Republic of Maldives

White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus ©Aseem Kumar Kothiala Website
Birding the Maldives

Situated in the Indian Ocean between 72 degrees 33 40 East to 73 degrees 45 20 East and 7 degrees 06 38 North to 0 degrees 42 31 South, this is one of the smallest countries in Southern Asia, and is roughly situated south-Southwest of India. The total area including land and sea is about 90,000-sq km. of which about 2% is land. The length of the archipelago is 823km while it is 130km at its greatest width. The population is 310,764 (July 2001 est.); and the capital is Malè, situated in the North-Malè-Atoll, the capital city has a population of 70,000 and is 1.5 sq. km., and is probably the smallest capital city in the world.

The Maldives is a chain of coral atolls formed upon minor elevations on the Chagos-Lacadive submarine plateau, which ascends from the deep Indian Ocean. The plateau has provided a base for the reef building corals, from where they have risen to the surface. There are a total of approximately 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts); with an average elevation of about 1.6 meters above mean sea level. All of them are surrounded by natural reefs, which serve as the only protection against rough seas. The islands are generally flat with very few mounds. There are no hills, mountains or rivers. Some of the larger islands have small fresh-water lakes while others have brackish water with mangroves along the edges. The lowest point is the Indian Ocean 0m and the highest point is an unnamed location on Wilingili island in the Addu Atoll this is 2.4m high.

Threats for the island are depletion of freshwater aquifers which threatens water supplies, global warming and sea level rise (80% of the area is one meter or less above sea level) and coral reef bleaching.

The language spoken is Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic); English is spoken by most government officials, and the Rufiyaa is the currency there. Tourism, Maldives largest industry, accounts for 20% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives` foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Almost 400,000 tourists visited the islands in 1998. Fishing is a second leading sector.

The Maldives were long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection. The Maldives became a republic in 1968, three years after independence (26 July 1965). A visa is not required for the Maldives. During 1999, vaccination against yellow fever, cholera and tetanus was not necessary but it could not harm to take it. The Climate is tropical; hot, humid; dry, and has a Northeast monsoon from November to March and from the Southwest monsoon from June to August. Take care for the sun because it is almost right above when shining, because you are very close to the equator.

Transportation and accommodation – There are few ways to get to these island. Most people book either a trip to the Maldives alone or a combined trip with Sri Lanka. When you book to the Maldives you can only book it with hotels etc. This booking includes transportation to the island, accommodation, breakfast and supper. Notice that drinks and food other than breakfast and supper are not for free, and prices are fairly high. On the island where you are staying you have chances to get on snorkelling trips or sightseeing trips, these are not expensive and can bring you some nice species.

Avifauna – The Internet and various other sources have few if any bird reports from the Maldives. The following information can be found in several chapters of The Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp. They state a total of 144 species ever recorded, and most of these species are shorebirds and vagrants. However, the Oriental Bird Club put it at 182 (2012) and other sources say as many as 200. Few birds breed here but Crab-plover, Lesser Frigatebird, White Tern and Audubon’s Shearwater are the most spectacular breeders. There are no known endemics on the island. However, it cannot be doubted that some islands are still unexploited for their birding potential.

Our correspondent saw 2 new species for the Maldives: Rain Quail and Citrine Wagtail.

  • Justin Jansen

    Blitterswijckseweg 3, 5871 CD Broekhuizenvorst, The Netherlands |

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 182

    (As at January 2019)

    State Bird - White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus

  • 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 India

    (And the Indian Subcontinent, Including Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka & the Maldives) | By Bikram Grewal, Bill Harvey & Otto Pfister | Timeless Books | 2011 | Paperback | 512 pages, 850 colour photos, 800 colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9788189497255 Buy this book from

Abbreviations Key

  • NR Baa Atoll

    InformationSatellite View
    Situated on the west of the Maldives atoll chain, it consists of 75 islands of which 13 are inhabited with a population of over 11,000 people. The remaining 57 islands are uninhabited, in addition to eight islands being developed as resorts. The southernmost uninhabited island of Olhugiri in the North Maalhosmadulu Atoll lies 13 km north of Goifulhafehendhu Atoll. Olhugiri is well known for its unique natural vegetation and for providing two of the only perching sites for the great frigatebird in the Maldives. Likewise, other marine creatures such as seaturtles and hawksbill turtles can be encountered.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Rockjumper

    Tour Operator
    Our Maldives – Cetaceans & Tropical Seabirds birding and wildlife cruise takes us to the fabulous Maldives, an island nation nestled in the tropical waters of the central Indian Ocean, some 400 miles south-west of the southern tip of India. This tiny, idyllic Republic is composed entirely of coral atolls on which a staggering 1,200 sandy islands nestle. These are the picture postcard islands of your dreams, furnished with a tropical décor of swaying palms, white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons.
Trip Reports
  • 2014 [02 February] - David Karr - Gan Island & Addu Atoll

    PDF Report
    …Also on my hit list were White-tailed Tropicbird and the Crab Plover. I scored two out of three and also four other (unexpected) lifers: Curlew Sandpiper, Saunders’ Tern, Montagu’s Harrier and a Shearwater…
  • 2018 [04 April] - Jonathan Taylor

    PDF Report
    Main reason for trip was to finish our open water diving training whilst knowing that a few really nice sub-continental ticks could be easily seen. Trip reports to the Maldives though are almost nonexistent so hopefully this one will add some value to out-going Indian birders wanting to add an extension to a Sri Lankan bird trip.
Other Links
  • List of birds of the Maldives

    The following is a list of birds recorded in the Maldives. The small size and isolation of this Indian Ocean republic means that its avifauna is extremely restricted. Most of the species are characteristic of Eurasian migratory birds, only a few being typically associated with the Indian sub-continent…

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