Bird Watching in Goa
With its varied and unique habitats, from the beaches and river banks to the mountainous slopes of the Western Ghats, Goa is very much a bird watchers paradise. The state boasts a wide variety of bird life, both resident and migratory and has made ample provisions for ardent ornithologists who would like to indulge in a spot of exotic bird watching.
Where to Go
Depending on the kind of bird life that you are interested in there are various hotspots located throughout Goa. From the mangrove swamps of the Chorao island to the aquatic vistas of the Carambolim Lake to the hilly terrain of the wildlife sanctuaries nestled in the Western Ghats, the choices are limitless.
Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary – Located on the island of Chorao, this sanctuary is home to a number of species of bird that flock here during the winter months to nest in the swampy mangroves. Tours here are generally conducted partially by boat, and photography is best in early morning and late evening hours.
Carambolim Lake – Home to a number of aquatic and herbivorous birds, the lake and its surrounding forest have lately been declared a protected area and efforts have been made by the government to further the area as a habitat and bird watcher’s paradise.
Saligao – A small village near Calangute, this place boasts a perennial spring which has become a home to several species of birds. The best time to visit is in the mornings.
Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary – Also in South Goa, this sanctuary is one of the largest in Goa. The hiking and trekking facilities include knowledgeable guides who are happy to point out the various animals and birds that are encountered here.
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary – Although this is one of the smallest sanctuaries in the state, is home to a surprising variety of birds and other wildlife. There is also a nature centre attached to the sanctuary and accommodation available for those who would like to make a longer stay.
Mayem Lake – This lake which is located in the north of Goa is also a great place for bird watching. Although the lake is used for boating, and therefore does not have any resident wading birds, the surrounding tree-covered slopes are filled with a variety of avian life.
Morjim Beach – This beach located in the extreme northern part of the state is less inhabited and thus has become one of the best beaches to observe the sea birds. These birds roost here at high tide and are seen along the sands at low tide.
When to Go
Although the resident bird life is in Goa all through the year, the migratory birds visit mostly during the winter months and are seen flocking to their winter homes after the month of September through to the month of March.
What to See
Bird watchers in Goa are truly spoilt for choice. The state is home to more than 450 species of birds. There are 24 species of birds that are endemic to the Western Ghats. Of these, 13 can be found in Goa.
The most sought after birds in the state of Goa are found mostly in the Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctuary. These include the Ceylon Frogmouth, Malabar Trogon, Black-backed Dwarf and Blue-eared Kingfishers, White-bellied Woodpecker, Great Pied and Malabar Pied Hornbills, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Malabar Whistling-thrush, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Forest Eagle-owl, and Indian Pitta. Additionally, the edges of the forest are frequented by mixed flocks that can contain rare species like the Asian Paradise and Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Flame-throated Bulbul, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, and Dark-fronted Babbler.
The Bondla wildlife sanctuary too hosts many of the same birds with the noticeable addition of the White-browed Bulbul and Blue-faced Malkoha, while species such as White-rumped Shama, Blue-headed Rock-thrush, Forest Wagtail, Hair-crested Drongo, and Rufus Woodpecker.
The mangroves in the tidal creeks of the Chorao Island form a unique eco-system that is especially evident at low tide. The birds found here are mostly marsh-dwellers and water birds like the Wood, Green, and Terek Sandpipers, Temminck’s Stint, Eurasian Curlew, Western Reef-egret, Purple Heron, Striated Heron, Lesser Adjutant, and Woolly-necked Stork.
The Mayem Lake is surrounded by lush vegetation that forms the ideal habitat for birds like the Orange-breasted Green-pigeon, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Indian Scimitar-babbler, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Crested Serpent-eagle, and Changeable Hawk-eagle, and this is also a regular site for the Brown Fish-owl.
The Carambolim Lake, meanwhile is primarily inhabited by aquatic birds, most notably the Purple Swamphen, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Garganey, Northern Pintail, Lesser Whistling-duck, Cotton Teal, Comb Duck, Woolly-necked Stork, Asian Openbill, Oriental Darter, and Small Pratincole. Raptors like the Western Marsh Harrier and Osprey are drawn to the lake, while the roadside palm trees form a favourite resting place for passerines, woodpeckers, bee-eaters, and parakeets. The forested area around is inhabited by the Brown Hawk Owl and Jungle Owlet.
The Morjim beach is the best place in Goa for seabirds and shore birds like the Great Black-headed, Brown-headed, Heuglin’s, and Slender-billed Gulls, Great and Lesser Crested, Gull-billed, and Caspian Terns, Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, Small Pratincole, and White-bellied Sea-eagle.
The birds around Saligao’s perennial spring include the Indian Peafowl, White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets, Common Iora, Orange-headed Thrush, Indian Robin, Greenish Warbler, Common Tailorbird, Verditer and Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers, and Purple Sunbird.