The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary (also commonly known as the Thattekad Sanctuary) is located in the Kothamangalam Taluk of Ernakulam district on the northern bank of the Periyar river. The sanctuary was notified in 1983 based on a recommendation made by Dr. Salim Ali many years previously. Ali described Thattekad in the 1930's as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India, comparable only with the eastern Himalayas. Since then much of the forest has been diverted to cultivation and teak and mahogany plantation but
what survives gives a glimpse of the phenomenal bird diversity of the once widespread lowland forests of Kerala. Some basic facts about the sanctuary are listed below:
Basic information on Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad Latitude 76 deg. 40' - 76 deg. 45' N
Longitude 10 deg. 7' - 11 deg. E
Altitude 35- 523 m (Njayapilli peak)
Area 25.16 sq. km
Rainfall 2500 mm annually
Forest type Tropical semi-evergreen and tropical deciduous
Mammals Elephant, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Porcupine
Bird species > 250
How to Reach (Thattekad Bird Sanctuary)
The sanctuary is 13 km north-east of Kothamangalam along the Pooyamkutti road. The nearest railway station is Aluva at a distance of 48 km. Kochi, the nearest airport is 71 km away. The new airport at Nedumbassery is probably closer.
Kothamangalam is well connected by privately operated buses to Ernakulam via Muvattupuzha or Perumbavoor. There are frequent buses from Kothamangalam to Thattekad. Construction of bridge across the Periayar river has recently completedd.
Accommodation (Thattekad Bird Sanctuary):
There is a three storied watch tower inside the Sanctuary with two beds, a toilet and a kitchen. No electricity here but there is are a few solar powered lamps. A forest department inspection bungalow called Hornbill is located near the sanctuary entrance. There is a dormitory just inside the sanctuary which is ideal for large groups. Accommodation is also available at the PWD rest house near the Bhoothathankett Dam and in lodges in Kothamangalam.
For further information about the sanctuary and for booking accommodation contact:
The Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Thiruvanthapuram Kerala 695014
The Wildlife Warden, Idukki Wildlife Division, Vellappara, Painavu P.O. Idukki District 685603 Phone 0486 232271
The Assistant Wildlife Warden, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Njayapilli P.O. , Kothamangalam, Kerala Phone 0485 588302
Bird Watching in Thattekad Sanctuary:
Only species observed by us have been listed. We have no information if an exhaustive checklist is available for the Sanctuary. Nomenclature used follows Birds of the Indian Subcontinent (1998). The pocket edition of this book was used for field identification. Subspecies have not been mentioned unless unambiguous identification was made (eg. ruby-throated subspecies of the Black-crested Bulbul). Some interesting observations and a nesting record are at the end of this checklist.
Collocalia unicolor Indian Swiftlet
Ocyceros griseus Malabar Grey-Hornbill
Spizaetus cirrhatus Changeable Hawk-Eagle
Anhinga melanogaster Oriental Darter
Ardea cinerea Grey Heron
Snipe: the bird could not be identified because of poor light conditions. The overall appearance, habitat and behavior were of a typical snipe.
Arachnothera longirostra Little Spiderhunter: a nest of this bird was seen beautifully stitched to the undersiode of a leaf about 1 m above the ground. A photograph of the nest is available with the author.
Celeus brachyurus Rufous Woodpecker: we saw a nest with young. The beak of the nestling was sticking out of the nest. This particular species was videographed by a BBC team at Thattekad with help from Elthose. The footage is featured in Episodes 3 and 8 of The Life of Birds by David Attenborough.
Batrachostomus moniliger Ceylon Frogmouth is being studied at Thattekad by Elthose with funding from the Kerala Forest Department. This forest is one of the last stronglholds of this rare endemic bird. Elthose took us to one of the roosting sites and we were able to see a male frogmouth at close quarters. No photography was attempted as the flash was likely to disturb the bird.
Eurostopodus macrotis Great Eared-Nightjar: Two birds were seen at dusk calling and circling in the air, possibly hawking insects.
Bubo bubo Eurasian Eagle-Owl: The loud resonant tu-whoogh call was heard several times at dusk. We did not get a sighting of this bird.