Birdwatching Tour of Kerala

Endemics of South India

This is a birding exploration of the lowland humid forests and mixed plantations of Thattekad and higher elevation wet forests/exposed grassland habitats around Munnar – among the richest habitats and locations for avifauna in south India.  Highlights include the cryptic Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Black Baza, Malabar Trogon, Jerdon’s and Great-eared Nightjars, Indian & White-bellied Blue-Robins, Black and Orange Flycatcher, Grey-headed and Yellow-throated Bulbuls, and Broad-tailed Grassbird among over 300 species (including 15 plus endemics) recorded from the tour locations. Among mammals it is relatively easy to find Nilgiri Tahr, Nilgiri Langur and Malabar Giant Squirrel and with luck, Dhole, Grizzled Giant Squirrel, Nilgiri Marten and Leopard. This trip is ideal for those wanting to enjoy the best of south India’s birds and experience a slice of the biodiversity rich mountains of the Western Ghats, in a safe and comfortable environment.

Day 1 & 2, Thattekad: We leave Cochin, Kerala mid-morning and reach Thattekad (Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary) by noon on Day 1. We spend two days exploring the small sanctuary for a significant chunk of south Indian bird specialities.

The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is located on the banks of the Periyar River on the foothills of the Western Ghats of Kerala. The habitat matrix of the location, which includes riverine, lowland evergreen and plantation forests, contain an amazing density of birds and offers excellent photographic opportunities for several Western Ghats bird specialities among an impressive bird-list of over 250 species. Some of south India’s endemic birds found here include the Grey-headed Bulbul, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, White-bellied Treepie, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher and White-cheeked Barbet. Sightings of rarities such as the Black Baza, Crested Goshawk, Red Spurfowl, Malabar Trogon, Ceylon Bay Owl and the Sri Lanka Frogmouth are not uncommon. Winter is interesting for several migrant flycatchers and warblers.

Elephants are regularly seen in and around the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, along with several other mammals including rare sightings of top predators such as Indian wild dogs and leopards. The wet, humid habitats of the location also contain an exciting diversity of plants, herpetofauna and invertebrates.

Day 3, 4 & 5 Munnar : We reach Munnar in the afternoon on Day 3 and will spend three days exploring the landscape for mid and high altitude specialities of the Western Ghats as well as dry habitat specialities in the rain-shadow areas on the Eastern slopes.

Munnar is a small hill station town (1500m) nestled among tea plantations and wet montane forests (sholas) in the Western Ghats of Kerala. The shola forests surrounding Munnar and the montane forest-grassland ecosystem of the nearby higher reaches are excellent locations to encounter several of south India’s high altitude endemic birds. Some of the Western Ghats specialities you are likely to encounter around Munnar include the White-bellied Blue Robin, Painted Bushquail, Black and Orange and Nilgiri Flycatchers, Kerala Laughing Thrush, White-cheeked Barbet, Rufous Babbler, Broad-tailed Grassbird, Yellow-throated Bulbul, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Small Sunbird and Nilgiri Wood Pigeon. Winter reveals several warblers and rarities such as Indian Blue Robin.

Wildlife specialities from here include the Nilgiri Tahr, an endemic mountain goat, Nilgiri Langur, an endemic primate, and a rarely seen endemic mustelid, the Nilgiri Marten.

Day 6, Cochin:  After some morning birding around Munnar, we drive down the hills to Cochin for an early evening arrival.


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