Trip Report: Ranthambhor N.P. (Rajasthan, India), January 15-18, 1998

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

Note: some US travel guides spell this national park as "Ranthambore" but we prefer the Indian way as shown below.

Ranthambhor N.P. is located in the state of Rajasthan 82 miles from the historic city of Jaipur. You can reach Jaipur from Delhi (162 miles) by car, plane or train. We took the train. The park was established in 1955 under Project Tiger. It is perhaps the most reliable place in northern India to see tigers, and it was not until the last hour of our last day that we saw a female with three large cubs. Various people spotted other tigers while we were there. But a sighting is never a given as we knew some visitors who failed to see one.

The park is 150 square miles and is very hilly with abundant woods, streams and some artificial lakes. The impressive Ranthambhor Fort sits high on a ridge, and near the entrance we saw Hindu pilgrims making their way along the road going up to the fort.

While we were there it was unseasonably cold (34°F in the early mornings), and even a little colder than Corbett N.P. to the northeast of Delhi that we visited a few days later. For watching birds you are handicapped in not being able to walk within the park except in a very few (and even then restricted) places. You can, however, find a variety of birds near the entrance so a stop there is worthwhile.

Our first trip into the park was on a canter -- long, flat-bed trucks with benches on the top. There were at least 20 people. Not great for birds although we still got to see our first Indian Scops-Owl this way. Some on the canter on that run got a glimpse of a tiger (we did not) but just about all of us got to see a Sloth Bear, an even more unusual sighting than the tiger according to the guides. The rest of the time we were squeezed into an open, small, jeep-like vehicle (four of us, a required park guide, a non-birding tour guide and a driver) that often made turning our heads difficult. Finally, you are assigned a route (it's all based on tigers and to keep their stress to a minimum) that is not always the best for birds.

Other mammals include Leopard, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Blue Bull, Wild Boar, Indian Gazelle and Black-tailed Mongoose. We saw Blackbuck outside the park. The alarm call of the common Langur (monkey) by one or two individuals in a lookout post at the top of a tree is the best indication that a tiger is near. The second best indicators are paw prints.

The Indian Peafowl (peacock) is common and is seen in trees and on the ground. It is a good area for waterfowl (including two jacana species), vultures, parakeets and various passerines. If we had been able to concentrate more on birds, our list and numbers of individuals would have been higher. A visit around mid-February or March would have been warmer and, we understand, a better chance to see tigers.

The below list is based on the world check list of James F. Clements (Santa Barbara Software) so there could be some confusion regarding common names. For example, the Plum-headed Parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala) below is shown in Indian field guides as Blossom-headed Parakeet.

Birds: Ranthambhor NP (1-15-98 to 1-18-98)

  Little Grebe                          Tachybaptus ruficollis (1)
  Oriental Darter                       Anhinga melanogaster (3)
F Ruddy Shelduck                        Tadorna ferruginea (2)
  Cotton Pygmy-goose                    Nettapus coromandelianus (4)
  Common Teal                           Anas crecca (2 pairs)
  Little Egret                          Egretta garzetta
  Gray Heron                            Ardea cinerea (1)
  Great Egret                           Ardea alba
  Purple Heron                          Ardea purpurea (1)
  Indian Pond-Heron                     Ardeola grayii
  Striated Heron                        Butorides striatus (1)
  Painted Stork                         Mycteria leucocephala (5)
  Black Stork                           Ciconia nigra (5)
  Woolly-necked Stork                   Ciconia episcopus (1)
  Black-shouldered Kite                 Elanus caeruleus (1)
  White-rumped Vulture                  Gyps bengalensis (35 feeding outside; several inside)
F Eurasian Griffon                      Gyps fulvus (several)
F Red-headed Vulture                    Sarcogyps calvus (1 soaring; 1 sitting in tree)
  Crested Serpent-Eagle                 Spilornis cheela (1 plus another; both sitting in tree) 
  Shikra                                Accipiter badius (2)
  Gray Partridge                        Perdix perdix  (around 15 but in several small groups) 
  Indian Peafowl                        Pavo cristatus (many)
F Brown Crake                           Amaurornis akool (1 plus 2)
  White-breasted Waterhen               Amaurornis phoenicurus
  Common Moorhen                        Gallinula chloropus (several)
F Pheasant-tailed Jacana                Hydrophasianus chirurgus (1 plus 3 or 4 more)
F Bronze-winged Jacana                  Metopidius indicus (2)
  Common Snipe                          Gallinago gallinago (1)
  Black-tailed Godwit                   Limosa limosa (2)
  Common Redshank                       Tringa totanus (1)
  Common Greenshank                     Tringa nebularia (2)
  Wood Sandpiper                        Tringa glareola (2)
  Black-winged Stilt                    Himantopus himantopus (over 25) 
F Yellow-wattled Lapwing                Vanellus malabaricus (2 en route to Ranthambhor N.P.)
  Red-wattled Lapwing                   Vanellus indicus (about 20)
  Whiskered Tern                        Chlidonias hybridus (1)
  River Tern                            Sterna aurantia (5)
  Laughing Dove                         Streptopelia senegalensis (3)
F Yellow-footed Pigeon                  Treron phoenicoptera (20 in tree; later 60 in flight)
F Alexandrine Parakeet                  Psittacula eupatria (1 on one day: 1 on the next)
F Plum-headed Parakeet                  Psittacula cyanocephala (several plus 15-25)
  Greater Coucal                        Centropus sinensis (2)
F Indian Scops-Owl                      Otus bakkamoena (4)
  Spotted Owlet                         Athene brama (4)
  Common Kingfisher                     Alcedo atthis (3)
  Stork-billed Kingfisher               Pelargopsis capensis (1)
  White-throated Kingfisher             Halcyon smyrnensis (about 10)
  Pied Kingfisher                       Ceryle rudis (1)
F Indian Roller                         Coracias benghalensis (at least 5)
  Eurasian Hoopoe                       Upupa epops (1)
  Coppersmith Barbet                    Megalaima haemacephala (2 or 3)
F Black-rumped Flameback                Dinopium benghalense (4)
F White-browed Fantail                  Rhipidura aureola (2)
F Asian Paradise-Flycatcher             Terpsiphone paradisi (female; nice view)
F White-bellied Drongo                  Dicrurus caerulescens (4)
F Rufous Treepie                        Dendrocitta vagabunda (40-50)
  Large-billed Crow                     Corvus macrorhynchos (1)
  Common Iora                           Aegithina tiphia (1)
  Small Minivet                         Pericrocotus cinnamomeus (1) 
  Bay-backed Shrike                     Lanius vittatus (several)
  Northern Shrike                       Lanius excubitor (6 or 7)
F Brahminy Starling                     Sturnus pagodarum (4)
F Red-throated Flycatcher               Ficedula parva (2)
F Verditer Flycatcher                   Eumyias thalassina (2 males)
F Tickell's Blue-Flycatcher             Cyornis tickelliae (1)
  Gray-headed Canary-flycatcher         Culicicapa ceylonensis (3)
  Oriental Magpie-Robin                 Copsychus saularis (2 males)
  Indian Robin                          Saxicoloides fulicata (pair)
  Black Redstart                        Phoenicurus ochruros (3)
  Streak-throated Swallow               Hirundo fluvicola (2)
  Oriental White-eye                    Zosterops palpebrosus (at least 5)
  Inornate Warbler                      Phylloscopus inornatus (1)
F Greenish Warbler                      Phylloscopus trochiloides (1)
F Striated Babbler                      Turdoides earlei (1)
F Large Gray Babbler                    Turdoides malcolmi (1 plus several together)
  Jungle Babbler                        Turdoides striatus (quite common)
  Great Tit                             Parus major (3)
F Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark             Eremopterix grisea (3)
F Greater Short-toed Lark               Calandrella brachydactyla (1)
F Chestnut-shouldered Petronia          Petronia xanthocollis (several)
F White-browed Wagtail                  Motacilla madaraspatensis (1)
  Gray Wagtail                          Motacilla cinerea (1 plus another)
F Purple Sunbird                        Nectarinia asiatica (pair)
F Crested Bunting                       Melophus lathami (several)


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