With ample forest cover and an abundance of wetlands, Malwa plateau's Indore district is a true birder's paradise. Famous for its moderate climate, beautiful topography and habitat diversity, Indore attracts more than 260 species of birds every year.
Indore district has two Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBBA) – Yeshwant Sagar and Sirpur Lake, and a wildlife sanctuary named Ralamandal.
This list of birding hotspots in India is divided into three parts – wetlands, forests, and urban spaces.
Wetlands are important bird habitats, and Indore has many such areas where round-the-year birding is possible. A large number of resident bird species breed here. And, in winter, it becomes even more crowded with the arrival of migrant species. The marshy areas adjoining the wetlands are also excellent for spotting birds – both resident and migratory.
Sirpur Lake is the second IBBA of Indore, where more than 150 species of birds have been recorded. The urban lake and wetland is also home to several species of reptiles, insects, butterflies and fish. Nature Volunteers, the city's leading environmental NGO, is working alongside Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) to protect and preserve this diverse habitat.
Situated on Indore-Dhar road in the Chandan Nagar area, this man-made lake is more than 125 years old. It is spread across 350 acres and is divided into two parts by a bund that runs through its middle. Made by the erstwhile 19th century rulers of Indore, the Holkars, the lake is now under the custody of IMC.
Sirpur is a wonderful mix of aquatic habitat, scrub jungle, open fallow land and garden with big old trees of fig, tamarind and gulmohar. It boasts a good avian population and is a haven for migratory birds that arrive during winter. A birding trail which runs along the bund in the middle of the lake is perfect for close-range observation of different species of resident and migratory ducks, jacanas, moorhens, herons, egrets and other waders.
Tall trees that run along the periphery of the lake are a good place to spot passerines or perching birds. A wide range of bird species, mostly waders, are seen at the shallow end of the lake. And, a good number of shrubland birds can be seen dwelling in the fallow land adjoining the lake. Many resident birds breed here during the summer months, and birders can observe and study the complete breeding cycle of these birds.
Sirpur Lake is the best site in Indore to see the rare Short-eared Owl. Migratory ducks like Eurasian Wigeon, Ruddy Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall and Garganey visit Sirpur every winter. Birds like Eurasian Hobby and Collared Pratincole have also been recorded here, and even the Greater Flamingo.
In spite of the increasing urban pressure all around Indore, Sirpur is able to sustain itself and host a variety of bird species.
Sirpur Lake is located here.
Situated along Indore-Depalpur Road, Yeshwant Sagar is a dam reservoir on the Gambhir river. In 2002, it became the first designated IBBA of Indore.
Sarus Cranes can be seen here throughout the year and is the flagship species of this wetland. Their congregation in huge numbers, during peak summer, is an event for which birders from far and near visit Indore. With the Sarus Crane population continuing to dwindle in other regions of Malwa, due to the continuous shrinking of wetlands, the lake has become an important site for their conservation.
The approach to the water body is not well-defined, and one has to find their way through the fields for birding. During the monsoon, large nesting colonies of Little, Intermediate and Cattle Egrets occupy the trees of the village adjoining the water body. Breeding colonies of Little Cormorants make their nests on the trees near the IMC pumping station, and inside the pumping station, huge nesting colonies of Little Swifts can be found.
The backwaters are perfect for waders and other waterfowl. The shallow water pools with submerged vegetation and reed beds provide refuge to a large number of birds all-round the year. As the water level recedes in the summer, islands take shape, which serve as nesting sites for River Terns, Black-winged Stilts and Little-ringed Plovers. Flocks of Common Coots, Glossy Ibis, Black-headed Ibis, Asian Openbills, Little Grebes and Grey-headed Swamphens are common here.
During the summer months, large numbers of Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, in their beautiful breeding plumage, attract birders from across the country. With the onset of monsoon, huge flocks of Baya Weavers start their breeding activity, and hundreds of these birds nests can be seen on the trees here. Many bird species like shanks, plovers, sandpipers, stilts and wagtails dwell in good numbers in muddy areas of the lake. Greater Spotted Eagle, Oriental Pratincole, Pallid Harrier and Greater Flamingo are some of the other rare species found here. Barred Buttonquail, Striated Heron and Whiskered Tern can also be found here with a little effort.
One of the back-water areas of Yeshwant Sagar, adjoining Gulawat village, has become a favourite among birders. Blessed with a picturesque landscape, one can see a large number of bird species foraging amidst the lotus flowers here. The adjoining habitats of agricultural fields, grasslands, bamboo thickets and light forests add to the bird diversity of the area. The state bird of Madhya Pradesh, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, is often found moving in the thickets here.
Yeshwant Sagar Lake is located here.
Kishanpura Lake is situated on Indore-Dhar road, about 25km from Indore. It is surrounded by hills, farmlands, scrublands and a forest department nursery. By mid-summer, the lake shrinks, with the locals completely dependant on it for water.
Kishanpura is ideal for spotting raptors, wetland birds and ground birds. During winter, migratory birds like Eurasian Wigeon, Bar-headed Goose, Greylag Goose, and Common Pochard arrive. This is one of the few places where one can sight rare birds like Indian Courser, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Eurasian Curlew and Pallid Harrier. It is also a good site to see various species of larks and pipits, along with different species of shrikes, especially the Isabelline, Brown and Great Grey Shrike.
Kishanpura Lake is located here.
Bilawali lake is situated on Indore-Khandwa road, with an approximate area of 2000 acres. IMC recently celebrated the lake's centenary, in 2016. Water retention is a big challenge here as the lake dries up during peak summer. Take a walk along the bund, and one can see several passerine birds moving about on the trees lining the path. A pair of binoculars is a must as the lake is fenced, and birders have to look at water birds from afar.
Buntings and munias are also visible here because of the nearby farmlands and reed beds. Rarities like Mallards and Brown-headed Gulls can be seen here. Many species of birds like storks, spoonbills, herons, ibis and egrets are also common here. The wetland also hosts several species of resident and migratory ducks like Knob-billed Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Gadwall and Garganey.
Bilawali Lake is located here.
Baroda Daulat village pond is situated on Kanadia Road, about 13km from Kanadia village. It is a good place to watch resident and migratory birds; the adjoining reedbeds, shrubs and surrounding fields enhance the diversity of birdlife found here. Huge flocks of Baya Weavers and various species of prinias, munias and buntings take shelter here. Rare winter visitors like Black Storks and Red-crested Pochards will delight any birder.
Baroda Daulat is also a good place to see the Short-toed Snake-eagle, Indian Scops-owl, Red Avadavat, Tricoloured Munia, Black-headed Bunting and the Red-headed Bunting. The Blyth’s Reed-warbler, Clamorous Reed-warbler and Booted Warbler are also some of the species one can look out for when visiting.
Baroda Daulat village pond is located here.
The major forest areas of the district lie in the southern part of Indore. They are dry deciduous and comprise mostly of teak, palash, mahua, dudhi, arjun, anjan and karaunda. Many of these forests are under constant threat, owing to the fast pace of development, and many bird species are losing their nesting and breeding grounds to deforestation. Major forest areas like Choral, Tincha, Sendal-Mendal, Kajligarh and Ralamandal have been included here. The adjoining agricultural fields, fallow lands and light forest patches of acacia are also perfect for birding.
The Choral forest is in the catchment basin of Choral river, a tributary of River Narmada. One can approach it from the Indore-Khandwa road. The dry deciduous forest is mostly dominated by teak, and one can watch raptors like Bonelli's Eagle, Short-toed Snake-eagle, Crested Serpent-eagle and Booted Eagle. Flocks of Oriental White-eyes, Plum-headed Parakeets and Small Minivets are also seen here. One can also spot many species of flycatchers and woodpeckers. The area needs to be explored further to learn more about its bird diversity. Illicit felling of trees is a big cause for worry here.
Choral Forest is located here.
From Indore, one must reach Simrol, 20km on the Indore-Khandwa road, and go further for another 10km to reach Tincha Falls. It is an excellent area for all-season birding with healthy sightings of raptors as well as ground, forest and aerial birds. One can also find arboreal birds like nuthatches, flycatchers, woodpeckers and cuckooshrikes. The adjoining villages and fallow lands also host many bird species like Jungle Bush-quail, Rock Bush-quail and Painted Francolin.
One should keep a lookout for rare species like the White-bellied Minivet and Sirkeer Malkoha when birding in this area. Raptors like Bonelli’s Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Egyptian Vulture, White-eyed Buzzard, Rock Eagle-owl, Mottled Wood-owl, Indian Scops-owl are also seen here.
Tincha Forest is located here.
Sendal and Mendal are two villages in Mhow Tehsil. To reach Sendal, one must turn from Gajinda village, 30km from Indore, on the Indore-Khandwa road. Mendal village is adjacent to Sendal. The trees in this forest are mostly dry deciduous, and teak dominated.
The Sendal river flows through the area and merges with the Choral. The water in this river dries up during the summer, with small pools of water remaining here and there; perfect to watch forest birds that concentrate around these spots, like cuckooshrikes, woodpeckers, nuthatches and minivets. Different species of raptors, drongos, parakeets and doves are also commonly seen here.
Sendel-Mendal Forest is located here.
Situated just 4km away from Simrol village, the best way to approach the Kajligarh forest is from the Indore-Khandwa road. A birder's paradise, Kajligarh falls under the forest department jurisdiction and is the perfect spot for sighting arboreal birds. The forest gets its name from the medieval era fort present here. The terrain is difficult, but while walking through the forested valley below the fort, hordes of passerine birds can be seen foraging amongst the canopy.
Summer and autumn months are a good time to visit, the jungle saturated with the melodious calls of migrating cuckoos. Besides the many species of cuckoos, the Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Indian Pitta, Eurasian Blackbird and Black-headed Cuckooshrike also arrive in the valley during this period. One can witness the nesting cycles of many of these birds, as they come to breed here. Many species of nocturnal birds like the Mottled Wood-owl, Rock Eagle-owl, Jungle Nightjar and Indian Nightjar can also be sighted here.
Kajligarh Forest is located here.
Ralamandal Wildlife Sanctuary
During the pre-independence era, Ralamandal was the hunting ground of the Maharajas of Holkar. Spread across 1235 acres, it was declared a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1989. Ralamandal is the most popular spot among Indore city dwellers to commune with nature. The habitat consists mostly of dry deciduous trees and grasslands, and it is a wonderful place to see a variety of species of tree birds. Apart from birds, large herbivores such as Blackbuck, Spotted Deer, Nilgai and other wildlife can also be spotted here.
The Indian Peafowl, the national bird, is found in abundance here. Other species of birds such as Small Minivet, Common Woodshrike, Indian Grey Hornbill and Indian Oriole are commonly seen at the foothill where there are many fruiting trees. Huge nesting colonies of Baya Weavers can be seen on the acacia trees inside the sanctuary. Some munia family members like Indian Silverbill, Scaly-breasted Munia and Red Avadavat are seen in the grasslands here. One can also see the European Roller, a passage migrant, and the Pied Cuckoo, a summer migrant.
In addition to other raptors, Egyptian Vultures, an endangered species, are often seen soaring high above in the sky. The grasslands and shrub area on the foothill is a safe place for nesting Indian Peafowl and other ground-nesting birds. One can also look out for different species of owls like the Rock Eagle-owl, Mottled Wood-owl, Spotted Owlet and Barn Owl. Birds like Oriental White-eye, Common Iora, Small Minivet, and different species of woodpeckers and flycatchers are commonly sighted here.
A popular spot for forest walks, a short 2km climb takes one up the Ralamandal hill, from where one can enjoy breathtaking views. This is most enjoyable during rainy seasons. The hunting lodge of the erstwhile Holkar rulers has been converted into a museum by the forest department, and from here, one can see the adjoining Devguradiya hill and get a panoramic view of Indore city.
The forest department has put up information boards as you enter through the main gate with pictures of birds to educate the common man about the avian species found here. The sanctuary also has a wildlife rescue centre which provides care to injured wild animals and birds.
Ralamandal Wildlife Sanctuary is located here.
The groves and gardens in the city also support a large variety of bird species. There are several bird species that thrive even in the most populated areas of the city. Despite the large scale construction and urbanisation, Indore city is still home to quite a lot of green spaces.
Indore's Residency area has a lot of large fruit-bearing trees that provide food and nesting for numerous bird species. This area and nearby locations such as Forest Complex at Navratan Bagh, Residency Kothi campus, Forest Department nursery, Horticulture Department nursery, Indore Zoo campus, Daly College campus, Police Training College ground and Agriculture College campus are some of the best spots to sight birds.
One can easily spot close to 20-30 species of birds while on a 30-minute birding trail here. The common bird species found here are lapwings, babblers, sunbirds, bulbuls, crows, peafowls, drongos, treepies, and prinias. The trees in this area also have ample nesting sites for the Rose-ringed Parakeet, Spotted Owlet, Indian Grey Hornbill, Coppersmith Barbet, Black-rumped Flameback, Common Myna and other cavity nesters.
The area around Nehru Park (formerly Biscoe Park), although located in the middle of the city, is also a good place to watch different species of birds. This old park is home to fully-grown fig trees which attract a large number of birds. The big trees situated inside Gandhi Hall, Yeshwant Club, High Court, SGSITS College, BSNL Office, Indore Railway Station and in the adjoining tracts of the old cotton mills also provide refuge to many birds.
In the evening, large flocks of Rose-ringed Parakeets, Blue Rock Pigeons, House Crows, Black Kites and Common Mynas roost on the trees in these areas. Lalbagh Palace and its surrounding areas are also perfect for spotting a variety of bird species.
In the old areas of Indore city, there are a few small pockets where we can still find common birds in good numbers, like the Choithram School and Choithram Hospital campus and the Pipliyapala Regional Center surroundings.
Almost all cremation grounds in the city have old fruiting trees where birds can be seen. Near Rambagh cremation ground by the Kanh, one can see large congregations of egrets during their breeding period. The Pologround industrial area also has a lot of large and old trees which are home to a variety of bird species. Common wetland birds can also be seen at many places along the Kanh river.