The Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary, the first bird sanctuary in Kerala, covering an area of barely 25 sq.km, and located about 12 km from Kothamangalam in Ernakulam District of Kerala. Salim Ali (nicknamed as the birdman of India), one of the best known ornithologist described this sanctuary as the richest bird habitat on peninsular India. The sanctuary lies between the tributaries of the River Periyar like a peninsula. Thattekkad literally means flat forest, and the region is an evergreen low-land forest located between the branches of Periyar River, the longest river in Kerala. More than 300 species of birds are found here. The sanctuary was later officially named as Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
The Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary has a rich and varied birdlife. Several species of birds, both forest birds as well as the water birds, visit the sanctuaries, and the important ones include the following:
The Indian pitta (which visits the sanctuary during winter and spends almost six months here), Orange-headed thrush, Large-billed leaf-warbler, Jerdon’s nightjar, Indian cuckoo, Oriental darter, Cormorants, Whiskered terns, Collared scops owl, Ceylon frogmouth, Grey-fronted green pigeon, Yellow-browed bulbuls
The sanctuary is a habitat for different varieties of cuckoos and a region of the sanctuary popularly called “Cuckoo Paradise” is home to them, among which are the:
Drongo cuckoo (which may be easily mistaken for drongo), Indian hawk cuckoo (which is highly vocal), and the Large hawk cuckoo (which looks relatively massive compared to other types of cuckoos, and is characterized by a dark grey and heavily streaked throat).
The Edamalayar forest is located about 15 km from Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary. This is also an evergreen forest located above the Edamalayar River. The mountain hawk eagles are found in this forest. Other birds in this forest include dark-fronted babbler, brown-cheeked fulvetta, brown-backed and white-rumped needletails, and emerald green pigeons
Thattekkad also has extensive plantations of teak, rosewood, mahogany. The dense forest is also home to nearly 28 species of mammals and about 9 species of reptiles.
In addition to birds, many types of butterflies are also found.
Watch out for a Guide
The Guides know the nook and corner of the sanctuary. Without a guide you will lose big time because they can take you to the best spots. The guides here are knowledgeable, passionate birders themselves. They even know which bird is seen in which spot. That way, the chances to spot rare birds such as Ceylon Frogmouth, Indian Pitta and Malabar Trogon are quite high.
Winter (Nov – Feb) is the peak migratory season. Birds from the Himalayas and other parts of the world arrive here during that period. For that reason, that is the best time to visit Thattekad Bird Sanctuary. For the mild climate, it is also the best time to visit Kerala.