View Larger Map Nevertheless, the bird life at the sanctuary is well worth the increased cost of admission. From October through March the site hosts enormous flocks of wintering and migrant waterfowl. I routinely see Greater Flamingo, Greylag Goose, Purple Heron, Intermediate and Great Egret, Cinammon Bittern, and flock upon flock of ducks: the most recent trip yielded Northern Pintail, Common Teal, Indian Spotbill, Northern Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Garganey, and Common Pochard. This year for the first time, I saw Bar-headed Geese at

Okhla Bird Sanctuary

The Okhla Bird Sanctuary feels like my refuge away from home. I’ve been going there since my very first trip to India, back in February 2005. I usually join up with the local birding group, delhibirds, which helps me enormously with ID problems.

I hadn’t been to the site since February 2007, and on my most recent trip to the sanctuary, I discovered that things had changed quite a bit in a year. There is now a gate along the southern entrance, with posted entry fees: a whopping 350 rupees for foreigners, plus 50 rupees for cars. This puts the bird sanctuary on a par with the Taj Mahal, at least as far as entry fees are concerned! By comparison, I believe the Delhi Zoo cost 50 rupees for foreigners the last time I was there.


View Larger Map

Nevertheless, the bird life at the sanctuary is well worth the increased cost of admission. From October through March the site hosts enormous flocks of wintering and migrant waterfowl. I routinely see Greater Flamingo, Greylag Goose, Purple Heron, Intermediate and Great Egret, Cinammon Bittern, and flock upon flock of ducks: the most recent trip yielded Northern Pintail, Common Teal, Indian Spotbill, Northern Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Garganey, and Common Pochard. This year for the first time, I saw Bar-headed Geese at the sanctuary.

There’s a huge tree on the northern embankment (the area up near the DND toll road); Spotted Owlets like to hang out there. Greater Coucal, a large (almost 1/2 a meter tall!) cuckoo is a common sight in the area as well.

The sanctuary is circumscribed by the river on the west and civilization on all other sides. A paper (PDF version available on the web) by Abdul Jamil Urfi describes the situation as follows:

Okhla barrage bird sanctuary, on the river Yamuna in south Delhi, is an important site for breeding and wintering waterbirds, with 14,000–20,000 waterbirds recorded in winter. The dominant feature of the site is a large lake formed after the creation of a barrage on the river in 1986. […] Species recorded since 1992 include three Vulnerable species (Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri, Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis and Bristled Grassbird Chaetornis striatus) and six Near Threatened species (Ferruginous Pochard Aythya nyroca, Black-bellied Tern Sterna acuticauda, Darter Anhinga melanogaster, Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus, Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala and Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus). The sanctuary is being encroached upon, and isolated by, surrounding development.

This paper was published in 2003; since then the road to the east has encroached even further on the sanctuary. There had been a pretty little park between the road and the sanctuary, but now the road has been widened and improved, and many of the trees have been cut down.The park still seems to be there, but for how long is anyone’s guess. So, every chance I get, I visit the place.

Here is a photo gallery of the most recent trip; for some reason I’ve lost all the photos I have from previous trips (none of them were any good, so it’s no great loss). Also, I just upgraded to the most recent version of NextGen gallery, and for some reason it broke the captions. As soon as I get the caption thing fixed, I’ll update the gallery… [UPDATE: Captions are now working; just click on any picture for the larger image with caption]

A complete list of the 107 species I’ve seen there since 2005:

GREBES
Little Grebe
CORMORANTS
Great Cormorant
ANHINGAS
Darter
HERONS, EGRETS AND BITTERNS
Gray Heron
Purple Heron
Indian Pond-Heron
Cattle Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow Bittern
Cinnamon Bittern
STORKS
Painted Stork
IBIS AND SPOONBILLS
Black-headed Ibis
Red-naped Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Eurasian Spoonbill
FLAMINGOS
Greater Flamingo
DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS
Greylag Goose
Bar-headed Goose
Ruddy Shelduck
Eurasian Wigeon
Gadwall
Eurasian Teal
Spot-billed Duck
Northern Pintail
Garganey
Northern Shoveler
Common Pochard
Ferruginous Pochard
Tufted Duck
HAWKS, EAGLES AND KITES
Black Kite
Western Marsh-Harrier
Shikra
PHEASANTS AND PARTRIDGES
Black Francolin
Indian Peafowl
RAILS, GALLINULES AND COOTS
White-breasted Waterhen
Purple Swamphen
Common Moorhen
Eurasian Coot
JACANAS
Pheasant-tailed Jacana
Bronze-winged Jacana
AVOCETS AND STILTS
Black-winged Stilt
THICK-KNEES
Eurasian Thick-knee
PLOVERS AND LAPWINGS
Red-wattled Lapwing
SANDPIPERS
Common Redshank
Green Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
GULLS
Yellow-legged Gull
Brown-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull
PIGEONS AND DOVES
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Orange-breasted Pigeon
Yellow-footed Pigeon
PARROTS
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Plum-headed Parakeet
CUCKOOS
Common Hawk-Cuckoo
Asian Koel
Greater Coucal
OWLS
Spotted Owlet
KINGFISHERS
White-throated Kingfisher
BEE-EATERS
Green Bee-eater
HOOPOES
Eurasian Hoopoe
BARBETS
Coppersmith Barbet
SWALLOWS
Plain Martin
WAGTAILS AND PIPITS
Citrine Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Oriental Pipit
BULBULS
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Red-vented Bulbul
CISTICOLAS AND ALLIES
Graceful Prinia
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Ashy Prinia
Plain Prinia
OLD WORLD WARBLERS
Blyth’s Reed-Warbler
Sykes’s Warbler
Common Tailorbird
Common Chiffchaff
Striated Grassbird
OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS
Bluethroat
Indian Robin
African Stonechat
White-tailed Stonechat
Pied Bushchat
MONARCH FLYCATCHERS
Black-headed Paradise-Flycatcher
BABBLERS
Yellow-eyed Babbler
Common Babbler
Large Gray Babbler
Jungle Babbler
SUNBIRDS AND SPIDERHUNTERS
Purple Sunbird
ORIOLES
Eurasian Golden Oriole
SHRIKES
Long-tailed Shrike
DRONGOS
Black Drongo
CROWS AND JAYS
Rufous Treepie
House Crow
STARLINGS
Common Myna
Asian Pied Starling
Rosy Starling
OLD WORLD SPARROWS
House Sparrow
WEAVERS AND ALLIES
Streaked Weaver
Baya Weaver
Bengal Weaver
WAXBILLS AND ALLIES
Red Avadavat
White-throated Munia
Nutmeg Mannikin
FINCHES, SISKINS, CROSSBILLS
Common Rosefinch
BUNTINGS, SEEDEATERS, ALLIES
Crested Bunting
Black-headed Bunting