The state of Rajasthan has more than 40 million people and is the largest state in India. Its area is over 34 million hectares; 11% of all India. Its ecosystems face several problems; desertification, deforestation, land degradation, and ravine formation etc. Increasing numbers of people and cattle means increasing pressure on natural resources, often causing conflict between local communities and protection agencies. There is a marked difference in the physiographic features of the state. The Aravallis, one of the oldest mountain systems, divides the state into two unequal parts. A vast expanse of arid and semi-arid tract lies to their west. To the east are fertile fields and stretches of the Vindhyan hill system. The official claim for total forest cover in this desert state is 7-9%. The three National Parks cover 919 sq. km area, 22 Sanctuaries represent 8,389 sq. km, while the Closed Areas (where hunting is prohibited) have an area of 14,865.17 sq. km. The physio-graphy of Rajasthan is the product of long years of erosion and depositional processes. Three major ecosystems can be identified here.
The Western Desert Region
The western desert region is characterised by arid landscape, barren hills, level rocky structural plains, and other sandy plains with alluvial layers underneath. It also has sandy hummocks and low sand dunes of various kinds and inter-dunal plains. This terrain hosts xerophytes wherein are found a variety of mammals, reptiles, birds etc (black buck, gazelle, desert fox, gerbils, rodents, spiny tailed lizard, snakes and nearly 100 species of resident and migratory birds; the Great Indian Bustard finds its home in this region). The Indira Gandhi Canal now passes through Sri Ganganagar, Bikaner, and Jaisalmer, and will soon extend to Barmer district. It has given rise to a new aquatic ecosystem in an area that never received irrigation or moisture before. Bird species that had never been reported in the region have now appeared.
The Aravalli Hills
The Aravalli hills dominate Rajasthan. This range runs diagonally across the state from Kotra in the southwest to Khetri in the northeast covering a distance of about 550kms. This belt is home to some of the most magnificent species of mammals, reptiles, birds etc. (tigers, leopards, sloth bear, spotted deer, sambar deer, wild boar, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, python, snakes, with nearly 450 species of terrestrial, arboreal and other birds).
The Eastern Plains
This is the most fertile region of Rajasthan and covers nearly one third of the state. It comprises vast agricultural fields, grasslands, hills, valleys, and seasonal river systems where the population is denser than in the western desert areas. The Chambal River (Kota, Sawai Madhopur, Karauli and Dholpur districts) and the Mahi river (Banswara and Dungarpur districts) are the only perennial rivers and offer many aquatic benefits.
Rajasthan state has a vast diversity of bird life. Nearly 450 species can be observed in the state. The national parks/sanctuaries, water bodies, grasslands and river beds offer wonderful bird watching. There are 28 national parks/sanctuaries in the state that are administered by the Department of Forests. The Keoladeo National Park, located near the city of Bharatpur, has the most potential for bird watching. One can log 100 species in a day visit to this 29sq. km park, of which about 6sq. km is aquatic. It is celebrated for breeding of resident species of birds such as Open-billed Storks, Painted Storks, Herons, Egrets, Spoonbill, Ibis, Kingfishers, Jacanas, Cotton Teal, Comb Duck, and Whistling Duck etc. During winter, its shallow lakes teem with thousands of migratory ducks and geese besides waders, warblers and numerous other forest/land birds. The park is also noted for raptor species such as harriers, eagles, buzzards, falcons, kites, & Shikra etc. The vultures used to be a common sight here until about five years ago. Keoladeo National Park is one of the two Ramsar Sites in Rajasthan.
Sambhar lake, another Ramsar Site is located west of Jaipur. About 80 species of birds can be sighted here during winter season. It is a haven for waders, flamingos and some ducks. Ranthambhor Tiger Reserve, and Sariska Tiger Reserve, are the other two national parks in Rajasthan. Each has nearly 250 species of birds besides some spectacular mammals in their wilderness, Ranthambhor being noted as a nursery for tigers.
Rajasthan has some of the rarest of Indian species such as Lesser Adjutant Stork, Great Indian Bustard (the State Bird of Rajasthan); Lesser Florican, Stoliczka's Bushchat, Vultures etc. The Bustard presents a rare example, having been saved from the brink of extinction through public agitation against illegal hunting during the late seventies (led by this author - Harsh Vardhan).
The common species in Rajasthan include Peacock, Pigeons, Doves, Mynas, Sparrows, Crows, Koels, Partridges, Parrots, Babblers, Tailor Birds, Sunbirds, Green Bee-eater, Red-vented Bulbul, Kite, Hoopoe, Drongo etc.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park
The Keoladeo Ghana National Park is one of the best sites in the world for observing large poulations of migratory waterfowl. Migratory waders also arrive in large numbers and the shanks, sandpipers and stints are not hard to find. Three species of cranes (including the endangered Siberian Crane) visit the India wetlands in the winter months, as do several types of stork, herons, egrets and plovers. The two species of jacana - the Bronzewinged and Pheasant-tailed are common residents. [When the monsoon fails there is very little wetland but efforts are made to keep the birds by pumping out groundwater; which was the case during my visit in Spring 2003 - Fatbirder]
Main Birding Areas
The main birding areas are: Keoladeo National Park, Ranthambhor National Park, Sariska Tiger Reserve, Desert National Park, Bund Baretha (Bharatpur); Talab-i-Shahi (Dholpur); Talchhapar Sanctuary (Churu); Sambhar lake and adjoining water bodies (Jaipur); Man Sagar lake (Jaipur); Raj Samand (Rajnagar); Fateh Sagar and Pichhola (Udaipur); Sardar Samand (Jodhpur/Pali); Mt. Abu (Sirohi); Kumbhalgarh (Rajnagar); and numerous grassland habitats, water bodies and river banks. Some of these birding spots are quite close to prominent cities like Jhalana, Arboratem, and Man Sagar (Jaipur); Ana Sagar (Ajmer); Fateh Sagar (Udaipur) etc. It is common to come across 25-35 species within an hour at any place in the state. The desert offers remarkable sights for birds of prey which dot the telephone wires along the road.
Number of Species
State Bird: Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps
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For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering India as a whole - please see the main India page of Fatbirder
Birds of Northern India
by Richard Grimmett and Tim Inskipp Helm Field Guides 2003 RRP ?19.99p
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ISBN: 0713651679Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of Rajasthan
by Rakesh Vyas | OUP 2015 | Hardback | 319 Pages | 500 Colour Photographs | 473 Species Described
ISBN: 9780198098591Buy this book from NHBS.com
Sambhar Lake, Rajasthan
B Gopal - Series: RAMSAR SITES IN INDIA 37 pages, col illus, fold-out map. World Wide Fund for Nature India
ISBN: 53884Buy this book from NHBS.com
Great Indian Bustard Choriotis nigriceps
Forums & Mailing Lists
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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…
Anytime Tours - 12-Days Birding in Rajasthan
This tour is designed for bird watchers interested in species of the desert areas such as Indian Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser, White-naped Tit and very large congregation of birds in different habitats. Optional stops: Tal Chappar for Yellow-eyed Pigeon, Bharatpur, Ranthambhor, Chambal, Agra. The best time to bird here is between November & March…
Anytime Tours - 14 Days Birding North India
Corbett National Park, Pangot (Nainital), Sat Tal, Chambal, Bharatpur, Ranthambhor NP - This tour is designed for fast pace birding in northern region of India. This has proven to be an extremely productive tour. This tour can be customized. Best time: November to April…
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
Our tours will appeal to the serious birder as well as to the beginner or intermediate bird watcher and some are suitable for the non-birding spouse. A spectacular variety of Himalayan birds and wildlife is spotted in some of these most exotic locales. The itinerary focuses on the Central Himalayas at Binsar, Nainital, Betalghat and Corbett National Park.
Rajasthan Wildlife Tours
Some of the migratory birds flocking into this region during winters are - common crane, ducks, coots, pelicans and the rare Siberian cranes, imperial sand grouse, falcons, buzzards…
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.
2008 [02 February] - Bill Blake
Arriving in Bharatpur, we stopped for some birding along a rather dry canal. Our target species here was Greater Painted-snipe and we all had excellent views of three birds here plus Black-winged Stilt, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Marsh, Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers, two Temminck’s Stints, Common Snipe and Ruff…
2009 [12 December] - Ian Merrill - Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra
Our 2009 North West India trip was largely inspired by the travels of our good friends Rob Hutchinson and James Eaton (www.birdtourasia.com), who had followed a similar route the previous winter. The main constraint of our trip was the two-week window of travel time available, which meant that we could not follow Rob and James’ full circuit; this is where the logistical planning became interesting, in deciding which of the mouth-watering selection of birds and mammals we could afford to omit….
2014 [01 January] - Frank Lambert - West India
…After lunch we tracked down an obliging pair of Stoliczka’s Bushchats and spend more than 30 minutes appreciating these increasingly rare birds. As we did so, we found another four bustards, although these were almost certainly some of the same birds we had seen earlier. Several vultures then put in an appearance, gradually coming nearer and nearer until their identification was easily confirmed. Two huge Monk Vultures were joined by a couple of Red-headed Vultures and Eurasian Griffons, confirming that this part of India it is still possible to encounter several species of these rare birds…
2014 [01 January] - James Eaton - West India
…An afternoon walk along the river and reedbed was similar to the morning; pleasant general birding and great views of some particularly confiding Moustached Warblers, Baya and Black-breasted Weavers, Red Avadavats, Black-rumped Flamebacks, raucous Jungle Babblers and a Hoopoe posing in a trackside tree….
2015 [01 January] - Frank Lambert - Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra
...West India also supports huge numbers of wintering birds, in particular raptors and waterbirds, of which we saw plenty, and rarer species such as Hypocolius and Macqueen’s Bustard, both of which gave us outstanding views. Although we recorded just 298 species this included many memorable species such as White-bellied Minivet, White-naped Tit, Indian Spotted Creeper, Green Avadavat, Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Courser, Yellow-eyed Pigeon, five species of vulture, Pallid Scops Owl, Mottled Wood Owl, Sykes’s Nightjar and to finish off, the Critically Endangered Forest Owlet...
2015 [03 March] - Dion Hobcroft
Our birding was off to a solid start in Sultanpur National Park. Sultanpur is a fabulous, quite small wetland park fringed by Acacia woodlands. It practically heaves with birdlife, and in our 300-meter foray we recorded over 70 species. The two standout birds were a pair of Sind Sparrows and a Brook’s LeafWarbler.
2015 [03 March] - Graeme Wright - Rajasthan, Gujarat (and New Delhi)
...Morning birding in Abu Road – 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 [08 August] - Aseem Kothiala - Birding in Sonkhaliya
This is home to one of the worlds most endangered species of bird, the "Lesser Florican". Optimistic estimates suggest that only 1200 of them are left in the wild. More recently, declines have been caused by rapid reductions in the area of grassland owing to conversion into agriculture and overgrazing.
2015 [08 August] - Simon Colenutt - Rajasthan & Kashmir
...We birded the first 300-400m of the track which led through thorn scrub, wet grassland and a Water Hyacinth choked lagoon. Birds here included Greater Coucal, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Asian Openbill Stork, Red-naped Ibis, smart Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Purple Gallinule and Grey Francolin.
2015 [12 December] - Pritam Baruah - Desert National Park, Jaisalmer
The Thar Desert in the Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan is the western most frontier of India and although its sandy and scrubby desert-scape can seem rather lifeless, it is actually a veritable hotspot for birding. In particular, there are some sought-after species here that are difficult to find elsewhere in India. By far the most important target here is the spectacular Great Indian Bustard, a subcontinental endemic.
2016 [03 March] - Aseem Kothiala - Bera, The Leopard's Atelier
The leopard is definitely the most elusive and secretive in the cat family. They are extremely difficult to trace and locate in the wild unless you are in Bera, in south-west Rajasthan, India.
2016 [05 May] - Stuart Vine - Delhi, Agra & Ranthambore
...Our next stop was Agra and the Taj Mahal. Undeniably jaw-dropping, but perhaps a touch over-familiar. However, Erica turned to me and said "What's that!?" That was the scruffiest looking immature Egyptian Vulture I've ever seen. It flew on to a water spout and spent its time looking at the tourists, while occasionally trying to poo on them from a great height! The Taj is great, but that made it for me...
2016 [07 July] - James Eaton - Ladakh, Kashmir and Rajasthan
Our Pre-tour Ladakh extension had the primary goal of locating Tibetan Sandgrouse and we ended up having splendid views of a pair feeding amidst the magnificent scenery of Tso Kar, high on the plateau. Great Rosefinch, Mountain Chiffchaff, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Red-fronted Serin, Ground Tit, Black-necked Crane and Blanford’s Snowfinch were also recorded. The main tour began in Leh with Ibisbill, Mountain Chiffchaff and Hume’s Whitethroat the main birds recorded as we drove west to Kargil, then south towards Srinagar. With ‘unrest’ around Srinagar making life difficult for us, we made base up the valley at our fine ‘glamp’, taking in large numbers of Spectacled Finch, Black-and-yellow Grosbeak, Pink-browed Finch, Rufous-naped Tit, Kashmir and White-cheeked Nuthatches, Himalayan Parakeet, Tytler’s Leaf Warbler and, eventually, Kashmir Nutcracker.
2017 [01 January] - Anjana & Rishi - Sariska National Park
...We started our evening safari early so that we could cover as much area as possible. First, we directed the driver to take us to the Kankwadi area which is known for its fort. However, we were more interested in the waterhole right next to the fort. Some of the birds spotted here were: Water Pipit, Indian Skimmer, Little Egret, Kentish Plover, Temminck’s Stint, Knob-billed Duck and the White-browed Fantail. We also spotted a Small Indian Mongoose on the way to the waterhole....
Places to Stay
Located a mere stones throw from the entrance to the Keoladeo National Park, The Birder`s Inn is a quiet, peaceful haven for visitors to the area. Offering gracious hospitality and comfortable lodgings, the Inn is run by an avid birder and naturalist of considerabe repute, who grew up in the area and still makes his home there. The beautiful little lodge is the ideal place for the keen bird-watcher, offering the very best services in terms of naturalists and guides to share their experience and insight to make visits to the Park truly worthwhile. The Inn hosts ten well-appointed rooms with all the modern comforts one would expect, including air-conditioning and hot and cold running water. email@example.com
Laxmi Vilas Palace - Keoladeo Ghana National Park
At the Laxmi Vilas Palace, heritage hospitality goes beyond the narrow parameters of well appointed rooms, period décor, antique furniture and the best of creature comforts. Our style is equally distinguished by homely warmth, personnel involvement and unfailing attention to various intangibles that define the rich and varied heritage of Rajasthan in general and Bharatpur in particular.
Tiger Den Resort - Ranthambhor National Park
Tiger Den Resort is a mile from Ranthambhore National Park. Cottages with gently sloped roofs give you all the modern amenities you need.
Udai Bilas Palace - Dungarpur
Nearly 200 specices of birds have been sighted in Durgarpur. See listing on the website. Nestled in idyllic splendour, with the blue waters of Gaibsagar lake on one side and a cove of private reserve forest on the other, Udai Bilas Palace is the embodiment of the old world charm of princely India. It offers a scenic location for rest and recreation. This is an ideal paradise of unhurried hospitality from where to explore birdlife and tribal life.
Indian Bird Fair
he Indian Bird Fair (IBF) is held every year in the city of Jaipur (Rajasthan). It is the only event of its kind in India. Conducted on the shores of Man Sagar Lake (Jal Mahal), in the city of Jaipur, during winter when the migratory species are present, the Fair presents an opportunity for education and awareness activities that benefit the bird resource in India…
Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
Keoladeo Ghana National Park, one of the most spectacular bird sanctuaries in India, nesting indigenous water- birds as well as migratory water birds and water side birds. It is also inhabited by sambar, chital, nilgai and boar. More than 300 species of birds are found in this small park of 29 sq. km. of which 11 sq. km. are marshes and the rest scrubland and grassland. Keoladeo, the name derives from an ancient Hindu temple, devoted to Lord Shiva, which stands at the centre of the park. Ghana means dense, referring to the thick forest, which used to cover the area. While many of India's parks have been developed from the hunting preserves of princely India, Keoladeo Ghana is perhaps the only case where the habitat has been created by a maharaja. In earlier times, Bharatpur town used to be flooded regularly every monsoon. In 1760, an earthern dam (Ajan Dam) was constructed, to save the town, from this annual vagary of nature.
Desert National Park
The Desert National Park is situated in the west Indian state of Rajasthan near Jaisalmer. This is one of the largest national parks, covering an area of 3,100sq. km. The desert sanctuary being a fragile ecosystem has its own flora and fauna. Birdlife in this sandy habitat is vivid & spectacular. The great Indian bustard is another magnificent bird found in relatively fair numbers. It migrates locally in different seasons. The region is a haven for migratory and resident birds of the desert. One can see many eagles, harriers, falcons, buzzards, kestrel and vultures. Short- toed eagles, tawny eagles, spotted eagles, lagger falcons and kestrels are the commonest of these. Sandgrouse are spotted near small ponds or lakes. Sea shells and massive fossilized tree trunks in this park record the geological history of the desert.
Dudhwa National Park
This tiger reserve is located in the Terai bordering Nepal. The park covers 498.29 sq. km. and has fine sal forests and extensive grasslands. The tall coarse grass, swampy depressions and lakes characterise the wetlands of the Park. these are the habitat of large numbers of barasingha, the magnificent swamp deer. These in turn support the predators - the tiger and leopard.
National Chambal Sanctuary
This stretch of the river passes through Agra and Etawah districts of Uttar Pradesh, Morina & Bhind districts of Madhya Pradesh, and Kota, Sawaimadhopur, and Dholpur districts of Rajasthan. The river forms a natural state boundary between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The Chambal Safari accesses the Sanctuary from Uttar Pradesh, at Nalgaon in Agra district…
Ranthambhor National Park
Ranthambore National Park is one of the biggest and most renowned national park in Northern India. The park is located in the Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Rajasthan, which is about 130 km from Jaipur. Being considered as one of the famous and former hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur, today the Ranthambore National Park terrain is major wildlife tourist attraction spot that has pulled the attention of many wildlife photographers and lovers in this destination….
Sambhar Lake Wildlife Sanctuary
Sambhar Lake is the biggest saline lake of India, 190 sq-KMS in size at complete capability and set about 60 KMS western side of Jaipur, merely exterior prosaically called as Salt Lake City. This huge area of hostile salty is on standard only 0.6 cm deep and in no way over 3 m yet the monsoon is just finished. Sambhar Lake extends in length approximately 22.5 KMS, the width of the Sambar defers somewhere 3 to 11 KMS. Numerous seasonal streams of the freshwater, 02 of the main are Mendha River and Rupangarh River which feed Sambar Lake…
Sariska National Park
Sariska is located in the sharp cliffs of hills and narrow valleys of the Aravallis some 200km from Delhi. The forests are dry and deciduous. Within the sanctuary there are the ruins of medieval buildings. There is a 17th century castle on a sharp hilltop at Kankwari, which provides a panoramic view of flying Egyptian vultures and eagles…
Prior to this trip India conjured up jungles, heat, and humidity, to my naive mind. I got the heat part correct, but in addition to the jungles there are vast, dusty, and arid deserts, especially in Rajasthan, a state in the northwest bordering Pakistan...
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