Western Ghats

Country/Territory India
Area 61,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 2600m
Priority urgent
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge good

General characteristics

The Western Ghats are ranges of hills along the western edge of the Deccan plateau in peninsular India. The EBA extends along the Ghats from just north of Bombay south to the tip of the peninsula, in the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, although a few of the restricted-range species present are also recorded from disjunct localities in the hills to the east, in northern Tamil Nadu and southern Andhra Pradesh.

The Western Ghats receive heavy monsoon rainfall, and tropical lowland evergreen rain forest formerly occurred in areas of highest rainfall along virtually their entire length—but most forests of this type have been cleared in the north of the EBA (Champion 1936). The evergreen rain forests are bordered by narrow strips of tropical semi-evergreen rain forest. Tropical moist deciduous forest is found where rainfall is lower and more seasonal, mainly in a narrow belt on the eastern side of the Ghats. In the higher hills in the south of the EBA, wet temperate forest is found above c.1,500 m, an evergreen forest type which is usually found in patches ('sholas') in the more sheltered sites on rolling montane grassland, and subtropical broadleaf hill forest is found at c.1,000-1,700 m (Champion and Seth 1968, Whitmore 1984, Pascal 1988). The approximate lower limit of these montane forest types is represented on the map by the 1,000 m contour.

Restricted-range species

Seven of the restricted-range bird species are found between sea-level and c.1,500 m, and they are particularly associated with evergreen and semi-evergreen rain forest, although most also occur in moist deciduous forest and subtropical hill forest (see 'Habitat associations' table). Of these seven species, five are found along the entire length of the Ghats, but two Garrulax delesserti and Dendrocitta leucogastra have not been recorded from north of Goa. D. leucogastra is known also from two disjunct localities to the east of the Ghats outside the EBA-Bangalore and Palmaner (Ali and Ripley 1987). Turdoides subrufus also occurs east of the Ghats, in the Shevaroy hills.

Five of the restricted-range species are particularly associated with wet temperate sholas and subtropical broadleaf hill forest, in the Bababudan, Brahmagiri, Biligirangan, Nilgiri, Palni and Anamalai hills, and Garrulax jerdoni is also recorded further north in Goa (Rane 1984). One of these species, G. cachinnans, is restricted to just the Nilgiri hills, where it replaces the more widespread G. jerdoni. Anthus nilghiriensis and Schoenicola platyura are found in the montane grassland on the higher southern ranges (S. platyura is also known from a nineteenth-century record further north near Belgaum: MacGregor 1887). In the southern part of the EBA, the lowland and montane forest groups of birds overlap at c.1,000-1,500 m. Columba elphinstonii and Nectarinia minima range along the entire length of the Ghats and are found from the lowlands to high altitudes.

Species IUCN Category
Nilgiri Woodpigeon (Columba elphinstonii) VU
Malabar Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros griseus) LC
Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columboides) LC
White-bellied Treepie (Dendrocitta leucogastra) LC
Broad-tailed Grassbird (Schoenicola platyurus) VU
Grey-headed Bulbul (Brachypodius priocephalus) NT
Rufous Babbler (Argya subrufa) LC
Wynaad Laughingthrush (Garrulax delesserti) LC
(Garrulax cachinnans) NR
(Garrulax jerdoni) NR
Nilgiri Flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudatus) LC
White-bellied Blue-flycatcher (Cyornis pallidipes) LC
(Brachypteryx major) NR
Black-and-orange Flycatcher (Ficedula nigrorufa) LC
Crimson-backed Sunbird (Leptocoma minima) LC
Nilgiri Pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis) VU

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
Achankovil Forest Division India
Amboli-Tilari Reserve Forest India
Anamudi Shola National Park India
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary India
Camel’s Hump Mountains India
Chandoli National Park India
Karnala Bird Sanctuary India
Kurinjimala Wildlife Sanctuary India
Malayattur Reserve Forest India
Mankulam Forest Division India
Mathikettan Shola National Park India
Megamalai Mountains India
Melagiris India
Muthikulam-Siruvani Reserve Forest India
Navelim wetland India
Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary India
Pampadum Shola National Park India
Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN154 Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN157 INS - Shivaji and adjoining areas, Lonavla India
IN160 Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN167 Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN168 Sanjay Gandhi National Park India
IN174 Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary (including Molem) India
IN175 Carambolim Wetlands India
IN176 Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN177 Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and area India
IN179 Anshi National Park India
IN180 Bandipur National Park India
IN181 Bannerghatta National Park India
IN182 Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN183 Bhimgad Forests India
IN184 Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary and Hills India
IN185 Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN186 Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN187 Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN188 Gudavi Bird Sanctuary India
IN192 Kemmangundi and Bababudan Hills India
IN193 Kemphole Reserve Forest India
IN196 Kudremukh National Park India
IN202 Nagarhole National Park India
IN203 Nandi Hills India
IN205 Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN209 Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN210 Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN212 Talakaveri Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN232 Amarambalam Reserved Forest - Nilambur India
IN233 Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN234 Chimmony Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN235 Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN236 Eravikulam National Park India
IN237 Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN240 Konni Reserve Forest India
IN241 Kottiyoor Reserve Forest India
IN242 Kulahupuzha Reserved Forest India
IN243 Nelliyampathy (Nemmara Division) India
IN244 Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN245 Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN246 Peechi - Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN247 Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN248 Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN249 Ranni Reserve Forest India
IN250 Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN251 Silent Valley National Park India
IN252 Thattekkad Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN253 Vazhachal Forest Division India
IN255 Wynaad Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN256 Avalanche (Nilgiri) India
IN257 Berijam (Kodaikanal) India
IN259 Bison Swamp (Nilgiri) India
IN260 Cairn Hill Reserve Forest (Nilgiri) India
IN262 Governor's Shola (Nilgiri) India
IN263 Grass Hills India
IN265 Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park India
IN266 Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve India
IN270 Longwood Shola - Kothagiri India
IN272 Mudumalai National Park India
IN273 Mukurthi National Park (Nilgiris) India
IN274 Naduvattam India
IN276 Poomparai and Kukkal India
IN277 Shola around Kodaikanal India
IN278 Srivilliputhur Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN280 Thaishola India
IN281 Tirunelveli Reserve Forest India
IN289 Muthukuzhi India

Threat and conservation

The main threat is habitat loss and degradation. The lowland evergreen and semi-evergreen rain forests probably once extended onto the coastal plain to the west of the Ghats, but almost all forest below 500 m has long been cleared. The remaining forests face a number of pressures, as increasing human population has led to increased illegal encroachment into forest lands, livestock-grazing, and the harvesting of fuelwood and huge quantities of minor forest products such as bamboo and canes. The steep western slopes of the Ghats are ideal for generating hydroelectric power, and dams are flooding large areas of valley forest and leading to developments such as new access roads which are increasing encroachment into the forest. The high-altitude shola grasslands have traditionally been burnt annually by nomadic graziers, which has probably much reduced the extent of wet temperate forest sholas, but these grasslands continue to be converted to plantations of tea, eucalyptus and wattle Acacia dealbata (Champion 1936, Collins et al. 1991, V. J. Zacharias in litt. 1993, L. Vijayan in litt. 1996).

There is a network of c.40 protected areas in the Western Ghats, many of which include extensive areas of the EBA's characteristic habitats (MacKinnon and MacKinnon 1986, IUCN 1992c). They are located along the entire length of the Ghats, and support populations of all of the restricted-range birds. The protection which they afford to the remaining forest and grassland is the main reason that none of the restricted-range species is currently considered threatened. The threatened Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra breeds in the Western Himalayas (EBA 128) and winters in montane forest in this EBA and Sri Lanka (EBA 124).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Western Ghats. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 14/08/2020.