Historically, Goa is not a bird-watching destination. But efforts by the pioneering Ornithologist Heinz Lainer, over the past few decades, has unraveled the data on various species of bird harboring in Goa. According to a survey of 2018, Goa has 473 species of different birds and this has caught the attention of bird lovers all round the world. Certain publications, describing various bird species and their meticulous classification with beautiful photographs have made it all the more easy for a layman to understand in detail which birds are found within the political boundaries of Goa.
According to a reliable and catalogued data, following is a summarized list of major bird species occupying Goan air space:
This is Goa's only bird sanctuary, spread over a vast acreage of 1.8sq-km on the western tip of Chorao Island along the River Mandovi. This island is surrounded by a thick cover of mangrove swamps and is a paradise for bird-watchers. The sanctuary gets its name after India's best-known ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali. In the sanctuary, you will find a variety of local and migratory birds, who have made this island their home. The sanctuary has been kept open all-round the year and can be visited with prior permission of the Chief Wild Life Warden, Forest Department, Junta House, Panaji.
This sanctuary is not all about birds, you can also spot flying foxes, jackals and crocodiles in this area. The ecosystem of this place comprises of mangrove vegetation, which is known to be among the most productive ones on earth. This is mainly because mangroves offer refuge and are the breeding grounds for fish and insect varieties as they lie at the base of the food-chain pyramid. An insight into the sanctuary will unveil a crisscrossed pattern of water channels and as such internal movement is restricted for a certain duration during high tide if you are commuting by a boat. With canoes, the creeks are accessible even if low tides prevail.
For better sighting of the birds within, a watch-tower has been erected in the sanctuary as one can view several resident birds and also migratory birds like coots and pintails during winter. The Wildlife Division of the Forest Department has recently proposed to initiate tours through the water channels of the sanctuary, provided there is a group of 8-10 people. Further details can be obtained from the Range Forest Office at Campal, in Panaji.
It is important to note that the boat ride will cost Rs 750/- i.e if there are ten people visiting it is Rs 75 per head. The best time to see the birds is 7 am. Entry fee is Rs 20/- per person. Common Birds sighted here are: Eagles, Drongos, Kingfishers, Egrets, Herons, Wood Peckers, Kites, Myna, Curlews, Sandpiper, Redshank, and Hoopoe.
From Panaji, this sanctuary can be reached by bus or a taxi till Ribandar. From here you need to board the ferry and cross over on the Mandovi river to the Chorao island. Once you touch down, the sanctuary is located within walking distance from the ferry wharf at Chorao. If you are stationed at Calangute or Mapusa you can board a bus to Panjim or hire a cab directly to the Ribandar Ferry Warf.
If you are a nature lover and more inclined towards spotting birds, then Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is the right place you are looking for. Being Goa's only bird sanctuary, this is a haven for birds and bird watchers. Excellent place to travel, document the birds, take photographs and time to get one with nature. If you are in a group, the more economical it's will get. The trip to Chorao where this sanctuary is located in a perfect getaway spot on a quiet winter morning when even the migratory birds visit Goa. The mangroves are a perfect cover for all the flora and fauna that exists here and a perfect case to document the entire food pyramid nature has engineered for survival. A must visit if you travel to Goa. The advantage is it’s just 10km from Panjim and can be approached by cab and the further journey is water-bound on a ferry that will transport you to the opposite wharf from Ribandar into Chorao island.