Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary
Keoladeo National Park, located in the State of Rajasthan, is an important wintering ground of Palaearctic migratory waterfowl and is renowned for its large congregation of non-migratory resident breeding birds. It is commonly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, which is considered as the pilgrimage for bird lovers. Once, hunting grounds of former Maharajas of Bharatpur is now UNESCO World Heritage site. Although small in size, 29 sq. km, it boasts more than 375 species of birds, and more than 132 of them breed inside the Keoladeo Ghana National Park and nearly every year new ones are added to the list.
This ‘Bird Paradise’ was developed in a natural depression wetland that was managed as a duck shooting reserve at the end of the 19th century. While hunting has ceased and the area declared a national park in 1982, its continued existence is dependent on a regulated water supply from a reservoir outside the park boundary. The park’s well-designed system of dykes and sluices provides areas of varying water depths which are used by various avifaunal species.
Due to its strategic location in the middle of Central Asian migratory flyway and presence of water, the sanctuary not only attracts birds from India but also from places like Europe, Siberia, China and Tibet. The story of Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is incomplete without an account of the migratory waterfowl. Large congregations of ducks, geese, coots, pelicans and waders arrive in the winter. The park was the only known wintering site of the central population of the critically endangered Siberian Crane.
During the breeding season the most spectacular heronry in the region is formed by 15 species of herons, ibis, cormorants, spoonbills and storks, where in a well-flooded year over 20,000 birds nest. Before monsoons birds roost and nest building activities start on the babool and kadam trees of Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur). Water coming through the Ajan Bandh starts filling the various ponds and lakes of Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur).
Attracted by the influx of the waterfowl the predatory birds such as -tawny eagles, spotted eagles short-toed eagles and fishing eagle also arrive. Sanctuary also serves as a wintering area for other globally threatened species such as the Greater Spotted Eagle, and Imperial Eagle.
Some 375 bird species have been recorded from the area including five critically endangered, two endangered and six vulnerable species. Around 115 species of birds breed in the park which includes 15 water bird species forming one of the most spectacular heronries of the region. The habitat mosaic of the property supports a large number of species in a small area, with 42 species of raptors recorded. There are large herds of the nilgai, chital, wild boar and feral cows in addition to a few herds of sambar.
There are well-defined forest trails, which can easily be covered on foot or on a cycle or you can also hire a rickshaw that are available on hire. Rickshaw pullers have been trained by the park management in bird watching and are quite knowledgeable. Boats are also available on hire. A early morning boat trip or a late evening one is quite a rewarding experience to check out the hidden surprises of Bharatpur.
Visit to Taj Mahal and Fathepur Sikri
Agra, just 55 km away from Bharatpur, is home to the world's most famous Monument of Love, the Taj Mahal. Together with the Mughal city of Fatehpur Sikri (22 Km), it makes for an excellent day trip. At Sikri, you can see Buland Darwaza, the highest gateway in India, the well-preserved buildings and some of the best Mughal architecture.
Visit to Chambal Sanctuary
The Chambal Sanctuary is an excellent place to see Gharials, Gangetic Dolphins and perhaps the world's largest population of the Indian Skimmer. A motorboat ride on the Chambal river offers a closer look at several other bird species and is extremely rewarding for exploring the region's rich flora and fauna.
Best time to visit
Bharatpur Wildlife Sanctuary is open throughout the year, still the ideal visiting months are from August-November for resident breeding birds and October- February for migrant birds.