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Home >> Hotspots >> Delhi


Jul 23, 2005 at 05:04 AM
To see directions please scroll down below the Hot Spots
Bird watching Sites in Delhi City
Although a city of probably over 14 million people Delhi has a remarkable number of interesting sites within its 500 or so sq kms. It has a bird list of over 450 species making it, after Nairobi in Kenya, probably the second richest city in the world for birds. Such a list exceeds those of many countries and because they are rarely harmed, many species are numerous and easily observed. In spite of the population density there is a surprising number of green open spaces, some are well-utilised parks but others closely approximate to the natural vegetation which once occupied the rocky  Ridge that runs through the centre of the city. In addition many roads are well lined with a variety of well-established trees and the more affluent housing colonies have well-grown if small gardens.  Apart from resident species Delhi has a number of interesting summer visitor which move out of the peninsula to breed before and during the summer monsoon. More striking is the number of winter visitors and passage migrants, for Delhi is well positioned on the north-south flowing Yamuna on one of the major Asian flyways.  We strongly recommend you use the latest edition of the Eicher City Map to find your way around. If you are in Delhi on a Sunday check out by the previous Friday and you may find the active delhibird group is meeting somewhere. The Yamuna River is the most regular spot and the group welcomes birding visitors to the capital to join it.
Yamuna River
Undoubtedly both banks of the Yamuna and its associated wetlands are the most productive places. During peak periods over 150 species in a day is possible. The area is justly famous for huge duck and goose flocks with up to 20000 of 20 species, which regularly included Bar-headed and Grey-lag Geese, both Ruddy and Common Shelduck and Ferruginous and Red-crested Pochard. There is a huge roosting winter gull flock of up to 10000 birds which is dominated by Black and Brown-headed Gulls but usually with a few Pallas’s, Yellow-legged, Heuglin’s and even Armenian. In addition a wide range of wetland species including most  of India’s herons and egrets and many migrant wader species should be seen. The winter roosts of hirundines, wagtails, mynahs and starlings probably exceed a lakh  (100,000) and are a wonderful spectacle at dusk, especially if they are being harried by falcons or Marsh Harriers. As the Yamuna is a major migration flyway almost any migratory species could turn up; the rarity list grows annually with Baer's Pochard, Upland Buzzard and Horned Lark being recent additions. The river is orientated north south so it is important to take account of the rising and setting sun. Thus observations from the east bank can be difficult in the evening (and vice versa). From mid-December to mid February there can be thick fog in Delhi and it may be better to wait until mid-morning if you want to use a telescope on the duck flocks for instance. Also remember that the flow is controlled by a flood barrage at Okhla and therefore water depth can vary considerably from day to day, obviously affecting the number, variety and distribution of the birds.

The area is good for wintering and passage passerines including Common Starlings, several warbler species (which include Moustached), Bluethroats, Rosy Pipits, Citrine Wagtails and Common Rosefinches. In summer the exposed sandbanks attract terns (including occasionally the endangered Black-bellied), two species of pratincole, plovers (including River Lapwings) and thick-knees (occasionally including Great). The reed beds are alive with nesting Cinnamon, Yellow, and a few Black Bitterns (this is probably the best site in India to get reasonably close views of these three species in numbers), both Indian species of jacana also breed together with Painted Snipe and occasional Watercocks. Specialities include the now regular flock of Greater Flamingos (up to 1000; which are present in varying numbers in every month), Black Ibis on the marginal vegetable fields, resident but elusive Red-headed Falcons and reed bed nesting Black Francolins, White-tailed Stonechats, Striated Babblers and Grassbirds, Red Avadavats, Black-breasted and Streaked Weavers and Yellow-bellied Prinias. Bristled Grassbird (breeding) and White-capped Penduline Tit (wintering) have been recorded in the recent past.

The best area is between the new Flyover and the Barrage. From Okhla village take the river road from the great Sand Mound (marked on Eicher maps) and view the river and marshes from the several small tree-lined bunds that strike out eastwards. This area is really only good in winter and best in the evening. At the eastern end of the Barrage you will notice a narrow curved spit that strikes out northwards. There is a footpath on it and from the end it is often possible to have excellent views of the duck and flamingo flocks if you hide in the bushes. These bushes are excellent for wintering and passage warblers and Mountain Chiffchaff and Smoky Warbler have been recorded there. A little further on towards Noida, a narrow road branches north following the river. If the water is reasonably high and not too clogged with water hyacinth, this can give excellent views of many species especially in the morning. The end of this narrow road coincides with the start of the new flyover and a raised bund heads westwards to the Temple (exactly opposite the Okhla Sand Mound). This is probably the most productive walk of all for variety with some very extensive reed beds to look over. It is here that the largest winter roosting flocks can be observed and they include a Marsh Harrier roost of up to 40 birds.

The Temple Bund itself acts as something of a magnet to migrants so walk it very slowly. Wrynecks regularly winter along there and it is one of the favoured sites for the Red-headed Falcons. Eurasian Hobby and Oriental Turtle Dove have both been recorded and the enigmatic Pale Martin has been seen among Streak-breasted Swallow flocks in summer. Keep an eye on the sky for highflying passers by. If the water isn't too high you can walk on buffalo paths into the reeds, round the damp fields or along the river edge. If the water level is high, sit on the Temple mound and the birds will fly past. The great Banyan Tree has a very confiding nesting pair of Spotted Owlets that nest just above the shrine to Lord Shiva and the foliage is often full of Yellow-footed Green Pigeons and (in summer) Golden Orioles. If water is non-existent in summer, walk out over the great sandbanks from here. Whenever the water is shallow or mud exposed wader numbers increase rapidly whatever the season. Among the usual flocks, dominated by Black-winged Stilts, Ruff and Wood Sandpipers, Avocets (up to 1000 on passage), Curlew Sandpipers and Lesser Sandplovers may be found and local rarities such as Pacific Golden Plover and Terek Sandpiper are almost annually found. Any Asian wader is possible especially during passage so it is worth searching carefully.
This area is the southern extension of the west bank of the Yamuna south of the barrage. The bird list is similar (though numbers are generally lower) but there are more reliable wader sites and the cultivated fields add a new dimension. Black Ibises are almost guaranteed and dry land species such as Sand, Crested and Oriental Sky Larks breed while Hume's Short-toed Lark winters.

The best way to enter this area is by the narrow unmetalled, tree-lined road that turns south from the main barrage (Noida) road just before the barrage on the Delhi side. Follow this for c 2 kms where you meet a T-junction with a metalled road. Turning left you will quickly see a track off to the left again. This is motorable and takes you almost to the Yamuna bank. You have to walk the last 100m. This area can be very good for waders if water levels are not too high but this is unpredictable as it depends on the opening of the barrage; if the river floods it will be very muddy! The sandy, tamarisk scrub, and elephant- grasslands have larks, chats and prinias. Look for Brown Crakes in the stream alongside the road and River Lapwings, terns and pratincoles on the sand bars. Returning to the road you can continue south for 3 kms and explore other left branching tracks to the river as well as scanning the vegetable fields and trees.

Unfortunately a once excellent area, just inland, of wet fields and reed-beds has largely disappeared under a new housing project. But if you take one of the new roads from the T-junction you will soon reach the high bank that surrounds the fly ash pit of the power station. The bank is visible from the junction and beyond the houses. You can climb this bank and walk round a huge hyacinth choked lake. Although the “lake” itself rarely has much of interest except Darters, Purple Herons and Spotbills, the walk round can be very productive and gives you an excellent vantage point. The bank is particularly good for migrants, including occasional wheatears and it was here that the first Horned Lark recorded south of the high Himalaya in India was found. The smaller ponds at the southern end are the most regular site for Bronze-winged Jacanas in Delhi and often have Cotton Pygmy-geese and a few bitterns.
This historic area of south Delhi is rich in dry country species. Much of it is thorn scrub and trees on undulating rocky hills and almost anywhere is worth a look. Characteristic birds include Black-shouldered Kite, Jungle Bush-quail, Indian Bush Lark, Indian Robin, Large Grey Babbler and Long-billed Pipit as well as up to four species of shrike. It is the best site in Delhi for the local  Rufous-fronted Prinia (which is very common) and occasionally has the difficult –to-locate Sirkeer Malkoha. Wintering warblers include Orphean, Sulphur-bellied and both Common and Hume's Lesser Whitethroats as well as the ubiquitous Hume’s Warbler. Painted and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse are still around in small numbers (look out for parties flighting to water around 0930 am!) and birds of prey in winter could include almost anything. The waste field just south of the main fort is the most reliable site in Delhi for the declining Yellow-wattled Lapwings and up to 12 pairs breed there. It is also good for larks and pipits (including Tawny and Blyth's) and sometimes has a few wheatears (Isabelline, Desert or Varied are the most likely species).

Tughlaqabad is on the west-east Mehrauli-Badarpur Road and well marked on all maps. The field (which can be driven into) is between the Adilabad Fort ruins (look for Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Eagle Owls and Kestrels here; even Wall Creepers have been recorded in some winters) and Ghiyauddin Tughlaq's Tomb. A road by this tomb to Surajkund takes you to the entrance to Asola Wildlife Reserve, about 2 kms down on your right. There is no entrance charge and the best thing to do is park inside the gate and walk round on the numerous paths. Unfortunately it doesn't open til 0830 hrs (although there is a resident watch-person who will probably let you in earlier with the right encouragement). It closes at 1800hrs. There are many, quite approachable,Nilgai and Jackal here and a Blackbuck breeding scheme.
Delhi Ridge
This famous area, studied intensively by Tony Gaston 30 years ago, is now rather fragmented and degraded in parts. But what remains is in theory protected and still holds some interesting birds. It is a combination of thick thorn scrub and rocks (less open than Asola) and patches of woodland. Most of Delhi's land birds can be found here with effort and it can be excellent for overhead raptors including the few remaining vultures, Booted Eagles and breeding Oriental Honey-buzzards. More local species include Grey-breasted Prinias, Small Minivets, Common Wood-shrike, Paradise Flycatcher plus barbets and woodpeckers. In winter Olive-backed Pipits are regular in several places and several buntings (notably White-capped) have been recorded. This is one of the few sites in India where the enigmatic Brook's Leaf-warbler is regularly reported, usually in the high canopies and the Sirkeer Malkoha is present in the thorn scrub. Peafowl and Grey Francolin are numerous and Eurasian Thick-knees breed in good numbers. Look out for Yellow-wattled Lapwing and Long-billed Pipit on the Polo Ground. The Central Ridge is the last known site in Delhi for the very local and apparently rapidly declining Marshall's Iora but it hasn't been seen or heard there for several years. There are also occasional records of Orange-headed thrush and Indian Pitta passing through.

The easiest way to access this area is by the first road on your left off Willingdon Crescent and soon after the Sardar Patel Road junction (by the Gandhi Murti). Drive or better walk straight through to the Polo Clubhouse. You can park there and (after checking the field) take one of the paths into the jungle. The best (which leads to mature Ridge woodland) is right at the end of the Polo Ground and usually deeply littered with stable straw. Watch out for polo horses exercising at speed! The up hill tracks take you to the Buddha Jayanti Smarak Park which is also worth a visit and another way in (from Vandemataram Marg) but the fence has few gaps in it.

Another option is in the southern part of the Ridge, the Sanjay Van Park which lies south of IIT to the south of the Qutab Institutional Area. Take Tara Crescent Road off the New Mehrauli Road and just past the new DFIDI (old USAID) office you'll see a gate. Excellent footpaths take you through a range of habitats including small lakes along the dammed stream (where it is worth sitting for a while; watch for Bluethroats and rarer species emerging from the bushes along the water and crakes in the reed edges). 70 species in 2 hours is well possible in winter here.
Delhi Parks
Delhi is full of parks of all sizes and they are easily located on most maps. Some in the centre, such as the Lodi Gardens, are well manicured but contain many old indigenous trees. Pay particular attention to Peepul, Banyan and Neem trees for Yellow-footed Green Pigeons, three species of parakeet and both Coppersmith and Brown-headed Barbet. These parks as well as large gardens, including hotel grounds, are usually rich in birds. As indeed are almost all the environs of the ancient monuments, big institutions, the Delhi Golf Course (if you can gain access) and the riverside ghats. Such places are a good to wander in, to see the commoner north Indian species, often at close quarters. Most older buildings have Dusky Crag Martins, Brown Rock-chats and nesting parakeets, Rock Pigeons and Mynahs and Wall Creepers have wintered on some of them. The large Deer Park at Hauz Khas and the nearby Siri Fort Park are both historically significant and ornithologically interesting because there is still fairly wild vegetative cover. In winter several species of warbler and birds of prey can be found. To find the parks take Aurobindo Marg south from the Inner Ring Road and they are both located close to the Outer Ring Road.
Delhi Zoo
Most city zoos are well worth a visit and Delhi's is no exeption. In the monsoon a significant colony of wild egrets, cormorants and ibis nests in trees on islands in the lakes to be replaced by Painted Storks in the autumn. Eurasian Thick-knees breed in several enclosures, the Nilgai one appropriately being the most popular. In winter Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whitethroats, Hume's Warblers, Bluethroats and Olive-backed Pipits are usually easy to find. Blyth's Reed and Greenish are numerous on passage. Next door is the Sundar Nursery, reknowned in the past for migrants.

The Zoo is between the Mathura Road and the Ring Road south of Purana Quila and east of the Golf Course. It is closed on Fridays.
Other Sites
Almost any open space on the Delhi map is worth exploring. The campuses of the big academic institutions notably Delhi (north and south campus), IIT and JNU in south Delhi can be very productive. If you feel a bit adventurous travel north to explore the remnant marshes around the lonely Coronation Pillar (many wetland species including bitterns and Painted Snipe). Or take any track along the Najafgarh Canal in extreme west Dehli (best take the Mehrauli Najafgarh Road south of the IGI Airport till you cross the canal). This has a wealth of species to which will almost certainly soon be added the Sind Sparrow which is spreading out of the Indus Basin now.
And if your sense of smell is subdued try Okhla Sewage Works (gateway on your left off the Mathura Road past CRRI and before Apollo Hospital). Drive through and stop where the road right angles. The marshy and muddy settling pools are full of wagtails, egrets and waders in winter and in summer Black-winged Stilts, Painted Snipe and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas breed there. It is one of the best places to get close views of waders.
Directions for Hot Spots of Delhi
coming from New Friends Colony to Appollo Hospital. Turn left after Appollo and carry on straight till Kalindi Kunj (here the road will turn right for Noida). At Kalindi Kunj instead of going right for Noida/Barrage - turn left along the river. Flamingo Point is the second bund going into the river on the right.
coming from New Friends Colony to Appollo Hospital. Turn left after Appollo and carry on straight till Kalindi Kunj, here the road turns right then left and goes over the Yamuna (Okhla Barrage)for Noida. After you cross the barrage take the first left (narrow) turn going left along the river. Where this road finishes there is a dirt track going left - this track leads to the Temple.
coming from New Friends Colony to Appollo Hospital. Turn left after Appollo and carry on straight till the road turns right for Noida. At the turn directly in front is Kalindi Kunj. 
On the MB Road (Mehruali - Badarpur road), comming from the West ( from Qutab Minar/Batra Hospital ) - on your left you will come to the ruins of the Tughlakabad Fort and subsequently to the semi circular parking & ticket counter of the fort on your left. Right opposite the parking is a road going to the Shooting Ranges/Surajkund. 2 kms down this road on your right is the Asola Sanctuary.
Coming from Nehru Place, go over the Savitri Flyover (GK 2). (Alternatively coming from Panchsheel Park take a U turn under the GK 2 Savitri flyover). After coming down the flyover after 100 yards there is a fork in the road. The right takes you to Panchsheel Park and the straight to Saket. Take the road to Saket and after 100 yards on the left is the gate to Jahpanah Forest.

Coming from the Aurobindo Marg:
Turn left on the Mehrauli Badarpur Road .
After crossing Lado Sarai (on the left) turn right from the first cut (before Saket red light intersection) to enter Said-ul-Ajaib village.
Go straight till the Gramin Chiktsa Kendra (which is on your right) and turn left.
Turn right from the roundabout to reach the Garden of Five Senses.

Coming from the PVR Anupam, Saket:
After the PVR intersection, go straight towards the T intersection on Mehauli-Badarpur road, leading to Mehrauli.
Turn right from the red light.
Take the first left turn to enter Said-ul-Ajaib village (you'll see a board that says Garden of Five Senses).
Go straight till the Gramin Chiktsa Kendra (which is on your right) and turn left.
Turn right from the roundabout to reach the Garden of Five Senses.
(Distance from PVR Anupam:1.5 km approx.)

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Share your recent pictures with the delhibird community.
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Share your recent pictures with the delhibird community.
Dadri - Posted by Anand Arya
Share your recent pictures with the delhibird community.