Flame-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus gularis ©Aseem Kumar Kothiala Website
Birding Goa

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.

Top Sites
  • Baga Fields & Beira Mar Hotel

    Satellite View
    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

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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

    InformationSatellite View
    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

    InformationSatellite View
    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.
  • Lake Carambolim

    InformationSatellite View
    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.
  • Morjim Beach

    InformationSatellite View
    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 Zor

    InformationSatellite View
    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
  • Number of bird species: 549

    (As at December 2018)

    State Bird: Flame-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus gularis

  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • A Photographic Guide to Birds of Goa

    | By Rina Jain & Naitik Jain | The Write Place | 2014 | Paperback | 176 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 9789383952410 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of Goa

    | By Bikram Grewal & Savio Fonseca | Bird Institute of Goa | 2016 | Paperback | 232 pages, 480+ colour photos, 1 colour map | ISBN: 9781943932542 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of Goa

    | By Heinz Lainer & Rahul Alvares | Forest Department, Government of Goa | 2013 | Paperback | 240 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 9788185569611 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Finding Birds in North Goa

    | By Dave Gosney | Easybirder | 2010 | Paperback | 36 pages, b/w maps | ISBN: 9781907316180 Buy this book from NHBS.com

Abbreviations Key

  • BS Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

    InformationSatellite View
    Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is an estuarine mangrove habitat, which is declared as the bird sanctuary, and located on western tip of the Island of Chorão along the Mandovi River, Goa. The size of the sanctuary is just 178 ha (440 acres). The area is covered by low mangrove forest.The sanctuary and island are accessed by a ferry service running between Ribander and Chorão. It has a paved walk that runs between mangroves of Rhizophora mucronata, Avicennia officinalis and other species. Common bird species include striated, western reef heron, little bittern, black bittern, red knot, jack snipe and pied avocet.
  • NP WS Mollem & Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary

    InformationSatellite View
    Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park is a 240 square kilometres (93 sq mi) protected area located in the Western Ghats. This sanctuary contains quite a few birds which are endemic to the Indian subcontinent, specifically southern India.
  • WS Bondla

    InformationSatellite View
    Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is located in northeastern Goa, India in Ponda taluka. The total area of the park is 8 km2. It is a popular destination for both tourists and schoolchildren. A wide variety of animal life can be encountered, including: monkeys, sambar deer, Indian bison, Malabar giant squirrel, Indian peafowl and many species of snakes as well as a wide variety of birds such as Heart-spotted Woodpecker.
  • WS Cotigao

    InformationSatellite View
    There is an eco-tourism complex at the entrance of the sanctuary that houses a nature interpretation centre, cottages, toilets, library, reception area, rescue centre, canteen, children's park, and forest ranger office. It is good for white-bellied woodpecker, Malabar trogon, velvet-fronted nuthatch, heart-spotted woodpecker, speckled piculet & Malayan bittern.
  • WS IBA Mhadei

    InformationSatellite View
    It is located in the North Goa District, Sattari taluka near the town of Valpoi. The sanctuary is an area of high biodiversity, and is being considered to become a Project Tiger tiger reserve because of the presence of resident Bengal tigers. There are no public tourist facilities in the sanctuary, but there are Forest Department rest houses at Valpoi and Keri. IBA trigger species here are: Nilgiri wood-pigeon, Malabar parakeet, Malabar grey hornbill, grey-headed bulbul, rufous babbler, white-bellied blue-flycatcher and crimson-backed sunbird. A total of 255 bird species have been recorded in the Sanctuary. Of these, 53 showed direct signs of breeding here.
  • WS Netravali

    InformationSatellite View
    It constitutes one of the vital corridors of the Western Ghats and covers an area of 211.05 km2. Netravali or Neturli is an important tributary of River Zuari, which originates in the sanctuary. Forests mostly consist of moist deciduous vegetation interspersed with evergreen and semi-evergreen habitat. It is adjacent to Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve, Karnataka on the eastern side, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa on the southern side and Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park on the northern side which in turn forms a contiguous protected area along with Madei Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa and Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka. Birds like the rare Malayan night heron (Gorsachius melanolophus), Nilgiri wood pigeon (Columba elphinstonii), great pied hornbill (Buceros bicornis), grey-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus priocephalus), white-bellied blue flycatcher (Cyornis pallipes), Wynaad laughingthrush (Garrulax delesserti), white-bellied treepie (Dendrocitta leucogastra), rufous babbler (Turdoides subrufa) have been sighted many times in the sanctuary.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Bird Watching and Nature Excursions in Goa

    Tour Operator
    Call me on +91-9881961071 when you’re done with the everyday tours, the usual company and the same old sites. Then I’ll custom design your nature excursions into the unexplored forests of Goa.
  • Birds & Breakfast in Goa

    Tour Operator
    Lots of outings on offer
  • Goa Guide

    Tour Operator
    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: fatimgoa@sancharnet.in 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 giles.b@argonet.co.uk
  • India Birding Tours

    Tour Operator
    Goa is India's smallest state in terms of area and the fourth smallest in terms of population. Located on the west coast of India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, Karnataka to the east and south and the Arabian Sea forms its western coast.Variously known as "Rome of the East", "Tourist Paradise" and "Pearl of the Orient", the state of Goa is located on the western coast of India in the coastal belt known as Konkan
Trip Reports
  • 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)…
  • 2014 [04 April] - Teet Sirotkin

    PDF Report
    …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….
  • 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....
  • 2016 [11 November] - Julian Bielewicz

    It is not always possible to pinpoint an exact date as the start of any particular idea and the further you are from its nascence, the more obscure and blurred become the defining lines...
  • 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....
  • 2017 [11 November] - Julian bell

    ...Goa was heaving with birdlife - a lot more accessible and easier to see than most of the other places we visited during our trip. It was also a lot easier to get closer to the birds so the photographic opportunities were generally very good indeed. A dedicated birding trip would no doubt have given a LOT more species...
  • 2017 [12 December] - Ian Hargreaves

    PDF Report
    As I stated in the overview this was essentially a relaxing beach holiday but inevitably time was spent birding whenever the opportunity arose. However, it is important to understand that I do not keep a life list so quantity of species and new ticks is not that important to me. I didn’t spend too much time studying the pipits, larks and warblers simply to gain another holiday tick, if they showed well I would enjoy the view and try to grab a record pic of the more difficult species to try and identify it later. I started the holiday with the intention of keeping notes each time I went out but soon stopped taking the notebook and simply completed a checklist from memory after every couple of days.
  • 2018 [02 February] - Nina Johanlon

    We arrived into Dabolim airport about 10 am India time. After spending quite a while getting through passport control and the visa checks we started the one hour bus transfer to our hotel, Marinha Dourada, in Arpora. From the bus window, Black and Brahminy Kites were plentiful in the blue skies, whilst Little, Great and Cattle Egrets were abundant on the ground. Our only Little Grebe of the trip was on a lagoon about half way into the journey. House Crows were everywhere, as were the surprisingly numerous Indian Pond Heron.
  • 2018 [02 February] - Peter & Rosemary Royle

    PDF Report
    Having read a number of trip reports and invested in Gosney “Finding birds in Northern Goa” we decided to stay at the Marinha Dourada in Arpora, booking both the hotel and flight through Thomson (now Tui) for the princely sum of £1,662.50 (for 2). We also booked a 3 night stay at Backwoods and a 3 night stay at Nature’s Nest.
Other Links
  • Birding in Goa (Western Ghats)

    GOA the state in western India is famous and well- known for its beaches and birds. The forests of Goa form the part of Western Ghats.
  • 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

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