Karnataka is one of those states in India that attracts a lot of birds. The pristine ecosystem of the Western Ghats, the tropical weather, the lush rainfall and the Cauvery river ensure that local and migratory birds make this state their home for a long time every year. Be it birds of paradise, large water fowl, raptors, fruit-eaters and many other species, Karnataka boasts of quite a big number.
A bird sanctuary that is located close to Bangalore and one that is active all year round is the Ranganathitu Bird Sanctuary. Located on an island on the river Cauvery and at a short distance from Srirangapatna, the Ranganathitu Bird Sanctuary is a great getaway for birdwatchers, adults and kids alike. It is known for birds like painted storks, spot billed and white pelicans, night herons, herons, harriers, kingfishers, fishing eagles, peacocks, spoon bills and many more. In all probability, you will see all of these birds throughout the year and especially during the cooler months.
Due to its close proximity to Bangalore and the fact that it falls enroute to popular weekend getaways like Bandipur, Coorg, Wayanad and Ooty, it can either be explored as a short pit stop on your journey or as a day trip from Bangalore. Irrespective of your choice, the pristine location, the abundance of bird life and the cleanliness is bound to keep you captivated.
All you have to do is carry your pair of binoculars, a keen eye and a bird book while visiting this bird sanctuary. There are two ways to explore this sanctuary. One is by foot that is along the banks of the river Cauvery and the other is by a boat on the river Cauvery itself.
Birds are most active during the early morning and the late afternoon hours. Thus, these become your top time slots in case you are interested in active bird watching. If you visit at 10 am, you might not see a whole lot of bird activity, but you will see a lot of marsh crocodiles basking in the early morning sun.
The boat rides typically cost INR 350 per person or INR 1000 for a full boat. This is for a 40 minute long ride over the Cauvery and is in the company of a professional birding guide who is also your boatman. There is also a short ride available, but I would recommend the longer one for a more relaxed birdwatching session. The guides are good forest guides and are extremely knowledgeable in birds and are a storehouse of local information.
If you are interested in seeing the birds build their nests, form nesting colonies or see young chicks being fed by their parents, the months from January to March would be your best time to visit this bird sanctuary. If you go in January, you will see frantic activity where all birds will collect twigs, straw and mud from all around the river and forest.
In late January or early February, you will see the young cormorant chicks. Later in February and in March, you will see the young ones of painted storks and pelicans. Basically, these 3 months would be a bundle of frenzied activity and will offer a special birdwatching experience along with great photographic opportunities.
There are nice walkways, viewing towers and ponds prepared by the forest department to help the visitors enjoy the bird life at leisure. While the walkways and ponds are great to view birds like mynas, bee eaters, king fishers, robins, woodpeckers and other terrestrial birds, the viewing points are great to see the birds that are perched on the top of trees on the other bank of the Cauvery.
If I remember right, the bird sanctuary is open from 8 AM to 6 PM. However, if you are keen on birdwatching, you can request the forest officials to allow you in a bit earlier. At this time, there will be fewer tourists and the birds will be super active and it will be a super enjoyable experience.
Entrance fees are INR 150 for an Indian national and INR 350 for a foreign national. I think, there are discounts for students and young kids. There is also a small canteen where you can grab a bite or a quick cup of coffee.
Route: From Bangalore, head to Srirangapatna. Once you have crossed the town and the Cauvery bridges, there will be a right turn on the highway that will connect you to the Coorg or Hunsur road. You will cross a railway crossing and shortly, you will notice an arch that says Ranganathitu Bird Sanctuary. It should be about 4 kms from Srirangapatna town.