Goa, a former Portuguese enclave, is the smallest of the twenty-five states of India in terms of area, and fourth smallest in terms of population. Located in the Konkan region along the west coast of peninsular India, Goa is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north and by Karnataka to the south and east, while the Arabian Sea forms its 101km western coastline. The state capital is Panaji, or Panjim, other major centres being Mapusa towards the north, Margao and Vasco-da-Gama to the south, and Ponda to the east. Goa’s has its own official language, Konkani, however a host of other languages are spoken here, including Hindi, Marathi, English, and to dwindling extent Portuguese.
Blessed with seasonally cloudless blue skies and endless palm-fringed beaches, Goa is a tropical paradise for both international and domestic holidaymakers. It has also long been a popular destination for birders, enticed by the diversity of birds and remarkable ease of birding.
Broadly speaking, Goa can be dissected into three ecological regions – the coastal belt with its mangroves-lined estuaries and marshes, the central dry, rocky plateau, and the undulating forested interior. From the coast Goa rises into the Sahyadri Range of the Western Ghats which run the length of its eastern boundary less than 70km away. This is Goa’s most notable region from a biological perspective, home to a number of restricted range endemics. The close proximity of the ghats to the sea has furthermore resulted in a rapid variation in habitat across Goa’s breadth that is reflected in the significant diversity of species found within its borders.
Goa is home to over 450 species of birds, including 13 of the 24 species endemic to the Western Ghats. Although this is not the most productive region of southern India with regard to India’s more recognizable large mammals (Asian Elephant and Tiger are infrequent visitors to border areas) Goa, along with the Uttara Kannada region of neighbouring Karnataka, is notable for its considerable diversity of butterflies – with over 250 recorded species this is second only to Kerala’s Palghat Gap in the entire chain of the Western Ghats.
Goa’s small area combined with its well-developed infrastructure makes it possible to effortlessly, yet thoroughly, cover the most productive birding localities from the coast to the ghats in a short timeframe. Given a couple of weeks it is possible to reach a list of 250-310, comprising more widespread Indian species, regional endemics, and overwintering migrants.
Goa is accessible, friendly, and above all safe, making it easy to travel around independently without the necessity of joining a guided tour, and with English widely spoken there are not the communication difficulties that may be encountered in other parts of India. Being a popular ‘winter sun’ holiday destination flights and accommodation are easy to arrange and facilities for visiting tourists are well established. Everything considered Goa is an excellent introduction to Indian, or even Asian, birding.
Baga Fields & Beira Mar Hotel
Baga fields extend from Arpora into the centre of Baga, viewable and accessible from the Baga coast road up to, over, and along the Baga River. The southernmost part of the fields ends in a marshy area behind the Beira Mar Hotel, viewable from the hotel restaurant and swimming pool patio (non-residents are welcome). This is a great spot for a late evening visit and a regular site for Greater Painted Snipe, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Slaty-breasted Rail, and Cinnamon Bittern at close range during the winter months. The fields are an important open space in what has become an overcrowded resort, and host various pipits and buntings among a good selection of raptors and more widespread Indian species.
Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary – Tambdi Surla & Mollem
The entire stretch of the Western Ghats that falls within Goa’s boundaries is protected in a series of interconnecting wildlife sanctuaries, of which the Bhagwan Mahaveer is the largest. With an area of 240 square km, the sanctuary provides a degree of security to a considerable tract of deciduous and evergreen forests in the gently undulating terrain of the foothills of the Sahyadris. The most accessible parts of the sanctuary are Tambdi Surla, and Mollem, the latter additionally designated as a National Park. The Tambdi Surla area is generally the quieter and more productive of the two. Densities deep inside the forest can appear low, however this is the region where many of Goa’s most sought-after species can be found, such as Ceylon Frogmouth, Malabar Trogon, Black-backed Dwarf and Blue-eared Kingfishers, White-bellied Woodpecker, Great Pied and Malabar Pied Hornbills, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Malabar Whistling-thrush, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Forest Eagle-owl, and Indian Pitta. Forest edges are frequented by mixed feeding flocks that can contain such delights as Asian Paradise and Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Flame-throated Bulbul, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, and Dark-fronted Babbler. The sanctuary is a 2 hour drive from the coast via the town of Ponda, and the driving time between Tambdi Surla and Mollem is only 30 minutes. One day is inadequate and a stay of at least 2 nights in the area is strongly recommended – Mollem can be easily visited from a base at Tambdi Surla.
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
A small sanctuary of only 8 square km, Bondla holds some excellent mixed forest in gently undulating terrain at the foot of the Western Ghats. The sanctuary hosts a mini zoo (with Tiger, Leopard, Gaur, and a good collection of snakes) and botanical garden and as a result can be busy, especially on weekends and public holidays - early morning is by far the best time to visit. The approach road to the entrance gate and on to the tourist zone, and the track leading from the café (soft drinks, biscuits) towards a series of fords (it may be possible to enter and exit along this route however the track is in a state of disrepair and may not be motorable) are the best places to bird, while the small reservoir before the entrance gate is a good place to view raptors over the surrounding hills. Birdlife is largely similar to that of Tambdi Surla / Mollem, however Bondla can turn up a few additional species such as White-browed Bulbul and Blue-faced Malkoha, while species such as White-rumped Shama, Blue-headed Rock-thrush, Forest Wagtail, Hair-crested Drongo, and Rufous Woodpecker, can appear more regular here. Bondla is a 1.5 hour drive from the coast, and feasible as a day trip, however it can be easily combined with a stay at Tambdi Surla 30 minutes drive away.
Chorao Island & Mayem (Maem) Lake
Chorao Island lies in the middle of the Mandovi River, a few km inland from the capital Panjim, and is reached via ferry from Ribandar. The mangrove forests of the western tip of the island are protected as Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, accessible by boat or canoe from the Chorao ferry jetty or via raised pathways that lead to a watchtower. The mangroves provide suitable habitat for shrimps and small fish, encouraging migratory waterbirds to frequent the mangrove edge in the main channel. A search within the mangroves is unlikely to produce anything that will not be found elsewhere, however it does give the chance to experience the mangrove ecosystem at close range, particularly at low tide when the aerial roots of the 14 mangrove species found here are clearly exposed. The tidal creeks and flooded fields throughout the rest of the island are productive for waders and waterbirds, including Wood, Green, and Terek Sandpipers, Temminck’s Stint, Eurasian Curlew, Western Reef-egret, Purple Heron, Striated Heron, Lesser Adjutant, and Woolly-necked Stork. The diversity of habitats represented on the island is reflected in the good assortment of species here – a full day is recommended which can incorporate a visit to Mayem Lake, actually situated on the mainland but easily accessed via Chorao (the other side of the island is separated from the mainland by a narrow creek). The lake itself is used for boating and as a result waterfowl and waders are unlikely, however the surrounding tree-covered slopes are excellent for birds such as Orange-breasted Green-pigeon, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Indian Scimitar-babbler, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Crested Serpent-eagle, and Changeable Hawk-eagle, while this is also a regular site for Brown Fish-owl. There is a café at the lake that provides a convenient place for a late breakfast or a midday break. Neighbouring Divar Island has largely the same species as Chorao, but is smaller and quieter with a more pastoral atmosphere and some interesting species do turn up here – a good place to try if you have a day to spare.
Situated 2 km south of Old Goa, Carambolim is a marshy lotus-covered lake surrounded by scrub, paddy fields, and woodland. The amount of water in the lake varies greatly with the seasons and agricultural use however this is one of the best wetland sites in Goa frequented by good numbers of waterfowl, egrets and herons. Regular species here include Purple Swamphen, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Garganey, Northern Pintail, Lesser Whistling-duck, Cotton Teal, Comb Duck, Woolly-necked Stork, Asian Openbill, Oriental Darter, and Small Pratincole. Raptors including Western Marsh Harrier and Osprey are drawn to the lake, while the roadside palm trees and wires above the adjoining fields are good for passerines, woodpeckers, bee-eaters, and parakeets. Mature trees bordering the village are a good place to find Brown Hawk Owl and Jungle Owlet.
Situated on the northern shore of the Chapora Estuary, Morjim Beach is one of the quieter beaches of the north Goa coastline and just a short drive north of Goa’s main tourist centre (Baga, Candolim etc.). This is the best site in Goa for gulls and shorebirds, being a high tide roost for species such as Great Black-headed, Brown-headed, Heuglin’s, and Slender-billed Gulls, Great and Lesser Crested, Gull-billed, and Caspian Terns, Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, Small Pratincole, and White-bellied Sea-eagle. At low tide these same birds can be found on exposed sand banks in mid-channel, viewable from the southernmost point of the beach.
Saligao is a small village near between Calangute and Panjim. ‘Zor’ is the word for spring in the local Konkani, and around this perennial water source is a small area of mature woodland, most important as a key site for Brown Wood-owl. Best visited in the morning, Saligao Zor also hosts Indian Peafowl, White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets, Common Iora, Orange-headed Thrush, Indian Robin, Greenish Warbler, Common Tailorbird, Verditer and Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers, and Purple Sunbird.
Number of Species
State Bird: Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus gularis
Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
* Field Guides & Bird Song
For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering India as a whole - please see the main India page of Fatbirder
Bird Sounds of Goa and South India
Hannu Jannes, WildSounds
ISBN: 156613Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of Goa: a Reference Book
Heinz Lainer - 244 pages, b/w illus. Other India Bookstore
ISBN: 8185569606Buy this book from NHBS.com
DVD - Birding Goa 1
The Fish Owls of Cowpat Corner and Other Stories - Malcolm Rymer - Running time: 90 mins. Malcolm Rymer ISBN: 137775 Available from the film maker: http://www.wildlifevideos.net/goa1_new.html
DVD - Birding Goa 2
Flamebacks and Frogmouths - Malcolm Rymer Duration 110 mins. Malcolm Rymer ISBN: 137776 Available from the film maker: http://www.wildlifevideos.net/goa2_new.html
Goa Birding Trip: 5th-19th February 1999
Mark Beevers 40 pages, b/w illus, maps.
ISBN: 114349Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
All India Birding Tours
Your Birding itinerary depends upon your interests, the duration of the planned trip, and other matters such as your budget…
A birding camp located on the edge of the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and encircled by the Sahyadri Range of the Western Ghats in Goa’s most ecologically diverse region. Owned and run by birders, for birders, the camp consists of 6 tents, 6 cottages, and 2 farmhouse bedrooms spread through the forest, and professional guiding available. 15 endemics and near-endemics of the Western Ghats habitually found here, plus a host of forest birds and winter migrants.
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
Birdquest's Goa birding tour is a real holiday, with great birdwatching available from just two different accommodations over a two week period. Our Goa tour turns up a a very diverse list of birds with minimal travelling involved. With a long stay in one hotel (we use a better class of accommodation than most), and the beach and cultural attractions of Goa on tap, this is a good tour for couples where one member is not keen to be out birding every day…
Welcome to Canopy - An ecotourism venture with a difference. Birding in Goa? You have come to the right place… We are a group of serious bird watchers in Goa. We have all the information and the expertise you need for a successful birding vacation in Goa. Blessed with splendid forests of the Western Ghats, amazing wetlands, rich mudflats and rivers, Goa is a birdwatcher’s delight. Birding in Goa offers an opportunity to sight an amazing diversity of resident birds and also find a variety of Western Palearctic species. Nine of the sixteen species of Western Ghats endemic birds have also been reported from Goa.
If anyone wants to visit Goa and have an excellent guide we could not recommend Lloyd Fernandez too highly. He proved to be a good birder with a wide general knowledge, totally and utterly reliable, a careful and competent driver who enhanced our holiday experience no end. Lloyd was not only a good birdspotter, he has also gone out of his way to develop a rounded ornithological knowledge base of his country and shares this knowledge readily with visitors. As an added bonus he supplied a breakfast each morning, very welcome if you set off before the crack of dawn and much before any hotel begins to serve breakfast, and can make arrangements for overnight stays further afield. Lloyd can be contacted by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or his phone no. (0)832 2276711 (Calangute-Goa). We would be more than happy to provide information to anyone considering using his services.
Giles and Renee Braithwaite email@example.com
Southern Birdwing offers excursions suited to different interests and time schedules. We conduct Exclusive expeditions, which cater to specific requests. We also have regular Package deals and Single or Half day Natural History trips for Groups or Individuals.
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
1997 [03 March] - Fatbirder
Being arthritic I tend to "walk by car" and cannot set off on long hikes - I have rarely found this major drawback and, at home, consider my car to be a mobile hide. It also makes me very good at spotting tiny birds whilst travelling at speed. My wife who is as keen as me and a bit fitter has been known to flush the occasional jack snipe or grouse out of pity, or check out a likely spot to avoid me wasting my limited mobility on a wild goose chase (forgive the pun)…
2007 [02 February] - Steve Baines
…We had made great time and still had about ¾ hour daylight so we left our luggage in reception and headed across the road to bird the paddies. Although not much to look at the paddies held an array of birds and our Goan list increased with the more anticipated species of the trip like Small Pratincole, Ashy Woodswallow, Jungle Myna and White-browed Wagtail…
2008 [01 January] - John Kirby & Garry Hughes
Goa is now well visited and numerous trip reports are available. I will just give an update on some sites visited during my latest trip having been 8 times before. All birding was done between daybreak and 11 am…
2008 [12 December] - Vincent van der Spek - Goa, Mumbai & Bandhavgarh
2009 [12 December] - David Williams
2009 was a very good year for the independent traveller. When I saw that Qatar Airways were launching their new route to Goa and at the same time adding Manchester as a departure point, I just had to investigate…
2012 [12 December] - Mike Witherick & Leio de Souza
…Others species seen there included Grey-breasted Prinia, Tawny-bellied Babbler and Little Swifts. During this first session we were impressed by the abundance of butterflies and their colourfulness; our sightings included Southern Birdwing (the largest butterfly in Asia),…
2014 [04 April] - Teet Sirotkin
…took me to Bondla, Backwoods and Tamdi Surla. This produced Sri Lankan Frogmouth, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue‐capped Rock Thrush, Square‐tailed Drongo‐ Cuckoo Brown‐breasted Flycatcher and Malabar parakeet amongst others….
2014 [12 December] - Birdlife Denmark
2015 [12 December] - David Walsh
...For the final leg of the tour we spent four nights in our traditional hotel adjacent to two large lakes near the coast at Arpora. A wide selection of gulls, terns and waders on a picturesque sandy beach was much enjoyed, whilst the wetlands played host to some superb raptors including both Indian Spotted and Greater Spotted Eagles. The forest remnants held further specialities including Indian Yellow Tit, Plum-headed Parakeet and Vigors’s Sunbird. A boat trip makes any tour extra special, and on the Zuari river we found the sought-after Black-capped and Collared Kingfishers, plus White-bellied Sea Eagle, Lesser Adjutant and no fewer than ten species of heron....
2015 [12 December] - Hannu Jannes
2016 [02 February] - David Ousey
...Our small launch came and we climbed on board. We crossed to the north side of the river and hugged the mud flats and mangrove area. We saw lots of waders, egrets and herons and Gull-billed Terns, then a Oriental Darter flew past and great views of a perched Osprey enjoying a meal. Then Leio pointed out a perched Collared Kingfisher, we saw about 4 of these striking birds on this trip....
2017 [03 March] - S S Cheema - Ganeshgudi
...Next day in the morning I was one of the first ones to be up and ready fort the walk. The Malabar Whistling Thrush was calling - but never came out for sighting. Soon as the sun rose others were up, ready and our guide too was ready. We walked - the first sightings were the paw prints of a leopard. The walk was very fruitful with some great sightings of Asian Blue Fairy Bird, Malabar Barbet and minivets among others. Soon we were below the same very tree that we had been pointed out yesterday and once again though the photo opportunities were still not great due to position of sun - but the birds were great. We easily spent an hour there - went back to the resort for a quick breakfast, some more waiting at the view point and Iain and self were off to Goa....
Places to Stay
A birding camp located on the edge of the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary owned and run by birders, for birders, the camp consists of 6 tents, 6 cottages, and 2 farmhouse bedrooms spread through the forest.
In the pages on this web site there is a range of privately owned villas, cottages and apartments for short-term holiday rental in the tiny West Coast Indian State of Goa. You will find a small number of select properties that have been personally hand-picked ranging from delightful 1 bedroom apartments to large 4 bedroom villas on private estates.
Om Lake Resort
A beautiful place where the cottages are on the side of lake.You enjoy the increase and decrease of water level in lake as per the high tide and low tide. The fishes enters the lake from the sea and the seagulls are our regular visitor in lake to catch the fishes. The cottages are in between the lush green coconut trees.
But its greatest attraction is the Ayurveda Centre designed to tone up your body, mind and soul. It is the only Boutique Hotel which is built on the lines of a natural, traditional architecture concept using exposed masonry. Eco-friendly and with the minimum use of resources, it uses Goa laterite stones liberally, hence the glow it emits is distinctly Goan. The twittering of birds and a variety of flora and fauna enhance this other-world charm that makes your stay a tryst with nature and a solace for the soul.
The Hermitage Guest House
The Hermitage is a well-appointed and secluded working farm set amidst the lush forests of the Western Ghats. If you are a Wildlife enthusiast or Nature Watcher, keen on Birding in India, a Nature Photographer, enjoy Trekking, or just simply love the outdoors, then the Hermitage is a perfect holiday destination for you…
Goa's Best Birding Sites
The following sites are all included in my book Finding Birds in North Goa and many are also covered in my DVD of the same title…
Southern Birdwing is an enterprise started by Goan wildlife enthusiasts Harvey D`Souza and Neil Alvares in October 1997, who help create awareness through educational excursions, talks and workshops…