Karnataka's largest bird sanctuary

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

Just a short distance away from the historic township of Srirangapatnam is the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. It comprises six islets on the banks of the Kaveri river, and has been a protected Ramsar site since 2022.

Karnataka's largest bird sanctuary

The tiny river islands are overgrown with vegetation. Large trees give refuge to waterbirds. Egrets, pelicans, herons, cormorants, ibises, openbills and spoonbills breed between May and September. While River Terns and Great Thick-knee breed on the rocks, the nesting waterbirds are furiously hauling twigs, constructing nests, skirmishing over sites, mating and feeding their hungry fledglings.

Once the residents have reared their young, the winter migrants arrive — ducks, wagtails, waders, wagtails, swallows and birds of prey. Starting from mid-December, as many as 40,000 birds congregate here, migrating from Siberia, Latin America and north India. During January-February, more than 30 species of migratory birds can be found in the sanctuary.

Roughly 170 bird species have been recorded here. Of these, the painted stork, Asian openbill stork, common spoonbill, woolly-necked stork, black-headed ibis, lesser whistling duck, Indian shag, stork-billed kingfisher, egret, cormorant, Oriental darter, spot-billed pelican and heron breed at Ranganathittu regularly.

The great stone plover, and river tern also nest there, while the park is also home to a large flock of streak-throated swallows. About 50 pelicans have made Ranganathittu their permanent home.

Other species include Crocodiles, Smooth Indian Otter, Bonnet Macaque and huge congregations of bats, especially a healthy population of the Indian Flying Fox that roost on larger trees. Small mammals such as common palm civet and Indian gray mongoose are also spotted. Additionally, there is a population of monitor lizards.

History

A weir was built across the Kaveri river between 1645 and 1648 by the then king of Mysore, Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar to divert water to the island-fort of Srirangapatnam. This fort later became the stronghold of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, powerful rulers of a large chunk of southern India in the 19th century. Tipu Sultan famously resisted the expansionist ambitions of British colonial force for a long time until, in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799, a combined force of British East India Company troops, supported by the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad defeated Tipu who was killed while defending his stronghold of Seringapatam.

A few kilometres upstream from Srirangapatnam is Ranganathittu, one of the many small islands that emerged when the weir was built.

In late 1930s, Salim Ali, the renowned ornithologist, conducted a survey of the Mysore region and realised the value of these islets to the large avian and reptilian populations. He persuaded the king of Mysore to declare the area a protected area in 1940, named after Ranganathittu, the island with the main concentration of nesting birds.

Experiences

Coracles are traditional circular boats popular in the region. Taking a coracle ride on the Kaveri River allows birdwatchers and photographers to get close to the islets.

Between late July and October, one can see crowds of young birds perched on low branches or on the jutting rocks. Crocodiles can often be seen basking on the rocks in the river or among the riverine reed beds, hardly a surprise as Ranganathittu has the largest crocodile population in Karnataka.

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