Blessed with silvery beaches in the west and titanic Western Ghats on the east, Goa is a land of endless beauty. The state scenic locales are good for nature lovers. Thanks to lush vegetation it continues to harbor several lesser known species of flora and fauna.
Due to the varied habitat, ranging from the beaches, river banks, wetlands, plateaus, to the hills of the Western Ghats, the state although tiny is home to around 450 species of birds making it bird watchers paradise.
Ground check reveals that, the concept of bird watching has picked up in the recent years and bird tourism is slowing gaining traction. Hotels are promoting bird sighting trips. With the discovery of lot new birding sites, the state offers ideal settings for ornithologists, bird-watchers and tourists.
An avid birder while speaking on the bird tourism prospects said that, the third bird festival held recently is the perfect platform to promote bird-tourism. “If you go to see earlier not much tourists used to arrive for bird watching. However in recent years several local as well as foreign tourists arrive specifically for bird watching which shows the segment is getting popular,” he said.
According to him many birding sites in addition to wildlife sanctuaries are encouraging bird lovers to come to the state. Besides bird festivals there are bird trails organised by tour operators and books on birds. Another thing which is making Goa popular for bird tourism is the improvement in road infrastructure. Birds sites are within driving distance and connectivity of internal roads is also good. “The state is becoming increasingly popular not only for its sun, sand and beaches but also for its birds.”
The various parts of the state are rich in bird life where resident birds can be seen throughout the year. However apart from the resident birds there are migratory birds visiting regularly. Winter months are the best time to have a glimpse of the migratory birds. They arrive during October and reside till March. Many bird trails are organised during the birding season starting from October to February.
According to tour operators many tourists prefer spending their weekends in the hinterlands and subsequently lot of eco-resorts have opened up which conducts bird watching trips.
According to the information available from the sources, the important bird areas include the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary and Carambolim Lake. Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary which is located on the island of Chorao is the only bird sanctuary in the state. The sanctuary is home to a number of species of birds. Being close to Panaji it attracts many tourists and the tours are generally conducted partially by boats.
Some of the birds which are found in Carambolim lake which is an important bird area include the Purple Swamphen, Lesser Whistling- Duck, Cotton Teal, Comb Duck, Woolly-necked Stork, Asian Openbill and Oriental Darter.
At the Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctuary one can spot the Blue-eared Kingfisher, Great Pied Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill and Ceylon Frogmouth. Some of the migratory birds which flock to various parts of Goa include the painted stork, Asian Openbill, Woolly-necked stork, White Stork, Northern Pintail, and Northern Shovelor.
The Baya bird is richly praised in Yajurveda as ideal architects. “Goa has a rich diversity of bird life. Birds can live in various habitats and they have been blessed with the plumage and flying capacity. Various birds use their intelligence, experience and other qualities to build their nests. But Baya or weaver bird is known for architectural excellence. The Baya birds are wonderful creations of nature. In male during breeding season the crown is yellow, rest of the upper parts are dark brown streaked with yellow on the back. During the breeding season the males begin building nests. Their nests are intricately woven and suspended on various trees. In the coastal area mostly the nests are seen hanging on the coconut tree branches.”
Migratory birds which are annual visitors are from Central Asia, Russia, Turkey, Mongolia, Europe. They arrive in winter months after travelling vast distance.
“Several migratory birds come from Central Asia, Russia, Turkey, Mongolia, Europe where the weather is sub-zero in winters. They migrate in order to escape the harsh winters in their breeding grounds and these migratory birds which are yearly visitors of Goa have arrived this year after travelling several kilometers,” said a nature lover.
“These migratory birds attract tourists and several tourists can be seen photographing the birds during this time of the year. I have seen these beautiful birds in the various fields and on beaches like Morjim. The birds are seen in flocks. They usually come to the same place every year and are here approximately till the month of April,” he said and added, “This beach of Morjim is also a nesting ground of the Olive Ridley turtles and this beach is frequented by the Olive Ridley turtles for nesting, whose nesting season is between November and February and they lay the eggs during night.”
“I have not maintained detailed records of the population of individual species and so it is difficult to tell that if there are any changes in the population of these migratory birds over the years and especially if the recent unseasonal rains had any effect on these birds,” he said.
While a local from Pernem taluka said that every year the migratory birds come during the winter in the paddy fields of Pernem. “I am happy to see the migratory birds which have arrived in Goa and these migratory birds come here to escape the severe cold in their breeding grounds,” said the Pernem resident.
Bird watching tourism or avitourism is at nascent stage in Goa. Reports on the potential of bird-based tourism say that, increasing number of birdwatchers are eager to travel to long haul destinations to spot new birds that cannot be seen in their own country or region. To capitalize on this growing market, it is necessary to offer what birdwatchers require. This includes safety, accessibility, infrastructure, quality of birdlife, and knowledgeable guides.
For Goa, bird tourism is just the panacea needed to diversify our tourism offerings and reduce the pressure on hot-spot areas by visiting lesser travelled places. Other advantages are that, avitourism brings in arrivals who typically stay for longer periods. Further bird watchers are eco-friendly. They do not require high decibel entertainment but prefer to travel to the hinterland and see the local way of life.