Bharatpur & Chambal River Birding

Dusky Eagle Owl

Keoladeo (or Keoladeo Ghana) National Park, better known as Bharatpur, became a World Heritage Site in 1985. One of the most outstanding wetland reserves in Asia, it attracts many thousands of wildfowl, herons, storks, cranes, waders, and raptors, after the monsoon has refilled the shallow ‘jheels’. It’s compact size and this diversity means that a full day birding in the park could well produce 150 species of birds.

From Bharatpur we move east into Uttar Pradesh and a comfortable stay at the Chambal Safari Lodge, our base for a boat ride along the Chambal river, the best place in India to see the fish-eating crocodile Gharial, Ganges River Dolphin, and two highly threatened birds, Indian Skimmer and Black-bellied Tern. For those who fancy some exploring, we can add an extra day here which would allow a visit to the relatively unbirded Etawah area, home to many Sarus Cranes and who knows what else?!

This tour will be at a relaxed pace to concentrate on enjoying and understanding identification and behaviour of the birds we see. It is ideal for newcomers to birding, as well as those who have been birding for a longer time: no birder ever grows tired of Bharatpur!

Target Species

  • Black Francolin
  • Bar-headed Goose
  • Greylag Goose
  • Knob-billed Duck
  • Ruddy Shelduck
  • Cotton Pygmy Goose
  • Mallard
  • Ferruginous Duck
  • Jungle Nightjar 
  • Large-tailed Nightjar
  • Indian Nightjar
  • Brown Crake
  • Sarus Crane
  • Common Crane
  • White-tailed Lapwing
  • Greater Painted-snipe
  • Pin-tailed Snipe
  • Marsh Sandpiper
  • Indian Courser 
  • Painted Stork
  • Asian Openbill
  • Black-necked Stork
  • Lesser Adjutant
  • Great White Pelican
  • Dalmatian Pelican
  • Egyptian Vulture
  • Crested Honey Buzzard
  • Indian Vulture 
  • Crested Serpent Eagle
  • Changeable Hawk-Eagle
  • Indian Spotted Eagle 
  • Greater Spotted Eagle
  • Eastern Imperial Eagle
  • Indian Scops Owl 
  • Dusky Eagle-Owl
  • Brown Hawk-Owl
  • Eurasian Wryneck
  • Isabelline Shrike
  • Oriental Skylark
  • Greater Short-toed Lark
  • White-eared Bulbul
  • Brooks’s Leaf Warbler 
  • Smoky Warbler 
  • Dusky Warbler
  • Striated Grassbird
  • Delicate Prinia
  • Yellow-bellied Prinia
  • Orange-headed Thrush
  • Tickell’s Thrush 
  • Black-throated Thrush
  • Bluethroat
  • Siberian Rubythroat
  • Taiga Flycatcher
  • Isabelline Wheatear
  • Desert Wheatear
  • Variable Wheatear
  • Citrine Wagtail
  • Tawny Pipit
  •   Near Endemic


Day 1: Delhi to Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, via Sultanpur National Park

After arrival in Delhi, we first stop at Sultanpur National Park for a half day’s birding. This superb small wetland has excellent all-round birding that could provide us 100 species in the morning, including some difficult to see species, such as White-tailed Lapwing, Brooks’s Leaf Warbler and Sind Sparrow. We then drive to Bharatpur where we still stay for the next three nights, at Pride Kadamb Kunj.

Days 2 – 3: Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur

Indian Pond Heron
Indian Pond Heron

Keoladeo National Park, better known as Bharatpur, has a history of large-scale hunting, but became a World Heritage Site in 1985. One of the most outstanding wetland reserves in Asia, it attracts large numbers of wildfowl, herons, storks, cranes, waders, owls and raptors, after the monsoon has refilled the shallow ‘jheels’.

A full day birding in the park could well produce us 150 species of birds. There is so much to see that we won’t leave for lunch, but will get a hot lunch delivered directly to us to enjoy the best of food and birding combined! You will also probably experience your first ever cycle-rickshaw birding!

Depending on our success on the first day, we can decide to spend some of the second day birding areas outside of the park. Options include visiting a colony of Indian Vultures where we should get fantastic views at close range, with the chance of ‘Shaheen’, the Indian resident race of Peregrine, also. Dry land areas can attract large flocks of larks, especially Greater Short-toed, maybe with a few Bimaculated, Indian Courser, wheatears including Isabelline, Variable and Desert, and maybe the rare White-browed, or Stoliczka’s, Bushchat.

Day 4: Bharatpur to National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary

Indian Scops Owl
Indian Scops Owl

Post-breakfast we will drive to the Chambal Safari Lodge just outside the National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary. Birding around the lodge is excellent, with both Brown Hawk Owl and Indian Scops Owl likely at daytime roosts, plus Verditer and Red-breasted Flycatchers, and a good chance of Brooks’s Leaf Warbler.

During the afternoon we will take a boat cruise along the Chambal river, one of India’s cleanest rivers. This is a lovely experience, and we are likely to come up close (but not too close!) with both Marsh Mugger and Gharial crocodiles. Keep your eyes alert for a briefly surfacing Ganges River Dolphin; once widespread through river systems of Nepal, India and Bangladesh, this freshwater dolphin, which is blind and hunts using ultrasonic sounds much like bats, is unfortunately now highly endangered.

Black-bellied Tern
Black-bellied Tern

Indian Skimmers and Black-bellied Terns are the key target birds here, but we should also see River Lapwing, Great Thick-knee and a few confusing Pale, Sand or Grey-throated Martins!

Those who are keen can extend an extra day here, giving time to explore wetland areas near Etawah, famous for their large populations of the spectacular and revered Sarus Cranes. Little explored for birding, we can guarantee other good sightings here!

Day 5: Chambal to Agra, and return to Delhi

After checking out we will drive to Agra. Even though we’re concentrating on the birds, an optional excursion to one of the most iconic man-made structures in the world, the Taj Mahal, is definitely recommended for those who have never been before. From Agra we continue our drive back to Delhi.



For all our bookings we provide the most accurate and useful printable checklists available, specific to the actual areas you are likely to visit. In the meantime, use our interactive state checklists, or view the species bar chart for this area on eBird:

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Trip Reports

Bharatpur & Chambal River Birding—Trip Report, November 2020

Black-necked Stork and Sarus Crane
Black-necked Stork and Sarus Crane

This was the first of a number of short “Looking up from lockdown” tours to top Indian birding destinations, taking advantage of a relaxation in COVID-19 restrictions. Itineraries were designed to be easy-paced, minimising travel, and using established bases that we knew to be implementing sensible health precautions. Overall birding was as usual fantastic, and we definitely felt safer being in outside environments in remote and uncrowded places, than stuck at home in towns and cities hardly getting out!

Driving from Delhi, we spent three nights at the famous Keoladeo Ghana National Park at Bharatpur, followed by one at the Chambal Safari Lodge, convenient for birding the Chambal River nearby. As well as these well-known sites, we took the opportunity to visit some lesser-known sites in the area—including seeing an amazing 96 species in our 2-hour afternoon visit to Ramsagar Wildlife Sanctuary, which had no previous records at all in eBird!

Altogether we saw 207 species in just 5 days, including travel days. The overall diversity and quality of birding in this area that leaves a lasting memory. Other than wildlife, the in-the-field lunches were a definite highlight! This tour was intended to be just a 5-day trip, and the itinerary was perfect for that.

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Important information

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As with all Bubo Birding tours, your booking is handled by Asian Adventures.

  • We may change the itinerary described due to various reasons such as latest birding information, availability of accommodation, state of the roads, and other unexpected factors that, this being India, do pop up from time to time!
  • We would be happy to make any additional travel bookings, e.g. domestic flights, car and driver, that you require.
  • The final price and itinerary will be confirmed before booking and depending on your expected arrival and departure plans.

See Asian Adventures for full tour details, including accommodation, meal plans, what's included, other exclusions, prices for different group sizes, single room supplements, cancellation policy, and booking process.

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