Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata ©Duncan Wright, USFWS
Birding Lakshadweep

Lakshadweep the smallest union territory of India, is a group of islands 200km to 440km off of the coast of Kerala in the Arabian Sea. Their total land area is 12 square miles or 32km². Ten of the islands are inhabited. Lakshadweep is the northern part of the erstwhile Lakshadweepa.

Lakshadweep officially consists of 12 atolls, 3 reefs and 5 submerged banks, with a total of about 39 islands and islets. The reefs are in fact also atolls, although mostly submerged, with only small unvegetated sand cays above the high water mark. The submerged banks are sunken atolls. Almost all the atolls have a northeast-southwest orientation with the islands lying on the eastern rim, and a mostly submerged reef on the western rim, enclosing a lagoon.

The Lakshadweep Archipelago forms a terrestrial ecoregion together with the Maldives and the Chagos. It has over 600 species of marine fishes, 78 species of corals, 82 species of seaweed, 52 species of crabs, 2 species of lobsters, 48 species of gastropods, 12 species of bivalves, 101 species of birds. Pitti Island, is an important breeding place for sea turtles and for a number of pelagic birds such as the brown noddy Anous stolidus, lesser crested tern Sterna bengalensis and greater crested tern Sterna bergii. The island has been declared a bird sanctuary.

The main islands are Kavaratti (where the capital city, Kavaratti, is located), Agatti, Minicoy, and Amini. The total population of the territory was 64,473 according to the 2011 census. Agatti has an airport where there are direct flights from Kochi, Kerala or Ernakulam (Cochin). Tourists need a permit to visit the islands; foreign nationals are not permitted to visit certain islands.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 101

    (As at December 2018)

    State Bird: Sooty Tern Sterna fuscapa


Abbreviations Key

  • BS Pitti Island

    InformationSatellite View
    Pitti is the local name for bird... so means bird island. The island is low and arid and, lacking adequate anchorage points, of difficult accessibility. (There is another island with the same name in Lakshadweep which is part of the Kalpeni Atoll.) Pitti Island is 300 x 200 m in size and devoid of vegetation. It is an important nesting place for pelagic birds such as the sooty tern (Sterna fuliginosa), the greater crested tern (Sterna bergii) and the brown noddy (Anous stolidus). The birds nest side by side, but not intermixed, on the dry coral rubble. There is a seasonal pattern in the breeding period of the birds. Since it has no protecting reef surrounding it, the islet is periodically rinsed by wave action and there is no accumulation of guano on it.
Trip Reports
  • 2007 [02 February] - An ornithological expedition

    PDF Report
    An ornithological expedition to the Lakshadweep archipelago:Assessment of threats to pelagic and other birds and recommendations. The last ornithological survey of the archipelago was in1990–1991 (Santharam et al. 1996). The present 2nd PelagicBirds Survey from 12–16.iii.2006, a joint effort of ELAFoundation, Pune and Ecological Society, Pune together withIndian Coast Guard, was carried out after a lapse of 16 years.The first part of this survey focused on pelagic bird life off thewestern coast of India, in the Arabian Sea, and was completedin October–November 2005 (Pande 2005). Here we presentthe findings of the second lap of our survey, which wasrestricted to the Lakshadweep archipelago. Pitti Island, a partof the Lakshadweep archipelago, is an Important Bird Area(Islam & Rahmani 2004).

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