Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Bharatpur bird sanctuary is heralded as one of the finest bird reserves in the world. Owing to its global, ecological, faunal and floral importance, UNESCO has deemed it a 'World Heritage Site'. Some 425 species of birds have been recorded in and around Bharatpur. Well laid out tracks in a relatively small sanctuary enable you to see over 130 species in a single day's birding.

Situated at the confluence of the Gambhir and Banganga rivers, the Bharatpur bird sanctuary was originally a 29 sq. km natural depression prone to seasonal flooding by rainwater, which attracted wildfowl. The Jat rulers of Bharatpur recognized the area's potential, diverted water from a nearby irrigation canal and added some bunds (dykes) to develop it as a duck shooting reserve. Later, when hunting was stopped, it was deemed a Bird Sanctuary and eventually a National Park. Though renamed in 1981 as Keoladeo Ghana (after the ancient Shiva temple in the heart of the park and Ghana, meaning dense), the park is popularly known by its old name Bharatpur. A list of the Maharaja's hunting exploits can be seen inside the park.

Bharatpur is an unraveled breeding site for the Painted Stork, Purple Heron, White Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill and the Sarus Crane, India's largest bird and the biggest flying bird in the world. The last known wintering ground in India for the central population of the Siberian Crane, Bharatpur is also the favored winter destination of the Bar-headed Geese and an excellent place to view various owl species such as Dusky Eagle Owl, Brown Hawk Owl and Collared Scops Owl. Open throughout the year, the park is at its full glory when the migrant birds visit between October and February. A visit to Bharatpur can be coupled with excursions to Bund Baretha and Ajan Bund for the Indian Skimmer.

Bharatpur's residents include Eurasian Wigeon, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Temminck's Stint, Kentish Plover, Northern Lapwing, Sarus Crane, Black-necked Stork and Pheasant-tailed Jacana.

Terrestrial birds include Blue Cheeked Bee-eater, Wryneck, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Oriental Skylark, Marshall's Iora, Striated Babbler, Cetti's Bush Warbler, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Rain Quail, Chestnut Bellied Sandgrouse, Bluethroat and nightjars like Savanna and Indian Nightjar. Greater Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh and Montagu's Harrier are some raptors that thrive on ample prey base.

Bharatpur is also a safe haven for several endangered avifauna such as the White-bellied Heron, Greater Flamingo, Spotbilled Pelican, Greater Adjutant, Red-necked Grebe, Pied Avocet, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruddy Kingfisher, Spotted Crake and Indian Skimmer.

The Indian Rock Python, Soft-shell Turtles, Monitor Lizards, Fishing Cat, Otter and Porcupine are its other attractions. Other mammals here are Spotted Deer, Sambar, Nilgai, Blackbuck, Striped Hyena and Jungle Cats. In an unusual occurrence, a tigress had strayed into the park and had made it her home for four years, till it eventually died of natural causes in 2005.

In a semi-arid biotype the park is the only area with much vegetation, hence the name Ghana, meaning dense. It is this fascinating tapestry of wetlands, woodlands, woodland swamps and dry grasslands that has blessed the park with a rich biologically diverse birdlife. The principal vegetation type in Bharatpur sanctuary is tropical dry deciduous forest intermixed with dry grassland. Kadam (mitragyna parvifolia), jamun (syzygium cuminii) and babool (acacia nilotica) dominate the northeastern area of the park. Apart from the artificially managed marshes, much of the area is covered by medium sized trees and shrubs. The aquatic vegetation is rich in species and a valuable source of food for waterfowl.

Fact sheet:

State : Rajasthan
Area : 29 sq. km
Altitude : 174 m above mean sea level
Vegetation : Semi arid and marshes
Water resources : Canals, sluices and dykes
Winter : November to mid-February
Summer : April to June
Monsoon : July to September
Rainfall : 662 mm
Temperature : Min 5°C - Max 47 0°C

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