Trip Report: Keoladeo N.P. (India), March 3-4, 1999

Tom and Margot Southerland, 282 Western Way, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA;


The famed Keoladeo National Park is located at Bharatpur and less than two hours by car from Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. Winter is a great time to visit there when it has one of the greatest waterbird concentrations in the world. We spent two days birding there in 1998, January 18 and 19, plus about three hours early the next morning. In 1999, we could only devote one full day of concentrated birding and about four hours the following morning.


We knew that the Siberian Cranes we saw in 1998 would be gone by March (the two adults returned this year; last year's juvenile did not) but were surprised at the lower number of species, particularly waterfowl and raptors. As it turned out, many had departed the area around mid-February as they do each year.

But having said that, there were still many, many birds, and any first time visitor would be greatly impressed. For us we still managed to see several new species and enjoyed wonderful views of many others -- for example, White-tailed Eagle, Eurasian Wryneck and Bluethroat. The early morning boat ride (not in a motorized boat but one that moved along quietly by a man using a long pole) equaled last year's excursion, both for scenery and wildlife. The boats can take eight people.

Again, our rickshaw guide was Ratan Singh, a superb birder. The non-birders (all but three) also had knowledgeable rickshaw guides who knew the birds, had great eyes and carried their own binocs.

Bird Books

Our bird book of choice this year was the new (1999) A Guide To the Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives by Gimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp. We did carry, and refer to occasionally, Salim Ali's The Book of Indian Birds (1996). The new guide covers the 1300 species found on the Indian subcontinent resulting in a five-pound weight that makes it tough to carry in the field. Another handicap is that the birds shown on the plates are often crammed too close together (and with twelve artists contributing to some plates, it's not surprising some illustrations are better than others). Also, the small range maps are difficult to interpret because they rely only on shading -- understandable because of the costs to use color in the maps. Finally, an annoying problem for visiting birders is the strange order of the birds (text and plates) because it doesn't follow Clements or any familiar bird book. For example, woodpeckers are found near the beginning before grebes, cormorants and pigeons.

But, most important for all birders, is that overall the art work on the 153 plates is great, the species accounts are top-notch, and the introduction is helpful and thoughtful. It is our understanding that eventually the book will be converted to a true field guide, perhaps for each country, and be released in soft cover.

To get around the weight problem we took out the plates and had them all spiral-bound together. We did bring along the rest of the book to take advantage of its detailed descriptions and species accounts that we often used after being out in the field.

Again, we were glad we brought along A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia by Bahrain Bhutan, et al because of its compact size and the fact that it included all the waterbirds seen there. It was helpful -- quick and easy -- in comparing one species with another. The book by Nigel Whitely Where to Find Birds in Asia was of some help and a must if you do not plan to travel with a bird group.

Mammals etc.

Blue Bulls (Nilgai), Sambar, Spotted Deer (Chital), Common (Indian) Jackal, several Mongooses, Rheus Monkeys, and Indian Wildcat are some of the mammals that can be found. We saw one Indian Python sleeping on a log just off a path after having devoured some large prey. Last year we saw 8-10 in a breeding area.


NOTE 1: The numbers below given for each bird in no way reflects the actual numbers of species that can be seen as the area is far too great for a few people to conduct a census. Our sightings were based on birds reasonably close to the few paths we walked and not for any of the congregations of birds seen far in the distance.

NOTE 2: We use "a few" for 15-25 birds, "a number" for at least 50 birds and "many" for over 100.

  Little Grebe               Tachybaptus ruficollis  (two)
  Little Cormorant           Phalacrocorax niger 
  Great Cormorant            Phalacrocorax carbo
  Oriental Darter            Anhinga melanogaster  (several)
  Great White Pelican        Pelecanus onocrotalus (about 20 out of the water)
  Lesser Whistling-Duck      Dendrocygna javanica  (many)
  Greylag Goose              Anser anser (one)
  Bar-headed Goose           Anser indicus (seven)
  Cotton Pygmy-goose         Nettapus coromandelianus (3 males, 12 females)
  Eurasian Wigeon            Anas penelope (several males)
  Gadwall                    Anas strepera  (several) 
  Spot-billed Duck           Anas poecilorhyncha  (2-4)
  Northern Pintail           Anas acuta  (a few)
  Garganey                   Anas querquedula  (four males, two females)
  Northern Shoveler          Anas clypeata  (a few)
  Ferruginous Pochard        Aythya nyroca  (male)
  Little Egret               Egretta garzetta  (a few)
  Intermediate Egret         Mesophoyx intermedia  (a few)
  Great Egret                Ardea alba  (2 or 3)
  Purple Heron               Ardea purpurea  (5-10)
  Indian Pond-Heron          Ardeola grayii (a number)
  Yellow Bittern             Ixobrychus sinensis (two)
  Black Bittern              Ixobrychus flavicollis (two)
  Glossy Ibis                Plegadis falcinellus (several)
  Black-headed Ibis          Threskiornis melanocephalus  (a few)
  Eurasian Spoonbill         Platalea leucorodia (about 50)
  Painted Stork              Mycteria leucocephala  (many)
F Asian Openbill             Anastomus oscitans  (two)
  Woolly-necked Stork        Ciconia episcopus  (one)
  Black-necked Stork         Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus  (three)
  Oriental Honey-buzzard     Pernis ptilorhynchus  (one)
  White-tailed Eagle         Haliaeetus albicilla (one sitting, flying, sitting)
  Egyptian Vulture           Neophron percnopterus  (one)
  White-rumped Vulture       Gyps bengalensis  (about eight)
  Western Marsh-Harrier      Circus aeruginosus  (1 or 2 flying, 2 on ground)
  Lesser Spotted Eagle       Aquila pomarina (one juv. sitting)
  Greater Spotted Eagle      Aquila clanga (3-5)
  Tawny Eagle                Aquila rapax  (one)
  Gray Partridge             Perdix perdix (2 or 3)
F Ruddy Crake                Laterallus ruber  (one, great view)
  Ruddy-breasted Crake       Amaurornis akool  (six)
  White-breasted Waterhen    Amaurornis phoenicurus  (a few)
  Purple Swamphen            Porphyrio porphyrio  (a few)
  Common Moorhen             Gallinula chloropus  (a number)
  Eurasian Coot              Fulica atra  (many)
  Common Crane               Grus grus (15 feeding, 5 flying)
  Sarus Crane                Grus antigone (4 adults, 4 juv.)
  Pheasant-tailed Jacana     Hydrophasianus chirurgus  (two)
  Bronze-winged Jacana       Metopidius indicus  (one)
  Greater Painted-snipe      Rostratula benghalensis (two pairs)
  Common Snipe               Gallinago gallinago  (two)
  Common Redshank            Tringa totanus  (several)
  Green Sandpiper            Tringa ochropus  (two)
  Wood Sandpiper             Tringa glareola  (a few)
  Ruff                       Philomachus pugnax  (a number)
  Black-winged Stilt         Himantopus himantopus 
  Little Ringed Plover       Charadrius dubius  (one)
  Red-wattled Lapwing        Vanellus indicus 
F White-tailed Lapwing       Vanellus leucurus (one nearby)
  River Tern                 Sterna aurantia  (one)
  Laughing Dove              Streptopelia senegalensis  (several)
  Red Collared-Dove          Streptopelia tranquebarica  (one)
  Eurasian Collared-Dove     Streptopelia decaocto  (several)
  Rose-ringed Parakeet       Psittacula krameri 
  Greater Coucal             Centropus sinensis  (1 or 2)
  Indian Scops-Owl           Otus bakkamoena  (one)
  Spotted Owlet              Athene brama  (five)
  Common Kingfisher          Alcedo atthis  (three)
  White-throated Kingfisher  Halcyon smyrnensis  (several)
  Pied Kingfisher            Ceryle rudis  (three)
  Green Bee-eater            Merops orientalis  (two together)
  Indian Roller              Coracias benghalensis  (one)
  Eurasian Hoopoe            Upupa epops  (several)
  Indian Gray Hornbill       Ocyceros birostris  (one)
  Coppersmith Barbet         Megalaima haemacephala  (one)
  Eurasian Wryneck           Jynx torquilla  (1 in bush and ground)
  Yellow-crowned Woodpecker  Dendrocopos mahrattensis  (two males)
  Ashy Drongo                Dicrurus leucophaeus  (one)
  House Crow                 Corvus splendens  (a few)
  Small Minivet              Pericrocotus cinnamomeus  (three males)
  Brahminy Starling          Sturnus pagodarum  (5-10)
  Asian Pied Starling        Sturnus contra (6-8)
  Common Myna                Acridotheres tristis  (several)
  Asian Brown Flycatcher     Muscicapa dauurica  (one)
  Bluethroat                 Luscinia svecica (two males)
  Black Redstart             Phoenicurus ochruros  (male)
  Pied Bushchat              Saxicola caprata  (pair)
  White-eared Bulbul         Pycnonotus leucotis  (one)
  Red-vented Bulbul          Pycnonotus cafer 
  Blyth's Reed-Warbler       Acrocephalus dumetorum  (one)
  Great Reed-Warbler         Acrocephalus arundinaceus  (one)
  Clamorous Reed-Warbler     Acrocephalus stentoreus  (one)
  Common Chiffchaff          Phylloscopus collybita  (one)
  Lesser Whitethroat         Sylvia curruca  (1 or 2)
  Common Babbler             Turdoides caudatus  (one)
  Jungle Babbler             Turdoides striatus  (a number)
  House Sparrow              Passer domesticus  (several)
  White-browed Wagtail       Motacilla madaraspatensis (one)
  Yellow Wagtail             Motacilla flava (several)
F Citrine Wagtail            Motacilla citreola (three)
  Gray Wagtail               Motacilla cinerea (several)
F Tawny Pipit                Anthus campestris (two very close)
  Purple Sunbird             Nectarinia asiatica (male)
103 Species

Return to trip reports.

This page served with permission of the authors by Urs Geiser;; June 10, 1999; corrected January 4, 2000