Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary)

The Keoladeo Ghana National Park, one of the finest water-bird sanctuaries in the world, and considered the best bird marsh in the world, is 175 km. from Delhi and 60 Kms. from the Taj Mahal, both listed as World Heritage Sites designated by UNESCO.

The 30 sq. km. lake and wetland was artificially created by the Maharaja of Bharatpur in the 19th century, by building small dykes and dams and diverting water from an irrigation canal, he converted this low lying area into a fine wild fowl shooting preserve. In a few years, the new wetland surrounded by marginal forests was able to support thousands of water birds. It is now described as "one of the most magical places for bird watching on earth" featuring both nesting indigenous as well as migratory water birds.

Commonly referred to as Bharatpur, the Park is a delight for bird watchers. Of the 1300 species of birds seen in India, over 375 species are found here. A quiet ride by boat in the early hours of the morning is also an unforgettable experience. It is a big shallow lake divided by various roads and dykes into smaller compartments, depth nowhere exceeding 2.5 metres. One can also conveniently explore on foot over trails intersection the wetlands, or bicycle or rickshaw.

There are mixed heronries on the half submerged babul trees and the cacophony is unbelievable as painted storks, open bills, spoon bills, egrets, cormorants, white ibis and multitudes of others, tend their young. Jacanas with their iridescent colors and elegant tail feathers and purple moorhen can be seen delicately treading over the floating vegetation. While harriers and fishing eagles circle overhead in search of prey, the pied kingfisher hovers dramatically over the water in a flurry of wings. There are varieties of storks and cranes and the local sarus crane is elegant in a livery of grey and red. Local birds such as Painted Storks, Open Bill Storks, Spoonbills, Cormorants, Darters, Ibises, Moorhen, Pheasant - tailed Jacana, Purple Coot, White-breasted Water hen, Paddy Bird, Night Heron, Comb Duck (Nukta) and Dabchick, begin nestling when the rains are about to start. Migratory birds start arriving in October which include a variety of Ducks, Geese, Raptors, Waders, Warblers and Cranes, including the Siberian Crane.

The most prominent water fowl coming to this park are bareheaded and greylag geese. Ducks also create a lot of fluttering in the lakes. The ducks usually found here are pintail, widgeon, common shelduck, shoveler, garganey, teal, mallard pochard etc. Attracted by the influx of the water fowl the predatory birds-tawny eagles, spotted eagles short-toed eagles imperial eagles and fishing eagle also arrive.

Migratory birds at Bharatpur include, as large a bird as Dalmatian pelican, and as small a bird as Siberian disky leaf warbler. Other migrants include several species of cranes, pelicans, geese, ducks, eagles, hawks, shanks, stints, wagtails, warblers, wheatears, flycatchers, buntings, larks and pipits, etc.

The star attraction is the Siberian crane, of which there are about only 350 birds in the world and the Sanctuary is the wintering ground for about 52, which come in winter from November to March. There are only two wintering places for this rare species -one in Iran and the other Bharatpur and these beautiful birds with their distinctive red beaks and facial patches, fly over 6400 km from their summer retreats in Siberia, to get to them.

The forests around the lake at Bharatpur harbor the sambar, chital, nilgai, jackal, hyena, fox, mongoose, Sambar, Chital, Nilgai, Black Buck Pythan and porcupine. Occasionally, a fishing cat can be seen scooping its prey also commonly seen sunning themselves along edge of the paths or at Python Point.