Bird Watching in Bharatpur

by pateluday

A tiny town ensconced in remote India, Bhatapur garners International repute thanks to bird species that flock in thousands every year. Also known as Keoladeo after Shiv Temple.

Bird watching as a hobby and recreation in India is growing by leaps and bounds as enthusiasts increase and optics become cheaper. India is home to thirteen percent of the global avian species which include migrants that arrive from far and wide to escape intense cold and snow.

Declared a bird sanctuary by the government it is home to more than three hundred species some of which are rare visitors. Migrants make up sizeable numbers in Northern India whence lakes flock with overseas arrivals. Almost all lakes and ponds are abuzz with activity the honk honk is heard everywhere, especially in the woods and remote destinations.

Undisturbed and not shot the migrants have discovered safe heavens everywhere across the country but the North is within easy reach and some annual same-place visitors have created a phenomenon. Vegetarian by majority with conservation ethos the population does not shoot these winged wonders habitually. And those who do can face penalties under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

Water Bodies

Marsh & Wetlands

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary

Bharatpur WetlandsThe name Keoladeo is derived from Lord Shiva Temple in the sanctuary. But it is very popularly known as Bharatpur after the township. This little place in the Indian State of Rajasthan is about seventy kilometers drive from Agra the home of the Taj Mahal. The drive intersects through quaint hamlets and green fields rich yellow with mustard in the winters. The small townships on the way display typical Rajasthani households aesthetically painted with simple designs. 

The colorful Rajasthani buzz is well visible on the highway that leads to Bharatpur. On the edge of the town resides the sanctuary enclosing twenty square kilometers and comprises an amazing network of large but shallow wetlands, deciduous forest, and scrub and marshland. This unique mix of habitats chiefly the water bodies support hundred of thousands of avian species both residents and migrants.          

The sanctuary and green fields are subject to regular ornithological surveys by enthusiastic ornithologists from overseas. Tourism is well organized by the government and a sound infrastructure exists. What was initially meant for water supply to the town was taken over by these winged wonders and the destination soon gained World Fame. 

Etched on a large stone slab are details of the shoot by imminent personalities mostly from Europe and the Indian trigger happy Maharajahs. Thousands of wintering ducks were shot in an unprecedented orgy of violence. The slab is a staid reminder of the gory past, thankfully it stands still and frozen in time with no addition. 

The killing of wildlife in any form in India is completely banned and the sport has faded out of memory and fashion. The avian species are well protected and subject to regulated tourism which does not harm but on the contrary, fetches much-needed foreign exchange in form of revenue.         

Bird Watching on Cycle & Rickshaw

Bird Watching on Cycle
Bird Watching on Cycle

Excursions in Search of Avian Species

Bird Tours at Keoladeo

The bird-watching expeditions begin early in the morning from the gate of the sanctuary. After paying the entrance fee and selecting a bird guide you can enter the park. For many extensive walks are a bit difficult hence they choose the option of hiring bicycles or rickshaws. The latter is a tricycle manned by humans who are surprisingly good at the identification of avian species as well.   

Professional birders prefer long walks around the wetlands and treelines. The roads form a network and are numbered, they usually enclose the wetlands and sparse forests and scrubs that are typical of the destination. The opening and closing times are well respected and the exit takes place before it gets dark. 

The breakfast or lunch is organized at the center point which has a canteen and rows of benches for rest. No other commercial activity takes place in the confines, and visitors should arrange their food in advance. Usually, the hotels deliver the food at a designated time. Although Bharatpur is home to birds that come to escape the intense cold in the Himalayas and the Pale-arctic region the destination itself is quite cold. So be prepared with good enough warm clothing during the tour.   

Video Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

About The Park

Bharatpur Experience


Painted StorkA day's work takes almost eight hours on foot. In a day one can discover anywhere from fifty to eighty bird species. Depending upon the guide and the enthusiasm happy experience is guaranteed.     

The destination dazzles and enchants, thanks to the unique habitat and a panoramic spread. The ensemble of migrants is amazing and shorebirds, waders, and divers saturate the wetlands. Overhead hang a number of predatory birds eagles, harriers, and vultures some of which are resident while a good number arrive from the Himalayas and the pale arctic region.  The assemblage of birds can be startling for first-time visitors. The encompassing noise is sweet for a birder nevertheless. 

For professionals, the Bharatpur bird watching tour is organized for two to three days. This is enough to checklist more than a hundred birds including migrant warblers and arboreal species. The degree of difficulty is not at all high but the cold can be discomforting.   

Best Season 

The migrants arrive in winter and this assemblage swells from October onward and lasts till March. After the cold season is over only resident breeding species make the destination their summer home. 


Walking shoes that are comfortable for extensive excursions. Winter clothing, books on birds, binocular, and spotting scopes are a must. Essentials should be purchased in advance before arriving at the resort.   

Bar Headed Geese

bar Headed Geese
bar Headed Geese

Guides of Bharatpur

Bird Guides

Bird Guide BharatpurAlbeit to a large extent, bird watching is an elite recreation but paradoxically the guides belong to local communities with members once living in abject poverty. This phenomenon is that of give and take that created decent livelihoods for the people and changed their life for the better. Visitors enlightened them on this recreation and the birds that thronged the wetlands. They learned fast and today a large gathering of extremely agile and able guides conduct field trips for the enthusiasts.

Very few are literate with a high level of qualifications, they come from every walk of life but mostly from agrarian backgrounds. They have garnered a repute as experts in the identification of winter migrants and resident species that visit the park.      

Most enthusiasts rely on guides for identification and photography and they never let one down. They are experts in their field and dedicated to the practice. The more learned ones now conduct birding tours in North India as well as in Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. They are expanding their horizons quite successfully. Nowhere I believe thrives a renowned community of birding guides like at Bharatpur in India.    

Updated: 12/02/2022, pateluday
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pateluday on 01/25/2022

Sarus is an emblem of eternal love in India as they pair for life. They are also considered a good omen for conjugal bliss and good wedded life!

DerdriuMarriner on 01/24/2022

I'm reminded in re-reading this article and in re-visiting the images that I meant to ask you something else, somewhat related to birding, somewhat not. It's the red in the Sarus crane that made me think of Valentine's Day and of lovebird parrots (Agapornis). What would be their equivalent in Indian culture?

pateluday on 05/05/2021

Great Place for Birding but if you have deeper interest also visit Chambal River Sanctuary which is about 70 km for Agra. Best boating is at Bah but costly. Enjoy your travels.

WriterArtist on 05/04/2021

Bharatpur must be quite an interesting place. Rajasthan travel is in my wish list for a long time. Hope to cover Jaipur and Jodhpur. Ranganthittu a bird sanctuary in South India is closer to where I reside and I have seen it with family. It is an amazing place.

pateluday on 02/05/2021

Sarus Crane and Painted Stork...
keola probably is word modification derived from Sanskrit "Kevala" one of the meaning is pure
Deo means Lord.

I have not read the article but yes bar headed geese is one of the World's highest flying bird.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/04/2021

pateluday, Thank you for pictures, practicalities and products.
What are the birds in the images to the left of your title and under your Bharatpur experience excursions information?
Do we know what the meaning of the name Keoladeo is for Lord Shiva?
Have you read the article by Ed Yong for the Sept. 6, 2019 Atlantic online, An Astronaut Reared the World’s Highest-Flying Birds? It's about bar-headed geese, one of my favorite divine vahana vehicles.

pateluday on 02/02/2021

In North and Central India winters are cold and summers hot so migrants start leaving from March onward...The birds at Bharatpur are not disturbed so they enjoy their stay with ease. There are some residents duck species which mingle with the crowd but breed here. You need a bird guide in the sanctuary as they are more familiar with the species and know their way around. Thanks for comment!

blackspanielgallery on 02/02/2021

I have noticed here, a warm place, that migragory birds often stay all year once they arrive. Is it so in India, where there are a few ducks and geese that make a permanent home? I would expect it to be so.
If the crowds get too large the birds will leave where they can be easily spotted from trails and head into a more remote area. Is that getting to be a problem?
Does the sanctuary offer printed images, or do the people require their guide's knowledge?

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