Kerala Birding—Thattekad & Munnar

Malabar Trogon

This tour focuses on the endemic birds of the Western Ghats of Kerala, one of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots due to its large amount of endemism and diversity. The area is important for wintering migrants too, and we are guaranteed some great birds, including most of the 37 South Indian endemics, plus many of those shared with Sri Lanka. Key bird species include lots with Malabar in their name!

Starting from Kochi (formerly Cochin) in Kerala, we split our time between the tea country town of Munnar and the nearby shola grasslands, and the lowland forest of Thattekad Bird Sanctuary—the birdiest site in the Western Ghats!

This tour will be led by Mike and local guides, and 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

  • Painted Bush Quail 
  • Red Spurfowl 
  • Grey Junglefowl 
  • Sri Lanka Frogmouth 
  • Great Eared Nightjar
  • Indian Swiftlet 
  • Fork-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo
  • Nilgiri Wood Pigeon 
  • Oriental Turtle Dove
  • Common Emerald Dove
  • Grey-fronted Green Pigeon 
  • Green Imperial Pigeon
  • Mountain Imperial Pigeon
  • Slaty-legged Crake
  • Pin-tailed Snipe
  • Crested Honey Buzzard
  • Black Baza
  • Crested Serpent Eagle
  • Changeable Hawk-Eagle
  • Black Eagle
  • Crested Goshawk
  • Sri Lanka Bay Owl 
  • Indian Scops Owl 
  • Oriental Scops Owl
  • Brown Fish Owl
  • Mottled Wood Owl 
  • Jungle Owlet 
  • Brown Hawk-Owl
  • Malabar Trogon 
  • Great Hornbill
  • Malabar Grey Hornbill 
  • Oriental Dollarbird
  • Blue-eared Kingfisher
  • Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher
  • Blue-bearded Bee-eater
  • Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
  • Malabar Barbet 
  • White-bellied Woodpecker
  • Lesser Yellownape
  • Common Flameback
  • Greater Flameback
  • Blue-winged Parakeet 
  • Indian Pitta 
  • Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
  • Malabar Woodshrike 
  • Black-headed Cuckooshrike 
  • White-bellied Drongo 
  • Bronzed Drongo
  • White-spotted Fantail 
  • White-bellied Treepie 
  • Indian Black-lored Tit 
  • Grey-headed Bulbul 
  • Flame-throated Bulbul 
  • Yellow-browed Bulbul 
  • Square-tailed Bulbul 
  • Hill Swallow 
  • Tytler’s Leaf Warbler 
  • Green Warbler
  • Large-billed Leaf Warbler
  • Thick-billed Warbler
  • Broad-tailed Grassbird 
  • Indian Scimitar Babbler 
  • Dark-fronted Babbler 
  • Brown-cheeked Fulvetta
  • Palani Laughingthrush 
  • Rufous Babbler 
  • Wayanad Laughingthrush 
  • Asian Fairy-bluebird
  • Malabar Starling 
  • Orange-headed Thrush
  • Nilgiri Thrush 
  • Indian Blackbird 
  • White-rumped Shama
  • Asian Brown Flycatcher
  • Brown-breasted Flycatcher
  • White-bellied Blue Flycatcher 
  • Nilgiri Flycatcher 
  • White-bellied Blue Robin 
  • Malabar Whistling Thrush 
  • Rusty-tailed Flycatcher 
  • Black-and-orange Flycatcher 
  • Blue-capped Rock Thrush 
  • Nilgiri Flowerpecker 
  • Crimson-backed Sunbird 
  • Little Spiderhunter
  • Black-throated Munia 
  • Forest Wagtail
  • Nilgiri Pipit 
  •   Endemic
  •   Near Endemic

Itinerary

Day 1: Kochi to Munnar

After arrival in Kochi, we first drive up into the hills to reach Munnar, breaking for a tea stop at Karadippara, which provides an excellent vantage point across the extensive wooded valley. Species here might include Yellow-browed Bulbul, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Grey-fronted Green Pigeon (formerly Pompadour Green Pigeon), Little Spiderhunter, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta and Rusty-tailed Flycatcher. The afternoon will be spent birding close to the Olive Brook resort, where we will stay, as this is in a lovely forested area with plenty of birds.

Day 2: Munnar

Nilgiri Pipit
Nilgiri Pipit

Around Munnar, the pockets of the shola forest (the high-altitude montane forests amongst the grassland) and mountain grassland ecosystem, especially at Eravikulam National Park, are home to several endemic birds and various mammals including Nilgiri Tahr. The altitude above 1600 m means an agreeable climate throughout the year, although in December and January the temperatures can fall to single digits: a slight reminder of the European winter you may have escaped to come here! Rainfall of over 300 cm per year is recorded mainly during June to September, but in these cloud forests it can rain at any time of year. Here we will look for several more South Indian and Nilgiri Hills endemics.

Target species around Munnar include Palani Laughingthrush (formerly Grey-breasted Laughingthrush), White-bellied Sholakili (formerly a Blue Robin, and before that a Shortwing!), Nilgiri Pipit, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon and, especially, Broad-tailed Grassbird: a fairly easy species to find in the monsoons but can be tough at this time of year.

Day 3: Munnar to Thattekad

We still have another morning around Munnar, targeting birds that we haven’t seen up until now. After lunch we will visit Thattekad Bird Sanctuary. An evergreen lowland forest, Thattekad is located between the branches of the Periyar River, making for a perfect birding mix of forest and wetland habitats. Areas both inside and outside of the actual sanctuary are well-known as one of the best birding sites in the Western Ghats. Our afternoon birding might find Fork-tailed Drongo Cuckoo, Black-throated Munia, Red Spurfowl and, one of the specialities here, Black Baza. Late afternoon activity, particularly around a small drinking puddle, sometimes produces close views of some good passerine species, including Indian Blue Robin, Blue-throated and Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers, Puff-throated Babbler and Orange-headed Thrush, and even a Slaty-legged Crake. Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Malabar Trogon, Malabar Parakeet all occur locally. We stay in the very pleasant and birdy Soma Birds Lagoon Resort.

Days 4-5: Thattekad

Blue-winged Parakeet
Blue-winged Parakeet

Two full days of quality birding in Thattekad will bring us plenty of species, with many of the Western Ghats speciality birds. A spot of night-birding could produce Great Eared as well as Jerdon’s Nightjar, and Spot-bellied Eagle Owl and Sri Lanka Bay Owl. These owls are difficult though: we will hope one of our local guides has managed to find a day roost for the latter, although even then they tend to use different sites every few days and our chances are slim!

Key species: Oriental Dollarbird, Indian Pitta, Malabar Woodshrike, Great Hornbill, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Crested Goshawk, Blue-winged Parakeet, Jerdon’s Nightjar, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Blue throated Blue Flycatcher, Black-naped Oriole, Grey-headed Bulbul.

Day 6: Thattekad to Kochi

After breakfast and early morning birding, drive the short distance to Kochi where this tour ends.

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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