A must visit during the winter months, Vedanthangal Lake Bird Sanctuary in Chennai is any ornithologist’s paradise.

Birds of a feather flock together. This is just an idiom till you actually see this phenomenon and it becomes a reality at the Vedanthangal Lake Bird Sanctuary in Chennai. White birds belonging to different families and countries make this place their home. One look and this place is sure to remind you of what it would look like if it snowed here. One of the smallest (29.56 hectares) and oldest in India, the sanctuary is known more for its use of natural fertilizer. The local people have been protecting the sanctuary for ages now as the bird droppings increase nitrogen content in the water which in turn increases the yield and saves them the cost of fertilizer.

Flying from afar

“Hamlet of the hunter” is what Vedanthangal means and, true to its name, it houses as many as 40,000 birds from across the globe. The migratory birds include Garganey Teals from Canada, Snake Bird and Glossy Ibis from Sri Lanka, Grey Pelican from Australia, Grey Heron and Open-billed Stork from Bangladesh, Painted Stork from Siberia, and Spoonbill from Burma. One of the first birds to arrive at Vedanthangal is the Open-billed Stork which breeds twice during the same season before leaving the sanctuary. Egrets, Painted Stork, Great Cormorant, Indian Cormorant, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black-headed Ibis, and Grey Heron are also seen in large numbers.

The Vedanthangal lake Bird Sanctuary is a visual spectacle of nesting birds at close range.

Visiting

Best time to visit: November to March

Contact:

Wildlife Warden,

259 Anna Salai, DMS compound,

Teynampet, Chennai 600 006

Ph. 044-24321471

Go bird watching

Read up about the sanctuary you are visiting.

Be silent when on the bird trails. Talking and making noise irritates the birds.

Do not reduce it to a picnic spot. There’s no harm in having a snack but keep it litter-free.

If you are going in a group, take a guide along.

Learn about the common birds to make the sightings interesting. Each of you can find out about at least two birds and share the information with your group.

Additional information on habitat, scientific name, and trivia will help you identify birds easily.

Read up about the importance of fauna to make sure you enjoy and learn about birds.

If you visit anytime between now and end of March, you will spot Painted Storks. They are the last to arrive and are the last to leave.

The best time to visit is either early – 6:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., before they leave to hunt, or when it is time to roost – 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Avoid using strong perfumes.

Why migrate?

A bird migrates thousands of miles between its breeding and non-breeding ranges. But have you ever wondered why they migrate? Imagine what could happen if no birds migrated. Well, for one, if no birds migrated, food supplies in breeding areas would be rapidly depleted leading to starvation. Another situation that could arise is competition for nesting areas and predators on the prowl could find their meals easily.

The most common reasons why birds migrate are:

For a meal

Migrating for family

Escape harsh climate

Escape predators

Decrease the chances of falling ill

For better habitats

Grey Pelican

Scientific Name: Pelecanus philippensis

From: Breeds in southern Asia from India to Indonesia.

Eggs: It lays three to four eggs which is the usual clutch size.

Statistics: About 125-150 cm in length, mainly white, with a grey crest, hind neck and tail. As the name goes, there are grey spots on the pink bill during the breeding season.

White Ibis and Glossy Ibis

Scientific Name: Eudocimus albus

From: The white ibis can be found along the Atlantic Coast. It is also found in Mexico and Central America.

Eggs: The female lays two to five eggs, and both the male and female incubate them. They take around 21 days to hatch.

Statistics: It is about two feet tall and has a wingspan of about three feet.

Grey Heron

Scientific Name: Ardea cinerea

From: A wading bird, it belongs to the Ardeidae family. They live mostly in Europe and Asia and also some parts of Africa.

Eggs: Grey herons lay between three and six eggs in March. Each egg is the size of a chicken’s egg – quite small considering the size of a heron.

Statistics: They are the largest member of the heron family — they can weigh up to two kilograms.

Painted Stork

Scientific Name: Mycteria leucocephala

From: They are found in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, eastern China, Thailand, Kampuchea and Vietnam.

Eggs: Their typical clutch varies from two to five eggs.

Statistics: Medium-sized, they are usually about 93-102 cm tall and weigh anywhere between two to four kg. Males and females look almost similar.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Scientific Name: Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

From: A small wader, it breeds in usually in northeastern Russia and spends its winters in Southeast Asia.

Eggs: They lay three to five white eggs which are blotched-looking reddish brown.

Statistics: The adult bird is around 14-16 cm in length and has a red-brown head, neck and breast with dark brown streaks.

Little Black Cormorant

Scientific Name: Phalacrocorax sulcirostris

From: They are mainly found in smaller rivers and lakes in Australia and northern New Zealand, where it is known as the Little Black Shag.

Eggs: Though they are known to lay three to five eggs a year, it can go up to seven eggs. Pale blue in colour they are oval in shape and are usually covered with a thin layer of lime which makes them look whitish.

Statistics: They usually grow up to two to three feet, weigh between 340 g and five kg and live up to four or five years.