Popularly known as Pakshi Kashi (birds paradise), the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is a haven for bird watchers, situated on the riverbanks of the Kaveri river, in the Mandya district near Srirangapatna in Karnataka. It is the largest bird sanctuary in the state, comprising six islets on the banks of the river Kaveri. It was built between 1645 and 1648 when Kantirava Narasaraja Wodeyar was the ruler of Mysore. The abundance of aquatic insects and the isolation of the islets during the monsoons make the sanctuary a favourite haunt for various migratory birds from far off places like North America, Siberia, and Australia.

Spread across an area of 40 acres, the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary was recognised as an official bird sanctuary in 1940 after renowned ornithologist Dr Salim Ali pressurized the government to declare it so. The landscape and local vegetation, coupled with the colourful species of birds make it a unique learning experience for visitors of all interests and ages. It is the perfect place to unwind and relax in the lap of nature and the company of friends and family. This destination offers many things to do—boating, bird watching, and some good old nature photography. With temperatures hovering between 23 to 29 °C, it can be visited throughout the year, especially in winter as it is the right time when the migratory birds arrive.

Also read: The best places to see migratory birds in India

How To Reach Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary?

Located at a distance of five kms from Srirangapatna, 18 kms from Mysore, and 130 kms from Bangalore, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary has a well-established connection to all means of transport and can be easily reached.

By Air

Located at a distance of 33 kms from the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, the nearest airport is the Mysore Airport.

By Train

The nearest railway station is the Srirangapatna Railway station which lies at a distance of five kms from the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.

By Road

There are several buses that ply from Bangalore and Mysore to Srirangapatna. You can also rent a car or take your own car for a pleasant and scenic drive to reach the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.

By Local Transport

There are both private as well as government buses that run between Mysore and Srirangapatna. Upon reaching Srirangapatna, you can hire an auto-rickshaw to reach the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. 

Also read: 10 fascinating things to do and see in Srirangapatna

Natural Things To Experience At Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

Flora

Dense foliage at Ranganathittu bird sanctuary, Mandya district, Karnataka
Ranganathittu bird sanctuary, Mandya district, Karnataka

The flora of Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is of two types: 

1) Thorny scrub jungle within the central part of the islands where desert conditions prevail. 

2) Broadleaved deciduous forest in the margins where the soil is fertile and water is plenty.

There are about 400 species of dicotyledonous plants from 79 families. The dominant species are Arjun trees, bamboo groves and Pandanus trees. Lily Iphigenia mysorensis, a threatened and endemic species, is grown in the sanctuary. Eucalyptus and acacia trees have additionally been planted. The non-angiosperms plants are few in number. But still one can see a rare plant, horsetail fern growing under the bamboo clumps. Among the lower groups of plants, lichens, morels and mushrooms are the more prominent ones. These become more conspicuous during the rainy season.

Fauna 

Indian Marsh crocodile
Marsh Crocodile at Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.

The diverse vegetation of the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary naturally offers a wide variety of habitats for different types of animals. Among the animals, the birds are the most abundant and varied. It is also host to numerous small mammals including smooth-coated otter, bonnet macaque, colonies of flying fox and common small mammals such as the Indian grey mongoose and common palm civet. The reptiles are represented by both venomous and non-venomous snakes, turtles and common Indian monitor lizards. Additionally, Ranganathittu has the largest marsh crocodile population in Karnataka state. 

The nutrient-rich waters of Kaveri river naturally constitute the most favourable breeding ground for 30 species of fishes. There are 61 species of butterflies which range in size from the largest (Southern Bird Wing) to one of the smallest (Gram Blue). There are several species of dragonflies, grasshoppers, crickets, mantis and walking sticks, termites, water scorpions, antlions, beetles, flies and mosquitoes, bees, wasps and ants, etc.

Birds

Ranganathitthu Bird Sanctuary
Source: Flickr

Roughly 170 avian species have been recorded at the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. They include both resident and migratory birds. Of these, the black-headed ibis, heron, common spoonbill, lesser whistling duck, painted stork, woolly-necked stork, Asian openbill stork, Indian shag, egret, cormorant, Oriental darter, spot-billed pelican and the four types of kingfishers namely small blue, lesser pied, white-breasted and stork-billed breed at Ranganathittu regularly. While the river tern and great stone plover also nest there, the park is also home to a large flock of fruit bats and streak-throated swallows. Terrestrial birds such as grey partridge, red wattled lapwing, pipits, and quails also breed here. The cool and shady areas under the trees of the marginal vegetation offer good feeding places for the beautiful Paradise-flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, warblers, babblers, etc. 

Migration At Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

Spot Billed Pelican - Migratory Bird found in Karnataka, India
Spot Billed Pelican – Migratory Bird found in Karnataka, India

Birdwatchers can feast their eyes on a variety of both migratory and resident birds. Having a special status for being a breeding ground, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary has more than 30 bird species. During winter months, around 40,000 birds congregate at Ranganathittu; some migrating from Latin America, Siberia, and parts of north India. Winter migrant birds that one may encounter in this area include Pied Crested Cuckoo, Bronze-winged Jacana, Rosy Pastor, Black-winged Stilt, Sandpiper, Blue Faced Malkoha, Indian Pitta, Golden Oriole, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Bluethroat, Forest Wagtail and Red Headed Bunting. While many of them nest here and leave after their offspring are ready to fly, about 50 pelicans have made Ranganathittu their permanent home.

Facilities At Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary 

Dr. Salim Ali Information Centre 

Maintained by the Forest Department, the Salim Ali Interpretation Centre screens a four- minute documentary to special interest groups. Inaugurated in 2015, the information centre has models of birds and crocodiles and has pictorial representation of various birds, its characteristics and identifications. It has information about the kind of feet and beaks different birds have and how they use these as a tool for survival. People can also learn about the bird calls of various birds with the press of a button. A map of the entire Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary with different islands clearly carved out is also displayed there.   

Activities To Indulge In Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

1. Boating 

Boating at Ranganathittu bird sanctuary
Visitors of the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary

One of the more popular activities at the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary are the boat tours guided by rangers of the islets. There is no better way to relax than to sit in a boat and observe nature. During the ride you can not only catch glimpses of bats, otters and migratory birds, but also the thrilling sight of crocodiles lazing on the riverbanks and rocks. An additional benefit for those wanting to learn more about the birds is that the boatmen are well-versed on the topic of birds. The boat-ride tickets cost INR 50 for Indians and INR 300 for foreigners. For a half hour tour of the river on a private boat you get charged INR 2200. Charged per person, mass rides are also available at much cheaper rates. The boat rides start as early as 8.30 AM. Weekends can be very crowded so you may have to wait longer. Otherwise you can watch the birds from the shore for which you will require a good pair of binoculars. If you opt for the boat ride, you can get close to the birds and maybe even get to see a nest with a baby bird at eye level.

2. Bird watching

Eurasian Spoonbill Bathing, Platalea leucorodia, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Karnataka, India
Eurasian Spoonbill Bathing, Platalea leucorodia, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Karnataka, India

With the incredible diversity in the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, the best thing to do at this park is bird watching; one can spend hours and see a new bird every five minutes. To get the most out of this experience you should walk around the sanctuary and see everything it has to offer. The park charges an entry fee of INR 50 for Indians and INR 300 for foreigners. The Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary timings are from 9 AM to 6 PM and it is recommended to go early in the morning or evening for the best experience.

Food And Accommodation At Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

There are no accommodation facilities available within Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary but there are houses run by the Forest Department for which you will need to book in advance. Another option is to stay at Mysore or Srirangapatna where one can find innumerable places to stay.

After all the travelling and sightseeing, one is bound to get hunger pangs. Be it some fast food, or a wholesome meal, it is essential to be aware of nearby dining places. There is a small canteen facility in the sanctuary. Furthermore, there is an array of restaurants for dining near Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary where you can eat your heart out. 

How To Make Your Experience Worthwhile?

A sanctuary is a home to birds and animals where they roam free and feed on their prey. One should never forget to follow certain rules which are made to protect nature. Here are some tips to help you get best experience out of Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary:

  • Always note that advance booking and gaining travel-related information beforehand will help you explore this bird sanctuary in a smooth manner.
  • If you plan on going during the weekend, you should be prepared to wait in a long line to get a boat. 
  • It’s a plastic-free zone so you should avoid littering the sanctuary with things brought along during the travel. 
  • You should always avoid wearing bright coloured clothes to blend in with the environment so as not to alarm the animals around. 
  • Animals get disturbed and scared if they hear loud noises. So, even if you get excited it is best to lower your voice. 
  • You should be patient if you don’t see any animals in the beginning. It is the land of animals and birds and they can come when they want to. 

Why Should You Visit Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary?

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is the most famous destination in Karnataka for tourists and ardent lovers of birds. Nothing compares to the melodious sounds of birds chirping, the sight of pleasant landscapes, and the scent of fresh air. What’s a better therapy session than a quick trip to a bird sanctuary? Pack your bags and head out here to watch the ever-energetic birds. Embrace the sight of them flying around with life in their flight and freedom in their wings. This beautiful sensation of pure bliss is the truest promise of the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary in Karnataka.

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