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Best places to see migratory birds this winter

It is that time of the year again when winged guests from colder lands will flock to different parts of India in search of food and nesting spots. Birds like Indian skimmers, Grater Spotted Eagles, Grey pelicans and White-backed vultures have already been spotted at the Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha and more will follow in the coming months.

While ornithologists may have already dug out their birding gear and donned their field hats, bird watchers can head to a number of bird sanctuaries where our winter guests can be easily spotted. If you’re planning a nature getaway for this winter break, here is a list (by no means definitive) of bird sanctuaries across India that you should head to:

Sultanpur bird sanctuary, Gurugram, Harayana
Best time to visit: October to February

Over a 100 migratory bird species, from as far as Siberia, Europe and Afghanistan, land at Sultanpur every year in addition to its resident winged beauties. In the one-and-a-half hours that it takes to see all of Sultanpur, you’ll get to see Siberian Cranes, Greater Flamingo, Asian Koel, Yellow Wagtail, Rosy Pelican, Eurasian Wigeon, Comb duck, Bluethroat and many more gorgeous birds. Plus, Sultanpur has the Neelgai (Blue Bull) and Black Buck too.

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Bharatpur, Rajasthan
Best time to visit: October to February

This bird sanctuary is a World Heritage Site and a hotspot for ornithologists during the migratory birds season. The birds here come from as far as Central Asia and include Pelicans, Ducks, Eagles, Wagtails, Warblers, among others.

Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary, near Puri, Odisha
Best time to visit: October to March

The Chilka Lake is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds, especially flamingos, on the Indian subcontinent. You’ll spot a large number of aquatic birds, wild animals like blackbuck, golden jackals and over 160 various species of crustaceans, fish and also the famous Chilka dolphin. And all this rich avifauna and fauna is set against the stunning sunsets and sunrises that the salty lagoon is known for.

Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Gujarat
Best time to visit: November to February

Nalsarovar, the largest wetland bird sanctuary in Gujarat, gets over 200 types of migrant visitors from November to February every year. Its avian guest list includes rosy pelicans, flamingoes, white storks, brahminy ducks, purple moorhen, besides indigenous birds. Huge flocks of different varieties of exotic birds dot the landscape here and the place truly becomes a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Srirangapatna, Karnataka
Best time to visit: January to September

This is the largest bird sanctuary in Karnataka on the banks of river Kaveri, which from mid-December becomes home to over 40,000 migratory birds like egret, partridge and heron. Many come from as far as Latin America, Siberia and also parts of north India.

Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Kerala
Best time to visit: November to February

About 40 species of migratory birds from Himalayas and 19 international migratory birds flock to Thattekad Bird Sanctuary in Kerala from November to February.

Besides the Siberian Stork, birds like the Ibis, Amur Falcon, Painted stork, black-and-orange flycatcher and Cotton Teal can be spotted at this sanctuary in tropical evergreen and deciduous forests. Dr Salim Ali, the famous ornithologist had called it ‘the richest bird habitat in peninsular India’. It is also called “Cuckoo Paradise” because of the great varieties of cuckoo birds found here.