Kabini is known for its beautiful jungles and its spectacular animals. Thousands of people throng Kabini every year to get immersed in its wildlife and feel rejuvenated! They go on thrilling jungle safaris and get glimpses of the stunning big cats such as the amazing tigers or the elusive leopards.
One of the lesser-known facts about Kabini is that it also is a birder’s paradise. Avid wildlife enthusiasts and birders visit the Nagarhole National Park to sight some of the most beautiful birds on the planet! While many of them are permanent residents of the forests, a few exotic migratory birds nestle in these jungles too.
Classification of the Kabini birds
The lush forests and the serene backwaters create an ideal ecosystem for a large variety of birds. About 250 species inhabit Kabini! While the forests are home to a plethora of jungle birds, many water birds call the backwaters their home.
Some bird species, such as the raptors keep alternating between the jungles and the backwaters. Therefore, most of the birds of Kabini can vaguely be classified as jungle birds, waterbirds and raptors.
Let us now go through the various bird species of Kabini.
Jungle birds of Kabini
The avian wonders of the Kabini jungles are as enthralling as Kabini’s megafauna, yet they are often given much less attention. It’s a delight to listen to their melodious voices and catch them in flight. Kabini is home to some amazing jungle birds. Let us now learn more about some of them.
Peafowls are known for their male’s charming display of feathers. Charles Darwin, the famous evolutionary scientist, suggested that the beautiful feathers of the peacocks help in attracting the peahens. It is the national bird of India.
Peafowls feed on snakes, small rodents and lizards. When attacked by a predator, adult peafowls usually escape by flying onto trees. Occasionally animals like dholes, leopards and tigers take them down by surprise.
Peacocks are a common sight in the jungles of Kabini. Sighting them amidst the lush green setting of Kabini has amazed innumerable people.
Indian rollers are known for their beautiful blue feathers, seen especially when they are in flight. They are often sighted in open grasslands and scrub forests. They are also commonly seen perched on the branches of trees or wires. They descend only to capture their prey. Indian roller is the state bird of Karnataka, Telangana and Odisha. They feed on insects, scorpions, spiders, certain amphibians and small snakes. Kabini is home to a large number of these beautiful birds.
Woodpeckers of Kabini
Woodpeckers are most known for their habit of pecking on trees. They communicate in two different ways – by vocalisation and by drumming (pecking trees and other surfaces). Each species has a unique drumming pattern. Woodpeckers feed on insects and invertebrates living under the barks of trees, ants, termites, bird eggs, lizards, fruits, nuts etc.
Kabini is home to various species of woodpeckers, including the Common flameback woodpecker, the Streak-throated woodpecker and the Indian pygmy woodpecker.
As their name suggests, Common flamebacks have ethereal golden coloured plumage. Males have red crowns while females have black ones.
The Streak-throated woodpecker is green coloured above its yellowish rump with streaked throat and scaly whitish underparts. The Indian Pygmy woodpecker is a small bird with brown and white plumage.
Flycatchers of Kabini
Flycatchers are passerine birds that mainly feed on insects, catching their prey in flight with astounding manoeuvres. The two frequently sighted flycatcher species of Kabini are the Indian paradise flycatcher and the Tickell’s blue flycatcher.
The Indian paradise flycatchers amaze us with their spectacular flight and their other-worldly appearance. Indian Paradise males are best known for their elongated central tail feathers, giving us a dreamy spectacle when they are in flight!
The Tickell’s blue flycatchers are insectivorous passerine birds. Their upper body is soothing blue coloured and their lower body is reddish-brown. They are named after Samuel Tickell, a British ornithologist.
Wagtails of Kabini
Wagtails are passerine birds that are lean and often colourful. They feed on insects that they find on the ground. Wagtails get their name because of their round the clock tail-wagging! The three main wagtail species sighted in Kabini are forest wagtail, grey wagtail and the white-browed wagtail.
The forest wagtail is a slender bird with a long tail. Unlike the other wagtails that move their tails up and down, it wags its tail sideways! The forest wagtail is said to be the only wagtail species that nests on trees.
The grey wagtail is a slender wagtail with grey upperparts and yellowish underparts.
The white-browed wagtail is the largest member of the wagtail family. They are noticeably patterned with a black upper body, white lower body and a white eyebrow, contrasting their beautiful black upper body!
Malabar pied hornbill
The Malabar pied hornbill is a bird with black plumage and a white belly. The most noticeable feature of this bird is a casque above its bill.
Malabar pied hornbills are omnivorous. They feed on small mammals, birds and reptiles and insects. Fruits form a major part of their diet.
Malabar pied hornbills are famously known as “farmers of the forests” because they disperse the seeds of various trees in the forest, even poisonous ones. It is said that the presence of these magnificent birds indicates that the forest is well balanced! Malabar pied hornbills are occasionally sighted in the beautiful jungles of Kabini.
Hoopoe, the national bird of Israel, is known for its crown of feathers that are often raised just after landing. It has a reddish-brown plumage with stunning black and white wings. Hoopoes feed on insects, reptiles, frogs, seeds and berries. Their diet also includes many species of pests, some of which damage the forest. Hence hoopoes are an important bird species and are frequently sighted in the jungles of Kabini.
The small minivet is a little passerine bird with a strong beak and long wings. The males have grey upperparts and orange underparts that eventually fade to yellow near the base. The female small minivets have yellow underparts and grey upperparts. These adorable birds catch their prey in flight.
Kingfishers of Kabini
Kingfishers are brightly coloured birds with lengthy, dagger-like bills. It is interesting to note that the brightness in their plumages is caused by the scattering of blue light because of the structure of their feathers! Although they feed on a wide range of prey, they are most famous for catching and eating fish. Their diet also includes frogs, worms, molluscs, insects, spiders, reptiles and small mammals.
The two main kingfishers sighted in Kabini are the common kingfisher and the white-throated kingfisher. The common kingfisher is sparrow-sized and has a dazzling blue plumage, which appears like an electric blue flash when it’s flying away!
The white-throated kingfisher is white coloured in its throat and chest areas. Its head, shoulders and lower belly are reddish-brown. White-throated kingfishers can also be found far away from water as they feed on a wide range of species that include crabs, rodents and even small birds!
Parakeets of Kabini
Parakeets are species of parrots with long tails. The two common parakeets spotted in Kabini are the plum-headed parakeet and the Malabar parakeet.
The plum-headed parakeet is mainly green in colour. The female is blueish grey-headed while the head of the male bird is red, with purple-blue shade in the back of its head. Plum-headed parakeets are known for their exceptional ability to mimic human speech when held in captivity. Unfortunately, such intelligent birds are caged by humans for the aforementioned reason.
Endemic to the western ghats, Malabar parakeets are bluish-grey with long yellow tails. These beautiful birds have black rings around their necks. Female Malabar parakeets have a broad yellow collar and look very much like female plum-headed parakeets.
Other charming jungle birds of Kabini
Kabini is home to a plethora of mesmerising jungle birds. Therefore it goes without saying that apart from the aforementioned birds, there are myriads of other jungle birds that captivate the birder’s heart!
Be it the dazzling sunbirds that mainly feed on nectar or the green bee-eaters (and the blue-bearded bee-eaters) that feed on flying insects such as the nectar-feeding bees, the jungle birds of Kabini are strikingly contrasting! The adorable shrikes that brutally impale their prey on sharp objects remind us how savage the wild is.
The yellow-footed green pigeon, the state bird of Maharashtra, can be sighted in the jungles of Kabini. The black drongos, known for their aggressive behaviour towards larger birds, appear darker than the black! The ethereal greater racket-tailed drongos charm us with their elongated tails! The shy orange-headed ground thrush leaves us spellbound with its beautiful colours. Each bird here is unique and offers something inspiring.
Water birds of Kabini
Kabini’s tranquil backwaters host a wide range of water birds which can be sighted when on a boat safari. Watching them lazing around or fishing in the backwaters has thrilled many spectators. Let us learn about some of the prominent water birds of Kabini.
Ibises of Kabini
Ibises are long-legged water birds that have elongated beaks that curve downwards. They are highly territorial birds when it comes to nesting and feeding. The two species of ibises that can be found in Kabini are the red-naped ibis and the black-headed ibis.
The red-naped ibis is a large black bird with blue-green lustre on its wing feathers and tail. It is omnivorous and feeds on decaying meat, insects, frogs, small vertebrates and grains. It is not as dependent on water as the other ibises.
With its white plumage sandwiched between pitch-black neck, head and legs, black-headed ibis has an uncanny appearance! Its black, down-curved beak adds to its eerie appearance. They are often found in freshwater and saltwater marshes, lakes, ponds, rice fields, reservoirs etc.
Ducks of Kabini
The commonly sighted ducks of Kabini are the Indian spot-billed ducks and the lesser whistling ducks. The Indian spot-billed duck is a greyish-brown duck with a yellow-tipped black beak. When in flight, a beautiful white-bordered patch of green can be seen on their wings. They feed on plants and certain invertebrates like snails.
The Lesser whistling duck has chestnut coloured underparts and chestnut-fringed feathers on its back. It has a pale orangish-yellow eyering and a dark grey bill. Its diet includes fish, frogs, molluscs, worms and aquatic plants.
The Bar-headed goose is one of the most interesting bird species that can be sighted in Kabini. This water bird is one of the world’s highest-flying birds, capable of flying high over the mighty Himalayas, a feat which even most raptors are unable to perform!
The black and white pattern on the bar-headed goose’s head helps in differentiating it from other species of grey geese. Bar-headed goose is pale grey in colour with yellow bill and legs. Bar-headed geese migrate from countries like Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Tibet to India. They spend winter in different parts of India, ranging from Assam to Tamil Nadu.
Storks are wading birds with long legs and necks. Their large bills are turned downwards. Painted storks belong to the stork family and get their name from the beautiful tinge of pink found in the adults’ tertial feathers. They mainly feed on small fish which they catch with their half-opened beaks immersed in water. They create ideal photographic opportunities as they wade along the waters of Kabini, fishing.
The oriental darter is a water bird with a very thin and long neck. It has a lustrous black plumage with silvery-white streaks along the wings. It is often found perched on rocks, drying itself with fully-outstretched wings.
Oriental darters prey on fish which they stab with their sharp, sword-like bills! While swimming, their bodies remain submerged in the water, with only their long, slender necks visible above the surface. Therefore they are informally known as snakebirds.
More water birds of Kabini
The vast expanse of the Kabini backwaters is home to a large number of water birds. Egrets, herons and red-wattled lapwings are some of the common water birds that can be found in the backwaters of Kabini.
River terns are sighted in the backwaters of Kabini during the cold winters. They are beautiful birds that have white underparts, grey upperparts, yellow bills and red legs. They have black caps in their breeding plumages. River terns feed on fish, tadpoles, aquatic insects and crustaceans by plummeting into the water.
Raptors of Kabini
Raptors are birds of prey that hunt vertebrates including smaller birds, mammals, fish and lizards and non-vertebrates such as insects. The most noticeable characteristics of these birds are their strong beaks which help them in tearing the flesh of their prey, their strong talons, with which they kill their prey and their extraordinary flight skills.
Kabini is a dwelling place for some of the most ferocious raptors! They are often sighted perched atop tall trees, scanning the grounds with their sharp sight or sometimes swooping down on their prey with great speeds! Let us now read more about some of the fierce raptors of Kabini.
Eagles of Kabini
Eagles are large, fierce birds of prey with broad wings and extremely powerful sight! They have large beaks, strong legs and talons. The eagles sighted in Kabini are grey-headed fish eagle, osprey, booted eagle, crested serpent eagle and changeable hawk-eagle.
Grey-headed fish eagle and osprey are two of the fish-eating eagles found in Kabini. The grey-headed fish eagle has a dark brown upper body, grey head and white legs. Osprey’s plumage consists of deep brown upperparts and white breast. They have a vision that enables them to detect underwater objects from the air. Ospreys plunge feet first into the water after sighting the prey from a height that ranges from 10 to 40 metres!
Crested serpent eagles are dark brown in colour, with rounded wings and short tails. They are named after their favoured choice of food, snakes. They also feed on lizards. Changeable hawk-eagles are large but slender eagles. They prey on birds, reptiles and some vertebrates. They can be found perched atop secluded trees in the Kabini forest.
Owls of Kabini
Owls are nocturnal birds of prey with sharp talons. The feathers of these beautiful birds are designed in a way that makes their flight silent. They are known to be able to fly very close to their prey unnoticed!
The species of owl found in Kabini are the zen-like brown fish owl, the scary spot-bellied eagle-owl and the adorable but sometimes grumpy looking mottled wood owl. The plumage of a brown fish owl is reddish-brown streaked with black or dark brown colours. Their eyes are bright yellow, which sometimes appear as if they’re staring right into our souls!
Spot-bellied eagle-owl is known for its frightening appearance and its notorious human-like calls. It has a silver-grey plumage with black eyes and huge ear tufts that appear like horns!
Mottled wood owl’s plumage is marked with wavy lines of reddish-brown and white colours. The absence of ear tufts in these owls make them easy to identify.
Vultures of Kabini
Vulture is a raptor that plays an important role in the ecosystem by feeding on decaying flesh of dead animals. Its stomach acid is highly concentrated and aids in the safe digestion of various germs which are deadly to the ecosystem and the other scavengers.
The two vultures found in Kabini are the white-backed vulture and the red-headed vulture. The white-backed vulture is a medium-sized vulture with whitish back on its dark plumage. The red-headed vulture has a conspicuous red head with a black body and a grey band at the base of its feathers.
Other raptor birds of Kabini
Some of the other ferocious raptors from Kabini are shikhra, common hawk-cuckoo and black-shouldered kite. The shikra is a small raptor with rounded wings and a long tail. Adults have whitish underparts and grey upperparts. The common hawk-cuckoo is famously known as the brainfever bird because of its call. It has ashy-grey upperparts and white underparts. The black-shouldered kite is a small raptor commonly found in Australia. The neck and the upperparts of this bird are pale grey. It has white underparts and when it is perched, its “black shoulders”, formed by black wing coverts, are visible.
Birds of Kabini- Summary
The ever-charming forests and the backwaters of Kabini host and nourish thriving wildlife. The birds of Kabini play a very important role in keeping the forest ecosystem healthy. Yet, their significance remains unknown to most of us. This blog is our humble attempt to honour and appreciate these unsung heroes!
Of the innumerable bird species of Kabini, only a fraction of them has been mentioned in this blog. Have we missed your favourite bird? Do let us know in the comments!