Wildlife experiences in India are usually centered around large mammals, and birding (birdwatching) is often overlooked. There are close to 1300 species of birds in India, including passerine birds, waterfowls and all other reported birds. This South Asian country is undoubtedly a birdwatchers’ paradise.
No one can claim to have seen all of them, and neither do I. From my wildlife excursions so far, here is my pick of the 15 most beautiful birds of India.
A Quick Glance Through
- Lesser Flamingo
- Bar-headed Goose
- Indian Roller
- Grey-headed Swamphen
- Common Kingfisher
- Grey Junglefowl
- Knob-billed Duck
- Grey Heron
- Rose-ringed Parakeet
- Red-wattled Lapwing
- Crested Serpent Eagle
- Black Stork
- Blue-tailed Bee-eater
- Lesser Whistling-duck
1. Lesser Flamingo
The smallest of flamingo species is the lesser flamingo. They are considered one of the widely seen migratory birds in India, though a small resident population also occurs in the Indian subcontinent.
I discovered something interesting about this bird from my guide during my trip to Little Rann of Kutch. The beautiful pink colour of the bird comes from its unique eating habit.
The blue-green algae, largely found in saltwater lakes and saline lagoons, form a major part of their diet. A special pigment present in blue-green algae causes this lovely colour on various parts of the bird’s body, like plumage and legs.
Their specially designed bill can filter even microscopic food items, present in alkaline water. They like to live in large flocks ranging from hundreds to many thousands. Migratory flamingos can be witnessed in India during winter.
2. Bar-headed Goose
Known for its high-altitude flights, the bar-headed goose is one of the migratory species of birds in India. They can be easily distinguished from other goose species owing to their striking features.
A pale grey body, yellowish-orange legs and bill, and distinctive black bars on its white neck give them an adorable look.
These geese migrate to India during winter from countries, like Russia, Mongolia, Tibet and Kazakhstan.
During the migratory season, they fly over the Himalayan mountain passes amidst freezing cold winds and extremely low oxygen levels. It is no less than a miracle of nature.
Once the winter season is over in India, they take long flights in spring to return to their breeding sites in Central Asian countries. They can be spotted at Chilika lake in Odisha, Irai lake in Maharashtra and several other wetlands across the country.
3. Indian Roller
The Indian roller species is widely distributed across the country. This vividly colourful bird has been declared the state bird of Odisha, Telangana and Karnataka.
It is one of the most commonly sighted birds in India and is referred to as ‘neelkanth’ locally. They are blessed with brightly colourful wings with shades of blue, green, purple and brown. In flight, colours can be prominently seen.
Distinguishing male and female birds is not easy, since both sexes have similar appearances. The males exhibit quirky rolling movements as a courtship ritual.
Open grasslands, farmlands and scrub forests are their natural habitat. Earlier, you could see them in cities also but they have now almost disappeared from city landscapes due to loss of habitat.
4. Grey-headed Swamphen
Native to the Indian subcontinent, grey-headed swamphens are wetland birds. They mainly occur in freshwater bodies, such as rivers, ponds, lakes and marshes.
With bluish-purple upperparts, red bill and forehead shield, they are easily identifiable in the wild. Their gorgeous plumage and red legs enhance their dazzling beauty. Young birds lack shield and red bill.
They use warm reed beds as their breeding ground. Male birds have an elaborate courtship display to woo their mates.
5. Common Kingfisher
Brightly colourful bird, blue and orange plumage, long pointed bill, common kingfisher is one of the most exquisite birds in India. It is largely a resident species.
They are not easy to spot because of their shy nature. Male and female look alike and the only perceptible difference is in the bill. Female birds have a shade of red at the base of their bill wherein male birds have a completely black bill.
These birds are found mainly along streams, lakes and other water sources rich in fish. Around such places, they can be seen silently sitting on trees waiting for their prey. The moment it notices a fish, It dives into the water to catch the prey.
6. Grey Junglefowl
The wild forebears of domestic chickens, grey junglefowl is a vividly colourful bird species. They occur in evergreen and deciduous forests, such as Tadoba Tiger Reserve forest, Bandhavgarh National Park forest and Nagarhole National Park forest.
Male birds are very beautiful with golden spots around the neck and long dark plumage. Red wattles and combs are smaller compared to their red counterparts (red junglefowl).
Their pinkish-red legs have spurs. Females lack the long tail, wattle and comb. They have a dull appearance with black and white markings on the underpart and light yellow legs.
Wild junglefowls are shy in nature compared to their domestic cousins. You can see them in the open forest ground but they run out of sight with the din caused by safari vehicle movements.
7. Knob-billed Duck
Knob-billed ducks are tropical wetland birds, largely found in freshwater rivers, lakes and marshes. They are relatively larger in size compared to comb ducks.
Adults have speckled white head and upper neck, pure white lower neck and underbody. The glossy upperparts with shades of blue and black give them an elegant look.
Males have a large black knob on the bill, which makes them easily recognizable. The lump (knob) is missing in the female birds.
Aside from seasonal movement during the rainy season, they are mainly resident birds. They can be widely sighted at places, like Chilika Lake, Little Rann of Kutch, Keoladeo Ghana National Park
8. Grey Heron
Grey heron is a wetland bird that is commonly found in marshy places, ponds, lakes and even on the seacoast. Overall grey plumage with stripes of black, slender white neck and black crest, they are one of the most beautiful heron family birds in India.
They prefer shallow water bodies and quietly wade into the water for hunting their prey. Grey heron has a slow flight compared to storks and cranes.
It is a native species in much of its range throughout Asia. They can be sighted in many Indian wetlands, such as Pulicat lake bird sanctuary and Keoladeo national park.
Herons breed in colonies and the breeding colony is known as heronry. Their nesting sites include tall trees in the vicinity of lakes or other wetlands.
9. Rose-ringed Parakeet
Rose-ringed parakeets, also known as rose-necked parakeets, are endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Over the years, they have been introduced to many parts of the world including Europe and Middle Eastern countries.
One of the most prominently seen birds in India, the parakeet’s distinctive green colour is almost unmistakable. Adult males have a neck ring, mostly red in colour but females lack this strip around their neck.
In some parakeets, the ring colour can also be purple or blue. They have a reddish beak and an elongated pointed tail.
Rose-ringed parakeets in the wild feed on seeds, buds, nuts and berries. Sometimes, they forage for food in farmlands and fruit plantations. Their ability to mimic human voices is well known. Both male and female species can mimic.
Peacock refers to the male peafowls and females are peahens. Indian peafowls, also known as blue peafowls are endemic to India.
They are one of the most fascinating birds in India that grabs every birdwatcher’s attention.
The male peafowl (peacock) has a vividly colourful long tail with ornamental feathers, a blue crest and an iridescent blue neck. Females have shorter plumage and chestnut-brown crest.
Largely a ground bird, it flies occasionally to save itself from predators.
Peacocks raise their feathers into a fan and quiver them as part of the courtship ritual.
This species is widely distributed across the country. It is so well connected with Indian traditions that it became the national bird of India in 1963.
Check this post if you want to know where you can see peacocks in India – 10 Best Places To Find Peacocks in India.
11. Red-wattled Lapwing
Like other plovers, the red-wattled lapwing is a ground bird. They usually nest in a ground scrape, close to water bodies like ponds and lakes.
They make loud alarm calls if they notice a predatory nearby. It has earned them the moniker ‘did he do it’ bird. These lapwings have bright brown upperpart, pale yellow tall legs and a red bill with a black tip.
The red wattles around the eyes render a unique look and distinguish them from other wader birds.
It is difficult to spot their eggs and young chicks even though they lay eggs in a depression in the ground. Their brown-beige colour helps camouflage well with the surroundings.
12. Crested Serpent Eagle
The crested-serpent eagle belongs to the raptor family of birds. Found mostly in areas with thick vegetation, they are resident birds in India.
In flight, their fluffy crest, large head and long feathers give them a fierce appearance. Beautiful white bands on the wings are also visible when they open their wings.
They have heavily scaled strong feet and formidable claws to capture and grasp their prey. Their sharp beak helps them kill the catch quickly.
13. Black Stork
A long-distance migratory bird in India, black storks visit all the way from Siberia during the winter season.
Elegant appearance complemented by iridescent black plumage, white undertail covert and long neck, they are wary species.
The long orange-red legs and pointed bill and red ring around the eyes simply add to their charm. It is shy in nature and avoids contact with humans.
Usually seen solitary or in pairs, it nests in large forest trees. They forage for food in freshwater bodies and stealthily wade into shallow waters to catch their prey.
14. Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Known for its elegant flight from tree perch, Blue-tailed Bee-eater is a tiny multi-coloured bird with greenish body, blue tail and elongated feathers.
These bee-eaters have a black strip around their eyes, yellowish upper throat and slightly curved black beak. It is one of the migratory species of birds in India.
They prefer open country habitats, such as cultivated fields, and sparsely forested areas. This species derives its name from its feeding habit. Bees, wasps and hornets form a major part of their diet. They are skilled at catching their prey in the open air.
15. Lesser Whistling-duck
The smallest of whistling ducks, the lesser whistling ducks are one of the resident birds in India. They are also known as Indian whistling ducks or lesser whistling teal.
Predominantly orange-brown body colour and chestnut underparts, male and female birds have similar appearances. Bill and long legs are dark grey in colour. Their broad wings are clearly visible in flight and produce rapid flapping sounds.
Unlike other waterbirds, they nest in tree holes and sometimes occupy abandoned nests of other birds. In India, they are widely distributed across coastal areas and freshwater wetlands. This species is also found in islands including Andaman and Nicobar islands.
To avoid harsh weather conditions, they sometimes make local movements within a region but they don’t move too far like migratory birds.
Over To You Now…
Which of these beautiful birds of India, have you sighted so far? Tell us in the comment section below.
Subscribe to our email list to discover many such exciting nature and wildlife destinations across India.