Vedanthangal and Karikili Bird Sanctuary

Country/territory: India

IBA Criteria met: A1, A4iii (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 80 ha

Protection status:

Bombay Natural History Society
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2003 very high not assessed not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The Vedanthangal (50 ha) and Karikili (30 ha) bird sanctuaries are located about 85 km southwest of Chennai, in Chengalpet district of Tamil Nadu. These are old water storage reservoirs for irrigation in the Chengalpet plains. They have also become important as breeding sites for large waterbirds. There are several much larger tanks (e.g. 350 ha Madurantakam Tank) in the surrounding plains, but these are generally less important from the wildlife point of view. Vedanthangal tank receives some water from Madurantakam tank through a link channel, but Karikili is wholly rainfed. Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is one of the oldest bird sanctuaries in south India. Documentary evidence of its existence is available from 1793. In 1798, the Collector of Chengalpet district issued a prohibitory order against shooting of birds in Vedanthangal. In 1858, a sub-magistrate revived the 1798 order as it had not been followed strictly. But only in 1936 did the Collector officially recognised Vedanthangal as a Sanctuary and sanction government funds towards its maintenance (Venkatraman 1996a). Vedanthangal has been visited by many ornithologists since the last 100 years. Hume and Oates (1889-1890), Bates (Bird Life in India 20-47), Whistler and Kinnear (1937) during their Vernay Scientific Survey, Sanjeeva Raj (1956) and Spillet (1966). Vedanthangal has been developed to enhance its value to wildlife; a number of elevated mud islands have been created and planted with trees to provide ideal nesting sites for herons, egrets and other colonial nesting birds. By contrast, Karikili Tank is undeveloped and remains in much the same condition as Vedanthangal was during the 1950s. Karikili is situated about 10 km from Vedanthangal, and is in fact two small tanks with a combined area of about 50 ha. Both tanks fill up during the northeast monsoon in October-November. In immediate vicinity of the tanks there are bare plains, paddy fields and scrub forest. During the monsoon, shallow pools are formed in many places, which provide additional foraging areas for water birds. The area has a tropical monsoon climate, with an average annual rainfall of about 1,000 mm, mostly during October-November (northeast monsoon). There are mainly common herbaceous plants in the marshy areas. In the late 1970s, the islands in Vedanthangal were replanted with Barringtonia acutangula to replenish the dead and dying trees. These trees are preferred for nesting by Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans and Black-headed or White Ibis Threskiornis melanocephala.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Vedanthangal and Karikili tanks satisfy IBA criteria A1 and A4iii and are treated as one IBA site due to their proximity. Both sites are used by a large number of waterbirds for nesting (Vedanthangal) and foraging (Karikili). An estimated 30,000 birds are present at Vedanthangal Tank during the breeding season. The main species at both the tanks are the Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis, Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger, Darter Anhinga melanogaster, Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia, Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, Asian Openbill and Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii. A small number of Spot-billed Pelicans also visits both tanks. Pelicans breed occasionally in Vedanthangal, mainly on Barringtonia trees (Paulraj and Gunasekaran 1988, Venkatraman and Muthukrishan 1993). According to the booklet produced by the Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu, 15 species of storks, egrets and cormorants breed in Vedanthangal. The total number of bird species seen is about 115, mostly common species. These tanks are also important as roosting sites for many birds, especially Little Cormorant, outside the breeding season. Large numbers of migratory waterfowl are seen on passage and in winter, particularly the Northern Pintail Anas acuta, Garganey Anas querquedula, Northern Shoveller Anas clypeata, Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, and many shorebirds and terns, particularly Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida. Santharam (1999) has seen the globally threatened Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga in 1996 in Vedanthangal. This site is selected as an IBA mainly because of the occurrence and occasional breeding of the globally threatened Spot-billed Pelican, and other Near Threatened species and presence of more than 30,000 waterfowl during winter.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: There is no large wild mammal of conservation concern in these sanctuaries as they are surrounded by human habitations and agricultural fields.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Vedanthangal and Karikili Bird Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 15/07/2020.