Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary – A Birder’s Paradise

Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary

The sprawling Pulicat lake bird sanctuary is a popular birding spot in South India. It hosts a large number of migratory birds each year during winters. The sanctuary cuts across Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh and Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu. But, a major part of the sanctuary comes under Andhra Pradesh.

Pulicat lagoon, at an area of 759 sq km, is known as the second largest brackish water lagoon in India after Odisha’s Chilika lake. It is fed mainly by the river Kalangi and the river Arani. The lagoon comprises Pulicat lake and a wetland region. Some parts of the lagoon are also demarcated as reserve forest.

Pulicat lake measures about 60 km in length, and width varies from 0.2 km to 17.5 km. Area of the lake also varies with the tide. The barrier island of Sriharikota separates the lake from Bay of Bengal. Sriharikota is renowned as the rocket launch pad of India and is home to Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

This lake encompasses the fascinating Pulicat bird sanctuary. The Andhra Pradesh part of the sanctuary was established in 1976, whereas the Tamil Nadu part of the sanctuary was set up four years later in 1980.

Owing to the abundance of migratory birds in the area, the lake attracts a lot of bird lovers. Go through this post to know what awaits you there and how to plan a visit.

A Quick Glance Through

How To Reach

Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary is accessible from both the states, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. You can approach the sanctuary via Sullurpeta in Andhra Pradesh or via Ponneri town in Tamil Nadu. However, the lagoon on the Andhra Pradesh side offers better birding opportunities. 

Sullurpeta is 60 km from Chennai and it takes nearly 2 hours by car to reach there. Once you reach Sullurpeta, continue driving on the Sriharikota link road. The sanctuary lies on both sides of the road.

The nearest railway station in Sullurpeta is roughly 14 km away from the sanctuary. From the railway station, it is close to 30 minutes drive to the Andhra Pradesh side of the sanctuary. The nearest airport is located in Chennai.

Things To Do

1. Birding

A Flock of Flamingos in Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary
A Flock of Flamingos in The Lake

With flamingos congregating in the lagoon during winter season, Pulicat lake bird sanctuary transforms into a sea of pink. They are colonial nesters and forage for food in large flocks.

Flamingos feed on algae, small fishes and crustaceans which are in abundance in the lake. Also known as filter feeders, they scoop up a mouthful of water and use their tongue to filter out the food. Its curved beak allows the water to drain out but edibles are retained in the mouth.

Besides greater and lesser flamingos, plenty of waterfowls visit the lake from places like Siberia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.

A Flock of Teal Ducks in Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary
Teal Ducks in Flight

Grey heron, open bill stork, black-headed ibis, spot-billed ducks, painted stork and little egret are commonly spotted birds in this region.

Open Bill Stork
Open Bill Stork

As we drove through the stretch from Sullurpeta to the Space Centre at Sriharikota, we spotted many aquatic birds.

Black-headed Ibis
Black-headed Ibis

The sanctuary is spread across both sides of the road. If you want to capture the bountiful nature and beautiful birds in your camera, halt your car at a few places along the road.

Grey Heron in Flight
Grey Heron in Flight
Little Egret in Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary
Little Egret

According to Birdlife International, A total of 88 species of birds has been recorded from Pulicat Bird Sanctuary.

You may also like: 15 Most Beautiful Birds in India

2. Flamingo Festival

Lesser Flamingos in Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary

A 3-day flamingo festival is held every year during December-January in Sullurpeta to mark the arrival of migratory birds.

Apart from Pulicat Bird Sanctuary, the festival is also organised in neighbouring Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary. It offers opportunities to garner insights into unique biodiversity of the region through a series of cultural programs. 

Documentaries, based on the unique biodiversity of the region, are also screened during the festival. There are binoculars installed at some places for visitors to view the waterfowls feeding in the lake.

Events like these promote ecotourism and create awareness to conserve such precious gems of nature. You need to plan your visit during the 3-day event period to be able to partake in the flamingo festival.

3. Boating

Boating in The Lake

Boating is one of the best ways to explore Pulicat lake bird sanctuary. A fleet of traditional flat bottom boats can be seen docked at the shore. These are apparently fishing boats, available for hiring.

Punting on this vast lake offers excellent opportunity to view myriads of water birds feeding in the lagoon. In addition to this, the stunning landscape of the lake keeps you in awe of this place.

You may also like: 20 Major Lakes in India That Will Amaze You

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Pulicat Bird Sanctuary is from October to March when you can spot flocks of wintering birds in the lake.

Migratory birds start arriving from the month of October. And, most of them return to their native land by the end of March.

Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary Timings

The sanctuary is open from 6 am to 6 pm. Boats can be hired from 6 am and the ride lasts for 1-2 hours.

Where To Stay

One can conveniently visit Pulicat lake bird sanctuary from Chennai on a day trip. So, you can book your accommodation in Chennai.

In case you want to stay closer to the sanctuary on the Andhra Pradesh side, Sullurpeta is the nearest town for booking an accommodation.

For visiting Tamil Nadu side of the sanctuary, Ponneri town offers some good options for overnight stay.

Travel Tips

Here are some useful travel tips to help you plan an unforgettable trip to this Bird Sanctuary.

  • Boat ride duration varies from half an hour to two hours. The half an hour ride is purely for boating experience. Go for two-hour boat ride to enjoy birdwatching.
  • Early morning trips are recommended for birding as the weather is cool and pleasant. Visibility is relatively less in the evening trips. So, you might not spot birds from a distance.
  • Get some snacks and drinking water as there are hardly any eateries in the vicinity of the bird sanctuary.
  • Remember to carry your favourite DSLR camera and binocular.

Over To You Now…

Pulicat lake bird sanctuary is indeed a birdwatcher’s delight. Have you visited this sanctuary? Tell us in the comment section below.

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4 Comments

  1. prashanth purastu
  2. Aarav

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