SOUTH INDIA & GOA
Birding in South India is most productive in the forested hills of the Western Ghats, or Sahyadris. Together with the outlying Andaman Islands, these hills are home to more avian endemics than anywhere else in India and host a fine selection of endemic butterflies and mammals too.
A range of low mountains running parallel to peninsular India’s west coast, the Western Ghats are one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, home to 30 endemic and near-endemic birds, more endemic subspecies and other species shared only with Sri Lanka. Birding in Kerala in the southern ghats begins in the rainforests of the foothills at sites such as Thattekad Bird Sanctuary and Periyar National Park. These magnificent reserves host almost all the region’s endemics including Wynaad Laughingthrush and White-bellied Treepie, and an impressive selection of night birds such as Sri Lanka Frogmouth and the enigmatic Sri Lanka Bay Owl. The ghats climb to almost 2,700m, where the unique shola ecosystem of the Anaimalai and Nilgiri Hills holds the most restricted range species. Here, enigmatic birds such as Nilgiri Sholakili are confined to ‘sky islands’ of stunted cloud forests among rolling montane grasslands. These hills are also home to some of the most interesting mammals of South India, including the endemic Nilgiri Tahr at Eravikulam National Park and Lion-tailed Macaque at Valparai, complemented by Tiger, Leopard, Asian Elephant and more in lowland jungles.
At the northern extension of the ghats, the former Portuguese enclave of Goa offers a fine selection of these endemic birds, including Vigors’s Sunbird not available further south, as part of a diverse birdlife that incudes waterfowl, waders, gulls, terns, seven species of kingfisher and a great many passerines in various habitats that extend from the Arabian Sea coast to superb foothill forests. These also support an incredible array of butterflies, including spectacular endemics such as Tamil Lacewing and Malabar Tree Nymph, that peak in the post-monsoon period.
Inland of the ghats, the dry, rocky scrub of the Deccan Plateau presents a complementary selection of species, with highlights including Indian Courser, Painted Spurfowl and Sloth Bear near the fascinating ancient temple complex of Hampi.
The outlying Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a tropical idyll in the Bay of Bengal, hold their own 30 endemic birds; no other part of India holds more endemics than these islands and the Western Ghats combined. Birding in the Andaman Islands offers the chance of 21 of these endemics, including Andaman Teal, Andaman Crake and Andaman Boobook in coastal rainforests and mangroves.
Key species across the region: Nilgiri and White-bellied Sholakilis, Nilgiri, Palani and Wynaad Laughingthrushes, Rufous and Dark-fronted Babblers, Black-and-Orange, White-bellied Blue and Nilgiri Flycatchers, Nilgiri and Pied Thrushes, White-bellied Treepie, Malabar Trogon, Flame-throated, Yellow-throated and Grey-headed Bulbuls, Malabar Barbet, Malabar Whistling-Thrush, Malabar Grey and Malabar Pied Hornbills, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Malabar Parakeet, Small Sunbird, Broad-tailed Grassbird, Hill Swallow, Sri Lanka Bay Owl, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Andaman Teal, Andaman Crake, Andaman Woodpecker, Andaman Bulbul, Andaman Cuckoo-Dove, Andaman Treepie, Andaman Shama, Andaman and Hume’s Boobooks, Andaman and Oriental (Walden’s) Scops Owls, Andaman Nightjar, Indian Courser, Painted Spurfowl, Tiger, Leopard, Asian Elephant, Sloth Bear, Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Nilgiri Tahr, Nilgiri Marten, Indian (Malabar) and Grizzled Giant Squirrels.
SOUTH INDIA BIRDING & WILDLIFE TOURS
BIRDING | SHORT TOUR
Goa: Birding Highlights
An 8-day, two-centre birding tour focusing on Goa's highlights: a host of regional endemics, forest kingfishers, mangrove birds by boat, and an impressive selection of night birds.
8 DAYS | NOVEMBER TO MARCH
BIRDS & MAMMALS
Goa and Hampi: Birds, Bears and Bygones
A 15-day tour that combines the rich tropical birdlife of Goa with dryland birds, Sloth Bear and incredible ancient monuments of Hampi and the Deccan Plateau.
15 DAYS | NOVEMBER TO FEBRUARY