Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary Thattekad, Kerala
This is a report of a short trip that I undertook with S. Sridhar and Sharadini
Rath in December 2000. We visited Thattekad from 26-28 December.
This trip would not have been the success it was without the presence of Elthose
whose encylopaedic knowledge of local birdlife and his unflagging and contagious
enthusiasm made birding seem like a new experience to us. We thank Mr.
Pramod Krishnan (IFS) for taking special efforts to make arrangements
for our visit - most of all for putting us in touch with Elthose.We also wish
to thank Mr. Thomas and Mr. P. K. Uttaman for their wonderful company. We thank
the Assistant Wildlife Warden at the Sanctuary for helping us with food and
accommodation arrangements, which allowed us to concentrate on the birdwatching.
The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary (also commonly known as the Thattekad Sanctuary)
is located in the Kothamangalam Taluk of Ernakulam district on the northern
bank of the Periyar river. The sanctuary was notified in 1983 based on a recommendation
made by Dr. Salim Ali many years previously. Ali described Thattekad in the
1930's as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India, comparable only with
the eastern Himalayas. Since then much of the forest has been diverted to cultivation
and teak and mahogany plantation but what survives gives a glimpse of the phenomenal
bird diversity of the once widespread lowland forests of Kerala. Some basic
facts about the sanctuary are listed in Table 1.
Basic information on Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad
||76 deg. 40' - 76 deg. 45' N
||10 deg. 7' - 11 deg. E
||35- 523 m (Njayapilli peak)
||25.16 sq. km
||2500 mm annually
||Tropical semi-evergreen and tropical deciduous
||Elephant, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Porcupine
The sanctuary is 13 km north-east of Kothamangalam along the Pooyamkutti road.
The nearest railway station is Aluva at a distance of 48 km. Kochi, the nearest
airport is 71 km away. The new airport at Nedumbassery is probably closer.
Kothamangalam is well connected by privately operated buses to Ernakulam via
Muvattupuzha or Perumpavur. There are frequent buses from Kothamangalam to Thattekad.
Currently the bus needs to cross the Periyar river by ferry. Construction on
a bridge across the river has started.
Map showing location of Thattekad Sanctuary
There is a three storied watch tower inside the Sanctuary with two beds, a toilet
and a kitchen. No electricity here but there is are a few solar powered lamps.
A forest department inspection bungalow called Hornbill is located near
the sanctuary entrance. There is a dormitory just inside the sanctuary which
is ideal for large groups. Accommodation is also available at the PWD rest house
near the Bhoothathankett Dam and in lodges in Kothamangalam.
For further information about the sanctuary and for booking accommodation contact:
- The Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Thiruvanthapuram Kerala 695014
- The Wildlife Warden, Idukki Wildlife Division, Vellappara, Painavu P.O. Idukki
District 685603 Phone 0486 232271
- The Assistant Wildlife Warden, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Njayapilli P.O. , Kothamangalam,
Kerala Phone 0485 588302
Only species observed by us have been listed. We have no information if an exhaustive
checklist is available for the Sanctuary. Nomenclature used follows Birds of
the Indian Subcontinent (1998). The pocket edition of this book was used for
field identification. Subspecies have not been mentioned unless unambiguous
identification was made (eg. ruby-throated subspecies of the Black-crested Bulbul).
Some interesting observations and a nesting record are at the end of this checklist.
Snipe: the bird could not be identified because of poor light conditions. The
overall appearance, habitat and behavior were of a typical snipe.
- Collocalia unicolor Indian Swiftlet
- Ocyceros griseus Malabar Grey-Hornbill
- Spizaetus cirrhatus Changeable Hawk-Eagle
- Anhinga melanogaster Oriental Darter
- Ardea cinerea Grey Heron
- Ardeola grayii Indian Pond-Heron
- Bubulcus ibis Cattle Egret
- Egretta garzetta Little Egret
- Mesophoyx intermedia Intermediate Egret
- Vanellus indicus Red-wattled Lapwing
- Metopidius indicus Bronze-winged Jacana
- Chlidonias hybridus Whiskered Tern
- Phalacrocorax niger Little Cormorant
- Snipe: species unidentified
- Columba livia Rock Pigeon
- Alcedo atthis Common Kingfisher
- Ceryle rudis Pied Kingfisher
- Eurystomus orientalis Dollarbird
- Halcyon smyrnensis White-throated Kingfisher
- Pelargopsis capensis Stork-billed Kingfisher
- Merops leschenaulti Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
- Centropus sinensis Greater Coucal
- Eudynamys scolopacea Asian Koel
- Gallus sonneratii Grey Junglefowl
- Amaurornis phoenicurus White-breasted Waterhen
- Aegithina tiphia Common Iora
- Artamus fuscus Ashy Wood-swallow
- Corvus macrorhynchos Large-billed Crow
- Dendrocitta formosae Grey Treepie
- Dicrurus aeneus Bronzed Drongo
- Dicrurus leucophaeus Ashy Drongo
- Dicrurus macrocercus Black Drongo
- Dicrurus paradiseus Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
- Oriolus chinensis Black-naped Oriole
- Oriolus oriolus Eurasian Golden-Oriole
- Oriolus xanthornus Black-hooded Oriole
- Pericrocotus cinnamomeus Small Minivet
- Hirundo daurica Red-rumped Swallow
- Hirundo tahitica Pacific Swallow
- Chloropsis aurifrons Golden-fronted Leafbird
- Irena puella Asian Fairy-bluebird
- Copsychus malabaricus White-rumped Shama
- Copsychus saularis Oriental Magpie-Robin
- Cyornis pallipes White-bellied Blue-Flycatcher
- Eumyias albicaudata Nilgiri Flycatcher
- Luscinia brunnea Indian Blue Robin
- Myiophonus horsfieldii Malabar Whistling-Thrush
- Turdus merula Eurasian Blackbird
- Arachnothera longirostra Little Spiderhunter
- Parus rufonuchalis Dark-grey Tit
- Lonchura kelaarti Black-throated Munia
- Motacilla madaraspatensis White-browed Wagtail
- Pitta brachyura Indian Pitta
- Iole indica Yellow-browed Bulbul
- Pycnonotus cafer Red-vented Bulbul
- Pycnonotus jocosus Red-whiskered Bulbul
- Pycnonotus melanicterus gularis Black-crested Bulbul (ruby-throated
- Pycnonotus priocephalus Grey-headed Bulbul
- Acridotheres tristis Common Myna
- Gracula religiosa Hill Myna
- Sturnus malabaricus blythi Chestnut-tailed Starling
- Acrocephalus arundinaceus Great Reed-Warbler
- Pellorneum ruficeps Puff-throated Babbler
- Phylloscopus trochiloides Greenish Warbler
- Rhopocichla atriceps Dark-fronted Babbler
- Turdoides striatus Jungle Babbler
- Megalaima haemacephala Coppersmith Barbet
- Megalaima viridis White-cheeked Barbet
- Celeus brachyurus Rufous Woodpecker
- Chrysocolaptes lucidus Greater Flameback
- Dinopium benghalense Black-rumped Flameback
- Hemicircus canente Heart-spotted Woodpecker
- Picus chlorolophus Lesser Yellownape
- Loriculus vernalis Vernal Hanging-Parrot
- Psittacula columboides Malabar Parakeet
- Psittacula cyanocephala Plum-headed Parakeet
- Batrachostomus moniliger Ceylon Frogmouth
- Eurostopodus macrotis Great Eared-Nightjar
- Bubo bubo Eurasian Eagle-Owl
- Glaucidium radiatum Jungle Owlet
- Otus bakkamoena Collared Scops-Owl
- Harpactes fasciatus Malabar Trogon
Arachnothera longirostra Little Spiderhunter: a nest of this bird was
seen beautifully stitched to the undersiode of a leaf about 1 m above the ground.
A photograph of the nest is available with the author.
Celeus brachyurus Rufous Woodpecker: we saw a nest with young. The beak
of the nestling was sticking out of the nest. This particular species was videographed
by a BBC team at Thattekad with help from Elthose. The footage is featured in
Episodes 3 and 8 of The Life of Birds by David Attenborough.
Batrachostomus moniliger Ceylon Frogmouth is being studied at Thattekad
by Elthose with funding from the Kerala Forest Department. This forest is one
of the last stronglholds of this rare endemic bird. Elthose took us to one of
the roosting sites and we were able to see a male frogmouth at close quarters.
No photography was attempted as the flash was likely to disturb the bird.
Eurostopodus macrotis Great Eared-Nightjar: Two birds were seen at dusk
calling and circling in the air, possibly hawking insects.
Bubo bubo Eurasian Eagle-Owl: The loud resonant tu-whoogh call
was heard several times at dusk. We did not get a sighting of this bird.
- Birds of Thattekad: report and checklist from two visits to the sanctuary by
Comments and corrections to this report will be greatly appretiated. Please
send comments to
- Grimmett, R., Inskipp, C. and Inskipp, T. (1998) Birds of the Indian subcontinent
Christopher Helm, London.
968/20 S. Bapat Rd.
Email: yogeshw \at/ iitbombay.org
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Last modified on: Tue Apr 5 15:45:05 2005