The national park near Bharatpur in the Indian state of Rajasthan is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the world. The former hunting ground of the Maharajas is wintering area for waterfowl from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia.
Keoladeo National Park: facts
|Official title:||Keoladeo National Park|
|Natural monument:||one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the world, national park since 1982, also known as Bharatpur and Keoladeo Ghana National Park, area 29 km², of which 11 km² are wetlands|
|Location:||Bharatpur, south of Delhi|
|Meaning:||the former hunting ground of the Maharajah of Bharatpur as Asia’s most important wintering area for waterfowl from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia|
|Flora and fauna:||375 species of birds in the wetlands, including barge geese, pintail ducks, barnacle cranes threatened with extinction (snow cranes), breeding ground for Indian large storks, the very hungry Indian, white sickle, purple heron, middle and great egret, around 400 pairs of spoonbills, as well as Dalmatian pelicans, snake necked birds and black-tailed cranks; also occurrence of axis deer and Nilgau antelopes, rhesus monkeys and ringed parakeets|
In the land of milk and honey for migratory birds
The swamp area on the outskirts of the city of Bharatpur, in the middle of a fertile farming landscape not far from the famous Taj Mahal of Agra, is hardly larger than a zoological garden, but even its mention makes the eyes of ornithologists light up, as such a concentration of birds is unparalleled anywhere in the world. Hundreds of species have been counted here as permanent residents or guests.
Unlike most national parks, the unique protected area is by no means a natural ecotope, but an artificially created oasis that originally did not serve to protect the bird world – on the contrary. When the Maharajah of Bharatpur created an artificial lake landscape in the lowlands in front of the gates of his palace with the help of canals and small weirs, his main focus was on duck hunting. The game of the hunting-obsessed potentate paid off. The area soon became populated with countless birds, of which the hunting parties, including many invited British colonial officials, fetched up to 4,000 from the sky in a single day. It wasn’t until 1956, when the area was placed under nature protection, that the bird world could breathe a sigh of relief.
The park is cut by a canal that drains the water required from the Gambhir River and thus protects the lowlands from drying out even during the winter dry season; a rare stroke of luck that seems to have got around among birds in all of South and Central Asia. Over a hundred species regularly come to the wetland in the Nordic winter to raise their young in this oasis of abundance and in warmer climes. Quite a few even take the risk of crossing the Himalayas.
It is much easier for the visitor: An asphalt causeway brings him right into the action, ideally with a rental bike. Numerous paths branch off from it, which are lined with shady babul trees and bushes, in the protection of which you can get close to the birds. In view of the diversity of birds, it is easy to overlook the fact that the park also has a varied flora with strange trees such as kajur and kejri, not to mention the numerous types of reeds, reeds and grass.
The concert of thousands of bird’s throats begins shortly before sunrise, and an almost hectic hustle and bustle sets in when the feathered residents turn to their breakfast. The table is richly set. The shallow water is teeming with fish, frogs, amphibians, snails and other delicacies; Insects buzz between the trees and bushes on the edge of the water, but the vegetarians among the birds don’t have to starve either. Fruits and seeds are in abundance.
Of course, every visitor would like to take a look at the endangered Siberian nun cranes, stately birds with red heads and white plumage, which usually stand far from the shore in the shallow water. Their number has been falling for years. Around 1960 there were still 200 pairs nesting in the park, today there are unfortunately only three or four. According to constructmaterials, the Indian hungry stork can hardly be overlooked or overheard, a species of stork that lives up to its name and tirelessly provides its young with food. The birds live in large colonies on the sweeping Babul trees standing in the water. In order to meet their food needs, it is estimated that the very hungry eat a good five tons of aquatic animals per day.
Majestic gray geese plow through the water, shimmering kingfishers pounce from a branch at an unsuspecting fish, raven-black cormorants patiently dry their plumage in the morning sun, brightly colored ducks pound with untiring perseverance. Meanwhile, the loyal Sarus cranes, who stay together all their lives, go hunting together, and screeching parakeets scold the visitor from the branches. But these are only a few of the residents of this little paradise in the north Indian lowlands, whose life the visitor can experience first hand, even before he even turns to breakfast.