Gujarat: A bird watcher’s paradise

The state is home to several national parks, sanctuaries and sites that are havens for rare and exotic species of migratory and other birds

Gujarat is a vast country with an almost unparalleled variety of natural environments that are as attractive to wildlife and fauna as to people. The state is home to an abundance of lush terrestrial and coastal ecosystems, and hence, to several species of migratory birds. Through the chilling winter months, various locations in Gujarat are visited by unique species of birds. For birding enthusiasts, nature lovers and tourists, Gujarat is a haven that offers the experience of bird watching in all its glory. Its avian diversity includes an eclectic mix of beautiful birds including Flamingos, Pelicans, Waterfowl, Waders, crab plovers, Sociable Lawpings, Gulls and Terns that flock to various destinations. Besides these, desert specialities such as Great Indian and Macqueen’s Bustard, Grey Hypocolius, White-browned Bushchat and Asian Desert Warbler make Gujarat the bird capital of India. With its national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, bird watching in the state is one of most exciting things on the bucketlist of all travellers and tourists.

Here’s a lowdown on the places that offer some of the best birding experiences that stay on forever!

Bird Watching near Ahmedabad
An hour’s drive from Ahmedabad airport, the Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary is a part of Gujarat’s Bhal grassland region. Aquatic plants and animals grow abundantly in the lake and widespread reedbed marshes prove to be an ideal habitat for birds making Nalsarovar home to different birds like plovers, sandpipers and stints. More than 200 types of bird species fly down to this region and make it their cosy home away from the harsh winters of their nesting areas. Like Nalsarovar, the Thol Bird Sanctuary is another beautiful bird watching location – a wetland predominated by an open water body that is surrounded by cropland, fallow land and scrub land. The Thol Lake was notified as a sanctuary in 1988. Popular in the birders’ and photographer’s circuit, birds like Cranes, geese, Flamingos, Pelicans, Egrets, Herons, Spoonbills, Ducks, Whistling Teals and many other migratory birds nest and breed in this wonderful lap of nature.
Then there is another unique destination located about 130 km from Ahmedabad which brings out the best of mother nature – the Little Rann of Kutch. The Wild Ass Sanctuary of the Little Rann of Kutch, spreading across nearly 5,000 sq km of the Little Rann, is the only place on earth where the endangered Indian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur), known locally as the ghudkhar, still lives. Other migratory birds that one can spot in this region areis the Greater Hoopoe Lark, Macqueen’s Bustard, Asian Desert Warbler, Isabelline Wheater, Short-eared Owl, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Greater-spotted Eagle, Merlin, White and Black Stork and so on. The best time to visit these places is November to February.

Flamingos' heart

Bird Watching near Vadodara
About 10 km from Dabhoi and 20 km from Jambughoda village is the enchanting wetland aka as the Vadhwana Bird Sanctuary. For its variety of species including stork, tern, ibis and spoonbill, this sanctuary is a very popular bird watching spot. This sanctuary is a wetland as well as an eco-tourism campsite making it all the more visit-worthy. The Vadhwana Bird Sanctuary is often frequented by photographers, bird watchers and nature enthusiasts who visit the place to bask in the glory of nature.

Bird Watching at the Great Rann of Kutch
The Rann of Kutch, also known as the Great Rann of Kutch is an extraordinary place to visit in Gujarat. It is one of the world’s largest salt desert spread over a vast expanse of 10,000 sq km. What makes it even more amazing is that the salt desert is underwater during the main monsoon season in India. For the remaining eight months of the year, it’s an enormous stretch of packed white salt. The annual Rann Utsav hosted by the Gujarat Government which takes place in a time frame of three months from November is a remarkable festival of music, dance and folklore. While tourists can soak in the beauty of the festival, the Rann also is the resting site for migratory birds and is home to 200 species of bird including Grey Hypocolius, Grey Napped Tit, Small Minivet, Common Iora, Lesser and Greater Flamingos, Painted Sandgrouse and more.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) mating pair
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) mating pair

Bird Watching near Bhavnagar
The Velavadar National Park is a hidden gem, one of the last stands of grassland remaining in the massive alluvial plain running along the Gulf of Khambatt called Bhal. The grasslands are home to the endangered blackbucks. But this national park is also a bird watcher’s paradise and gives the most spectacular sight in winter of some ravishing birds. Pelicans, Flamingos, white and painted storks, three kinds of Cranes, many birds of prey and the rare Stolizca’s Bushcat have all made this area their home, especially the southern part of the park, where the wetlands lie. During the monsoon, Velavadar is the top breeding site for the endangered and extremely rare Lesser Florican. The most stunning sight is the winter roost of harriers that arrive from Central Europe and are seen settling down to roost among the grasslands on a winter evening.


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