National Capital Territory of Delhi
Birdwatching Sites in the Delhi Region
Below are brief introductions to the most productive birding sites in Delhi and how to get to them. Although a city of probably over 10 million people Delhi has a remarkable number of interesting sites within its 500 or so sq kms. It has a birdlist (currently being updated) of over 450 species making it, after Nairobi, probably the second richest city in the world for birds. We strongly recommend you use the latest edition of the Eicher City Map to find your way around.
Almost any open space on the Delhi map is worth exploring. The campuses of the big academic institutions notably Delhi (north and south campus); IIT and JNU in south Delhi can be very productive. If you feel a bit adventurous travel north to explore the remnant marshes around the lonely Coronation Pillar (many wetland species including bitterns and Painted Snipe). Or take any track along the Najafgarh Canal in extreme west Dehli (best take the Mehrauli Najafgarh Road south of the IGI Airport till you cross the canal). This has a wealth of species to which will almost certainly soon be added the Sind Sparrow which is spreading out of the Indus Basin now. And if your sense of smell is subdued try Okhla Sewage Works (gateway on your left off the Mathura Road past CRRI and before Apollo Hospital). Drive through and stop where the road right angles. The marshy and muddy settling pools are full of wagtails, egrets and waders in winter and in summer Black-winged Stilts, Painted Snipe and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas breed there. It is one of the best places to get close views of waders.
Delhi is full of parks of all sizes and they are easily located on most maps. Some in the centre, such as the Lodi Gardens, are well manicured but contain many old indigenous trees. Pay particular attention to Peepul, Banyan and Neem trees for Yellow-footed Green Pigeons, three species of parakeet and both Coppersmith and Brown-headed Barbet. These parks as well as large gardens, including hotel grounds, are usually rich in birds. As indeed are almost all the environs of the ancient monuments, big institutions, the Delhi Golf Course (if you can gain access) and the riverside ghats. Such places are a good to wander in, to see the commoner north Indian species, often at close quarters. Most older buildings have Dusky Crag Martins, Brown Rock-chats and nesting parakeets, Rock Pigeons and Mynahs and Wall Creepers have wintered on some of them. The large Deer Park at Hauz Khas and the nearby Siri Fort Park are both historically significant and ornithologically interesting because there is still fairly wild vegetative cover. In winter several species of warbler and birds of prey can be found. To find the parks take Aurobindo Marg south from the Inner Ring Road and they are both located close to the Outer Ring Road.
This famous area, studied intensively by Tony Gaston 30 years ago, is now rather fragmented and degraded in parts. But what remains is in theory protected and still holds some interesting birds. It is a combination of thick thorn scrub and rocks (less open than Asola) and patches of woodland. Most of Delhi's land birds can be found here with effort and it can be excellent for overhead raptors including vultures, Booted Eagles and breeding Oriental Honey-buzzards. More local species include Grey-breasted Prinias, Small Minivets, Common Wood-shrike, Paradise Flycatcher plus barbets and woodpeckers. In winter Olive-backed Pipits are regular in several places and several buntings (notably White-capped) have been recorded. This is one of the few sites in India where the enigmatic Brook's Leaf-warbler is regularly reported. Peafowl and Grey Francolin are numerous and Eurasian Thick-knees breed in good numbers. Look out for Yellow-wattled Lapwing and Long-billed Pipit on the Polo Ground. The Central Ridge is the last known site in Delhi for the very local and apparently rapidly declining Marshall's Iora but it hasn't been seen or heard there for several years.
The easiest way to access this area is by the first road on your left off Willingdon Crescent and soon after the Sardar Patel Road junction (by the Gandhi Murti). Drive or better walk straight through to the Polo Clubhouse. You can park there and (after checking the field) take one of the paths into the jungle. The best (which leads to mature Ridge woodland) is right at the end of the Polo Ground and usually deeply littered with stable refuse. Watch out for polo horses exercising at speed! The up hill tracks take you to the Buddha Jayanti Smarak Park which is also worth a visit and another way in (from Vandemataram Marg) but the fence has few gaps in it! We welcome advice on good places in the Pusa and Northern Ridge Forests, which seem to be rarely looked at by birders. Another option is in the southern part of the Ridge, the Sanjay Van Park which lies south of IIT to the south of the Qutab Institutional Area. Take Tara Crescent Road off the New Mehrauli Road and just past the new DFIDI (old USAID) office you'll see a gate. Excellent footpaths take you through a range of habitats including small lakes along the dammed stream (where it is worth sitting for a while; watch for Bluethroats emerging from the bushes along the water and crakes in the reed edges). 70 species in 2 hours is well possible in winter here.
Most city zoos are well worth a visit and Delhi's is no exeption. In the monsoon a significant colony of wild egrets, cormorants and ibis nests in trees on islands in the lakes to be replaced by Painted Storks in the autumn. Eurasian Thick-knees breed in several enclosures, the Nilgai one appropriately being the most popular. In winter Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whitethroats, Hume's Warblers, Bluethroats and Olive-backed Pipits are usually easy to find. Blyth's Reed and Greenish are numerous on passage. Next door is the Sundar Nursery, reknowned in the past for migrants. The Zoo is between the Mathura Road and the Ring Road south of Purana Quila and east of the Golf Course. It is closed on Fridays.
This area is the southern extension of the west bank of the Yamuna south of the barrage. The bird list is similar (though numbers are generally lower) but there are more reliable wader sites and the cultivated fields add a new dimension. Black Ibises are almost guaranteed and dry land species such as Sand, Crested and Oriental Sky Larks breed while Hume's Short-toed Lark winters. The best way to enter this area is by the narrow unmetalled, tree-lined road that turns south from the main barrage (Noida) road just before the barrage on the Delhi side. Follow this for about 2kms where you meet a T-junction with a metalled road. Turning left you will quickly see a track off to the left again. This is passable by car and takes you almost to the Yamuna bank. You have to walk the last 100m. This area can be very good for waders if water levels are not too high but this is unpredictable as it depends on the opening of the barrage; if the river floods it will be very muddy! The sandy, tamarisk scrub, and elephant-grasslands have larks, chats and prinias. Look for Brown Crakes in the stream alongside the road and River Lapwings, terns and pratincoles on the sand bars. Returning to the road you can continue south for 3 kms and explore other left branching tracks to the river as well as scanning the vegetable fields and trees.
If you go back to the T-junction and head west you will see a track going off to your left after less than 50m. Park here then walk down through some houses and you come to a small, remnant reedbed and marshy fields. The reedbed has all the local species and the fields are good for waders, Purple Gallinules and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas in their season. Ahead of you, you will see the high bank that surrounds the fly ash pit of the power station. You can climb this and walk round a huge hyacinth choked lake. Although this rarely has much of interest except Darters, Purple Herons and Spotbills the walk round can be very productive and gives you an excellent vantage point. The smaller ponds at the southern end are the most regular site for Bronze-winged Jacanas in Delhi and often have Cotton Pygmy-geese.
This historic area of south Delhi is rich in dry country species. Much of it is thorn scrub and trees on undulating rocky hills and almost anywhere is worth a look. Characteristic birds include Black-shouldered Kite, Jungle Bush-quail, Indian Bush Lark, Indian Robin, Large Grey Babbler, Long-billed Pipit and Rufous-fronted Prinia while wintering warblers include Orphean, Sulphur-bellied and both Common and Hume's Lesser Whitethroats. Painted and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse are still around in small numbers (look out for parties flighting to water around 0930am) and birds of prey in winter could include almost anything. The waste field just south of the main fort is the most reliable site in Delhi for Yellow-wattled Lapwings and up to 10 pairs breed there. It is also good for larks and pipits (including Tawny and Blyth's) and sometimes has a few wheatears.
Tughlaqabad is on the west-east Mehrauli-Badarpur Road and well marked on all maps. The field (which can be driven into) is between the Adilabad Fort ruins (look for Eagle Owls and Kestrels here) and Ghiyauddin Tughlaq's Tomb. A road by this tomb to Surajkund takes you to the entrance to Asola Wildlife Reserve, about 2kms down on your right. There is no entrance charge and the best thing to do is park by the gate and walk round on the numerous paths. Unfortunately it doesn't open til 0830hrs and closes at 1800hrs. There are Nilgai and Jackal here and a Blackbuck breeding scheme.
Undoubtedly both banks of the Yamuna and its associated wetlands are the most productive places. At the peak season over 150 species in a day is possible. The area is justly famous for huge duck and goose flocks (up to 20,000 of 20 species) and roosting gulls (10,000) in winter but a wide range of wetland species including most herons and egrets and migrant waders should be seen. The winter roosts of mynahs and starlings probably exceed a lakh and are a wonderful spectacle at dusk, especially if they are being harried by falcons or Marsh Harriers. As the Yamuna is a major north-south migration flyway almost any migratory species could turn up; the rarity list grows annually with Baer's Pochard and Mountain Chiffchaff being 2001 additions.
The area is good for wintering passerines including Common Starlings, several warblers, Bluethroats, Rosy Pipits, Citrine Wagtails and Common Rosefinch. In summer the sandbanks attract terns, two species of pratincoles, plovers and thick-knees while the reedbeds are alive with bitterns (3 species); crakes, warblers etc. Specialities include the now regular flock of Greater Flamingoes (up to 500); Black Ibis, resident Red-headed Falcons, reed bed nesting Black Francolins, White-tailed Stonechats, Striated Babblers and Grassbirds and Yellow-bellied Prinias. Bristled Grassbird and White-capped Penduline Tit have been recorded in the recent past.
The best area is between the new Flyover and the Barrage. From Okhla village take the river road from the great sand mound and view the river and marshes from the several small tree-lined bunds that strike out eastwards. This area is really only good in winter and best in the evening. At the eastern end of the Barrage you will notice a narrow curved spit that strikes out northwards. There is a footpath on it and from the end it is often possible to have excellent views of the duck and flamingo flocks. A little further on towards Noida, a narrow road branches north following the river. If the water is reasonably high and not too clogged with water hyacinth, this can give excellent views of many species especially in the morning. At the end, at the start of the flyover, a raised bund heads westwards to the Temple exactly opposite the Okhla sand mound). This is probably the most productive walk of all for variety with some very extensive reedbeds to look over. If the water isn't too high you can walk on buffalo paths into the reeds, round the damp fields or along the river edge. If it is high sit on the Temple mound and the birds will fly past. And if it is non-existent, walk out over the great sandbanks.
Nikhil Devasar & Bill Harvey
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 500+
State Bird: House Sparrow Passer domesticus
* Field Guides & Bird Song
For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering India as a whole - please see the main India page of Fatbirder
Birds of Delhi
Ranjit Lal. New Delhi, OUP, 2003, 150 pages & plates.
ISBN: 0195672194Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of Northern India
by Richard Grimmett and Tim Inskipp Helm Field Guides 2003 RRP ?19.99p
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 0713651679Buy this book from NHBS.com
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We are an interactive egroup which exists to share information about birds in Northern India and the issues that effect them. We seek to help and encourage newcomers to the study of birds and enable birdwatching visitors and short-term residents to meet fellow enthusiasts who live in India. We use the group to collect and collate valuable bird records from Northern India and to discuss unusual sightings and other identification issues. The group is supported by regular field outings in the Delhi area and stimulating talks in the Habitat Centre in New Delhi. This website provides the structure for recent sightings, site and conservation information and identification tips to be presented and consulted by members.
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2015 [03 March] - Graeme Wright - Rajasthan, Gujarat (and New Delhi)
...Morning birding in Abu Road â€“ tried for Grey Jungle Fowl at road to Temple Sanctuary, but a Brown Headed Pygmy Woodpecker was nesting by the entrance as was a Yellow Crowned Woodpecker.
2015 [04 April] - Nick Crouch - Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Agra & Delhi
Whilst not caring what birds I saw as long as I saw a Tiger, I did of course want to see as many birds as possible... Having been to Goa in 2007, I had also seen many of the available species before, but still had plenty to go it; in the end, I saw 163 species, of which 37 were new for me. I didnâ€™t take a scope (instead taking my DSLR), and most of the time didnâ€™t miss it â€“ although it would have been useful for distant waders at Okhla Bird Sanctuary, and raptors and pipits in Bandhavgarh.
2016 [05 May] - Stuart Vine - Delhi, Agra & Ranthambore
...Before exiting the airport we started the score with Red-wattled Lapwings and a couple of Bank Mynahs. Driving out into the traffic, three things became rapidly apparent. Firstly, Indian roads seem utterly chaotic. Secondly, the pollution levels are off the scale. Thirdly, there are an enormous number of Black Kites in town. We were staying at the Suryaa Hotel, pretty good, with an excellent roof terrace for watching the Black Kites and the flocks of Little Swifts. Feral Pigeons were everywhere. In the late afternoon, we headed out to the Qutb Minar (fabulous minaret and other interesting ruins set in a nice park). Here we added House Crows, Jungle Crows, Common Mynahs, Rose-ringed Parakeets, Alexandrine Parakeets, House Sparrows, Collared Doves and Palm Squirrels to the list...