Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary Thattekad, Kerala

Yogesh Wadadekar

December 2000

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.

1 Basic information

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.

Table 1: Basic information on Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad
Latitude 76 deg. 40' - 76 deg. 45' N
Longitude 10 deg. 7' - 11 deg. E
Altitude 35- 523 m (Njayapilli peak)
Area 25.16 sq. km
Rainfall 2500 mm annually
Forest type Tropical semi-evergreen and tropical deciduous
Mammals Elephant, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Porcupine
Bird species > 250

2 How to get there

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.

Figure 1: Map showing location of Thattekad Sanctuary
Thattekad Location Map

3 Where to stay

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:

  1. The Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Thiruvanthapuram Kerala 695014
  2. The Wildlife Warden, Idukki Wildlife Division, Vellappara, Painavu P.O. Idukki District 685603 Phone 0486 232271
  3. The Assistant Wildlife Warden, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Njayapilli P.O. , Kothamangalam, Kerala Phone 0485 588302

4 The birdlist

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.

  1. Collocalia unicolor Indian Swiftlet
  2. Ocyceros griseus Malabar Grey-Hornbill
  3. Spizaetus cirrhatus Changeable Hawk-Eagle
  4. Anhinga melanogaster Oriental Darter
  5. Ardea cinerea Grey Heron
  6. Ardeola grayii Indian Pond-Heron
  7. Bubulcus ibis Cattle Egret
  8. Egretta garzetta Little Egret
  9. Mesophoyx intermedia Intermediate Egret
  10. Vanellus indicus Red-wattled Lapwing
  11. Metopidius indicus Bronze-winged Jacana
  12. Chlidonias hybridus Whiskered Tern
  13. Phalacrocorax niger Little Cormorant
  14. Snipe: species unidentified
  15. Columba livia Rock Pigeon
  16. Alcedo atthis Common Kingfisher
  17. Ceryle rudis Pied Kingfisher
  18. Eurystomus orientalis Dollarbird
  19. Halcyon smyrnensis White-throated Kingfisher
  20. Pelargopsis capensis Stork-billed Kingfisher
  21. Merops leschenaulti Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
  22. Centropus sinensis Greater Coucal
  23. Eudynamys scolopacea Asian Koel
  24. Gallus sonneratii Grey Junglefowl
  25. Amaurornis phoenicurus White-breasted Waterhen
  26. Aegithina tiphia Common Iora
  27. Artamus fuscus Ashy Wood-swallow
  28. Corvus macrorhynchos Large-billed Crow
  29. Dendrocitta formosae Grey Treepie
  30. Dicrurus aeneus Bronzed Drongo
  31. Dicrurus leucophaeus Ashy Drongo
  32. Dicrurus macrocercus Black Drongo
  33. Dicrurus paradiseus Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  34. Oriolus chinensis Black-naped Oriole
  35. Oriolus oriolus Eurasian Golden-Oriole
  36. Oriolus xanthornus Black-hooded Oriole
  37. Pericrocotus cinnamomeus Small Minivet
  38. Hirundo daurica Red-rumped Swallow
  39. Hirundo tahitica Pacific Swallow
  40. Chloropsis aurifrons Golden-fronted Leafbird
  41. Irena puella Asian Fairy-bluebird
  42. Copsychus malabaricus White-rumped Shama
  43. Copsychus saularis Oriental Magpie-Robin
  44. Cyornis pallipes White-bellied Blue-Flycatcher
  45. Eumyias albicaudata Nilgiri Flycatcher
  46. Luscinia brunnea Indian Blue Robin
  47. Myiophonus horsfieldii Malabar Whistling-Thrush
  48. Turdus merula Eurasian Blackbird
  49. Arachnothera longirostra Little Spiderhunter
  50. Parus rufonuchalis Dark-grey Tit
  51. Lonchura kelaarti Black-throated Munia
  52. Motacilla madaraspatensis White-browed Wagtail
  53. Pitta brachyura Indian Pitta
  54. Iole indica Yellow-browed Bulbul
  55. Pycnonotus cafer Red-vented Bulbul
  56. Pycnonotus jocosus Red-whiskered Bulbul
  57. Pycnonotus melanicterus gularis Black-crested Bulbul (ruby-throated subspecies)
  58. Pycnonotus priocephalus Grey-headed Bulbul
  59. Acridotheres tristis Common Myna
  60. Gracula religiosa Hill Myna
  61. Sturnus malabaricus blythi Chestnut-tailed Starling
  62. Acrocephalus arundinaceus Great Reed-Warbler
  63. Pellorneum ruficeps Puff-throated Babbler
  64. Phylloscopus trochiloides Greenish Warbler
  65. Rhopocichla atriceps Dark-fronted Babbler
  66. Turdoides striatus Jungle Babbler
  67. Megalaima haemacephala Coppersmith Barbet
  68. Megalaima viridis White-cheeked Barbet
  69. Celeus brachyurus Rufous Woodpecker
  70. Chrysocolaptes lucidus Greater Flameback
  71. Dinopium benghalense Black-rumped Flameback
  72. Hemicircus canente Heart-spotted Woodpecker
  73. Picus chlorolophus Lesser Yellownape
  74. Loriculus vernalis Vernal Hanging-Parrot
  75. Psittacula columboides Malabar Parakeet
  76. Psittacula cyanocephala Plum-headed Parakeet
  77. Batrachostomus moniliger Ceylon Frogmouth
  78. Eurostopodus macrotis Great Eared-Nightjar
  79. Bubo bubo Eurasian Eagle-Owl
  80. Glaucidium radiatum Jungle Owlet
  81. Otus bakkamoena Collared Scops-Owl
  82. Harpactes fasciatus Malabar Trogon
Snipe: the bird could not be identified because of poor light conditions. The overall appearance, habitat and behavior were of a typical snipe.

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.

5 Internet resources

  1. Birds of Thattekad: report and checklist from two visits to the sanctuary by Radhika Vatsan.


  1. Grimmett, R., Inskipp, C. and Inskipp, T. (1998) Birds of the Indian subcontinent Christopher Helm, London.
Comments and corrections to this report will be greatly appretiated. Please send comments to
Yogesh Wadadekar
I-1 Rajat
968/20 S. Bapat Rd.
Pune 411016
Email: yogeshw \at/

Last modified on: Tue Apr 5 15:45:05 2005