Birding Rajasthan—Desert National Park & Tal Chhapar

Great Indian Bustard

This tour visits a unique area of India—the arid deserts of western Rajasthan. We focus on the main sites of Desert National Park and Tal Chhapar Sanctuary, and especially seek out one of the rarest birds in the world. With a population of just over 100 individuals, the Great Indian Bustard could sadly become extinct in our lifetimes. It is by no means the only highlight of this trip though, for the western deserts of India provide some wonderful winter birding in one of India’s richest cultural regions.

Our tour will head out to the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, the last remaining stronghold of the Great Indian Bustard. (Read our detailed article about birds and birding at Desert National Park.) First though, we will spend some time at a remarkably rich small sanctuary, Tal Chhapar, and enjoy one of India’s avian spectacles at close quarters, the wintering flock of thousands of Demoiselle Cranes at Khichan. Other key birds include Spotted and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Yellow-eyed Pigeon, Stoliczka’s Bushchat, and a fine assortment of cranes, raptors, larks, wheatears and buntings.

This tour, other than a couple of long drives, 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.

Target Species

  • Black Francolin
  • Common Quail
  • Large-tailed Nightjar
  • Great Indian Bustard 
  • Macqueen’s Bustard
  • Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse
  • Spotted Sandgrouse
  • Black-bellied Sandgrouse
  • Yellow-eyed Pigeon
  • Demoiselle Crane
  • Barred Buttonquail
  • Indian Stone-curlew
  • Cream-colored Courser
  • Black-winged Kite
  • Egyptian Vulture
  • White-rumped Vulture
  • Indian Vulture 
  • Himalayan Vulture
  • Griffon Vulture
  • Red-headed Vulture
  • Cinereous Vulture
  • Short-toed Snake Eagle
  • Tawny Eagle
  • Steppe Eagle
  • Eastern Imperial Eagle
  • Hen Harrier
  • Pallid Harrier
  • Montagu’s Harrier
  • White-eyed Buzzard
  • Long-legged Buzzard
  • Indian Eagle-Owl 
  • Red-necked Falcon
  • Merlin
  • Laggar Falcon 
  • Isabelline Shrike
  • Bay-backed Shrike
  • Northern Raven
  • Greater Hoopoe-Lark
  • Desert Lark
  • Rufous-tailed Lark 
  • Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark
  • Ashy-crowned Sparrow-Lark 
  • Singing Bush Lark
  • Greater Short-toed Lark
  • Bimaculated Lark
  • Plain Leaf Warbler
  • Rufous-fronted Prinia 
  • Desert Whitethroat
  • Eastern Orphean Warbler
  • Asian Desert Warbler
  • Indian Spotted Creeper 
  • White-browed Bush Chat 
  • Isabelline Wheatear
  • Desert Wheatear
  • Variable Wheatear
  • Red-tailed Wheatear
  • Spanish Sparrow
  • Sind Sparrow 
  • Long-billed Pipit
  • Buff-bellied Pipit
  • Water Pipit
  • Trumpeter Finch
  • Grey-necked Bunting
  • Striolated Bunting
  •   Endemic
  •   Near Endemic

Itinerary

Day 1: Delhi to Tal Chhapar Sanctuary

The tour starts with a long drive to reach desert habitats and some of the real specialities of this tour. One of these is Indian Spotted Creeper, and we will try an area of their favoured habitat, Prosopis scrub forest, near Salasar, in the late afternoon.

Days 2-3: Tal Chhapar Sanctuary

We will have two full days to explore the grassland sanctuary of Tal Chhapar, via walking and motorable trails. Once the hunting ground of the Maharaja of Bikaner, this small protected area has a large population of Blackbuck and Chinkara, and a very impressive list of great birds. These include Indian Eagle Owl, Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers, White-eyed Buzzard, Laggar Falcon, large flocks of the declining Yellow-eyed Pigeon, Indian Spotted Creeper, Rufous-tailed and Great Grey Shrikes, huge mixed flocks of Greater Short-toed and Bimaculated Larks, and Water and Buff-bellied Pipits.

Day 4: Tal Chhapar to Jaisalmer via Bikaner and Khichan

We have a long drive today but will break for two amazing birding spectacles, in very contrasting locations! First stop is Bikaner, and the unpleasant surroundings of the Jorbeer Carcass Dump! If you can ignore the stench of rotting cattle carcasses you can enjoy close views of the largest congregations of raptors to be found in India. Hundreds of Himalayan, Eurasian Griffon and Egyptian Vultures gather here, joined by equally large numbers of Steppe Eagles, Black-eared Kites, and smaller numbers of Tawny and Eastern Imperial Eagles, with the chance of something rarer such as White-tailed Eagle or Saker Falcon, both of which have wintered in recent years. It is also fascinating to see birds such as Hoopoes feeding amongst the carcasses.

Somewhat more pleasant surroundings await us in Khichan, which is famous for its wintering flock of several thousand Demoiselle Cranes. For years the villagers have put out grain, as much as 500 kg per day, for the cranes. Feeding times in the morning and evening provide an amazing sight and sound, and large numbers of birds are present in the surrounding area all day. Afterwards we will drive past the fortified city of Jaisalmer to Paddav Luxury Camp, conveniently located just outside the Desert National Park, and our base for three nights.

Days 5 – 6: Jaisalmer and the Desert National Park

West of Jaisalmer lies the Desert National Park, close to the border with Pakistan. This is the last remaining stronghold of the Great Indian Bustard, now sadly reduced to a population of between 100 and 200 birds and with a real risk of extinction during our lifetimes. A captive breeding programme has started with some success, but whether sufficient habitat will always remain available for them, with the pressures of an increasing population and associated development, will be key to their survival.

We have two full days to explore the Desert National Park. Aside from the Bustard, there are several specialities to find here, including many raptors, Spotted and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Cream-coloured Courser, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Desert and Greater Hoopoe-Larks, the little-known Stoliczka’s Bushchat, Red-tailed Wheatear, Plain Leaf Warbler and Trumpeter Finch.

Day 7: Jaisalmer to Delhi, via Jodhpur

After some final birding in the Desert National Park we drive east to Jodhpur for our afternoon flight back to Delhi.

Checklist

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:

eBird India logo

Important information

Asian Adventures logo

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, what's included, other exclusions, prices for different group sizes, single room supplements, and booking details.

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