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Bird Watching

BIRDS AND BIRDWATCHING POTENTIAL IN GOA

Tourism being a major industry in the state, Goa with its diverse habitats in a small area of land is attracting many enthusiastic and serious bird lovers. With every nook, corner and places of ornithological interest easily accessible by road and within driving distance, Goa is becoming increasingly popular not only for its Sun, Sand and the Beaches but also for its Avian fauna.

Goa has 423 bird species reported by various workers. From the ornithological point of view, Goa can be divided into 3 zones:

1. The coastal belt with sandy beaches, bays and rocky headlands, broken by the wide estuaries of the Mandovi and Zuari rivers and interspersed with minor estuaries, the salt-pans, the tidal mudflats, submerged paddy fields, saline and freshwater marshes. Along the large rivers, this coastal habitat extends into the interior as far as the tidal influence reaches (over 40 km), forming inland bays of brackish and saline marshes. Over 2,000 ha. of mangroves line Goa’s creeks and estuaries.

The representative species from this habitat primarily are from the Gulls, Terns, Wader, Egret and Waterfowl Group which includes sandpipers, plovers, ducks, egrets, herons, Sea-gulls and Terns. The mangroves forests of Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary and the Cumbharjua canal are home to the stunning but elusive Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris).

2. The midland region having large lateritic table-lands with stony outcrops, thorny scrubland and cashew plantations, the plateau slopes with patches of moist-deciduous and semi-evergreen forests fed by perennial streams and a patchwork of “Kulaagars”.

The representative species of this habitat include the boisterous lapwings, the crepuscular nightjars, elegant peafowl, secretive quails, the flashy robins & chats.

3. The Sahyadris with maximum area covered by mixed moist deciduous forests; semi-evergreen and evergreen forests in patches, not to mention the bamboo and cane brakes

This habitat takes the cake in terms of bird diversity and richness. Some of the most handsome and melodiou

s birds in the country are found in this habitat. The representative species include the majestic hornbills, soaring raptors, gorgeous minivets and leafbirds, melodious thrushes, bulbuls and flycatcher, woodpeckers and the aggressive drongos. This area also holds most of the vulnerable and threatened birds of the region including the Endemic B

irds of the Western Ghats

4. Another important habitat of birds is the inland freshwater bodies and marshes which include the vast expanse of irrigated paddy fields. There are many such small but important sites in Goa like the Pilar Lake, Batim Lake, Carambolim Lake, Velim Lake, Neura wetlands etc. These water bodies & marshes support a wide variety of water fowl and also irrigate the surrounding paddy fields which in turn also provide an excellent habitat for waders. The representative species include various species of migratory ducks, agile jacanas, raucous moorhens, occasional harriers, restless pipits and wagtails and patient kingfishers.

There is no such place where birds are not found. From the mountains and the forest and the lakes and the coastal belt to your own backyard, birds have become a part and parcel of the urban as well as the village setting. From point of view of the visiting birdwatchers few places can be recommended for sighting maximum number of birds in a relatively shorter time.

1. Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Ponda for most of the forest birds

2. Mollem Wildlife Sanctuary and Dudhsagar Falls for some rare birds like the Mountain Imperial Pigeon and raptors.
3. Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, Sattari for forest birds
4. Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Canacona for forest birds
5. Netravali Wildife Sanctuary, Sangeum for forest birds

6. Forest around the Mayem Lake, Bicholim
7. Carambolim Lake, Old-Goa for fresh water birds and migratory water fowls
8. St. Cruz Marshes for waders
9. Morjim beach especially for sea-gulls
10. Ribandar patto during low-tide for waders
11. Cumbharjua canal for all 5 species of Kingfishers
12. Batim Lake for fresh water birds
13. Pilar Lake for fresh water birds
14. Salt pans at Baga for waders
15. Baga Hills
16. Salaulim and Anjunem Dam areas

Keep an eye open for fruiting trees especially Ficus spp. and flowering Silk-Cotton (Salmalia spp.) or Pongara (Erythrina Spp.). But whichever area one chooses the best advantage is to be an ‘early-riser’, when bird activity is at its peak.

It is also worthy to note that four areas in Goa have been classified as Important Bird Areas (IBA) under the Important Bird Areas Programme of Birdlife International, U.K. and Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai. This programme running all over the World has recognized the ornithological importance of Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Carambolim Lake by according these areas the status of IBA’s.

The Endemic Birds of the Western Ghats found in Goa are:

1. Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Columba elphinstonii
2. Small Sunbird, Nectarinia minima
3. Blue-winged Parakeet, Psitacula columboides
4. Malabar Grey Hornbill, Ocyres griseus
5. Grey-headed Bulbul, Pycnonotus priocephalus
6. Rufous Babbler, Turdoides subrufus
7. White-bellied Blue-flycatcher, Cyornis pallipes
8. Wynaad Laughingthrush, Garrulax delessarti
9. White-bellied Treepie, Dendrocitta leucogastra
10. Nilgiri Flycatcher, Eumyias albicaudatus

Interestingly the State Bird of Goa, the Ruby-throated Yellow Bulbul, Pycnonotus melanicterus gularis, which is a sub-species of the Black Headed Bulbul, has recently been proposed as a separate species, Flame-throated Bulbul (Pycnonotus gularis) by Rasmussen & Anderton (2008). The duo has proposed various changes, which if accepted, would increase the tally of Endemic species in the State to 28.

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