). You can also approach it from Doimara in the south. Only a part of the sanctuary is accessible by car.

If you want to explore further, go trekking. The Eagle Nest ridge rises to a height of over 10,000 feet, with the Eagle Nest Pass perched at 9,186 feet. It has the Sessa Orchid Sanctuary to its northeast. Accommodation is available at Bomdila (50 kms away) and Tenga (30 kms away). Indians have to obtain Inner Line Permit and foreigners Restricted Area Permit to enter Arunachal Pradesh. You have to get forest entry permits for the sanctuary as well as pay an additional entry charge levied by the local tribes.  

Lava, West Bengal

This small town in the eastern Himalayas is the gateway to some interesting birding areas. The road from Algarah to Lava is known to spring many surprises, and you might be lucky to spot rare birds. The adjoining Neora Valley National Park and the forests around the hamlet of Lolaygaon are also home to many species of birds. Lava is accessible by road from Kalimpong, about 35 km away. You can stay at Kalimpong, Lava and Lolaygaon in government-run lodges, private resorts and homestays.

Pangot, Uttarakhand

Located a mere 17 kms from the popular tourist destination, Nainital, the forests around Pangot are home to an amazing number of Himalayan birds. You can stay in Nainital and travel to Pangot to spot birds.

Sewri, Maharashtra

Located along the eastern edge of south Mumbai, the drab mudflats of Sewri turn colourful during winter. Thousands of lesser flamingos flock here and you can see them at close quarters when the tide is at its lowest. You will also find birds such as plovers, curlews, redshanks, sandpipers, stints and among others. The mudflats are within walking distance of the Sewri railway station on the Central Railway's Harbour line.

Thattekad, Kerala

Thattekad sanctuary was the first bird sanctuary in Kerala
Thattekad sanctuary was the first bird sanctuary in Kerala Shijan Kaakkara/ Wikimedia Commons

The 25-square-kilometre bird sanctuary is home to more than 300 species of birds. The famous ornithologist, Dr Salim Ali, drew people's attention to the rich bird diversity during his survey of the Travancore region way back in the 1930s.

Tucked between the tributaries of the Periyar River, the peninsula-shaped sanctuary is also home to 28 species of mammals and nine species of reptiles. The place is about 50 kms from Kochi and can be combined with a visit to Munnar. Apart from Forest Department's accommodation inside the forest, you can also stay at private resorts and homestays outside the sanctuary.

Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh

This little-known bird sanctuary is only 5 km from Guntur town. In winter, the count multiplies as migratory birds, including pelicans, white ibis, and painted storks, fly in.


Birding requires a lot of patience. If you are planning to take it up as a hobby, it is best to join a group or tag along with an expert. Dress in neutral colours while going birdwatching, wear a pair of sturdy walking shoes, and keep a notebook and pen handy for drawing up your own bird lists. Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Birdwatchers' Society, Bangalore Birding are some of the groups that you can contact. Popular bird guides --- The Book of Indian Birds, A Photographic Guide to the Birds of India, Birds of the Indian Subcontinent.

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