Cairn Hill Reserve Forest (Nilgiri)

Country/territory: India

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2 (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 243 ha

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

Site description
Cairnhill is located in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu in the Western Ghats. It is a part of the South Range of Nilgiris South Forest Division, located 4-5 km from Ooty town. The site is surrounded by agricultural fields and settlements. It is one of the oldest converted forests in the Upper Nilgiris Plateau. A few small patches of sholas still thrive amid the old plantations of Pinus sp., Cyperus sp. and Wattle Acacia mearnsii. Despite its small size, it is a promising area for the conservation of endangered and Western Ghats endemic bird species. A very small patch of shola is left in Cairnhill that supports bird species of conservation interest. Plantations, mainly Wattle and Cyperus form the principal habitat type in Cairnhill, replacing a significantly higher proportion of the indigenous vegetation. Over a hundred years old, the Cyperus plantation stands tall, surrounded on all sides by Wattle, at the top of the hill. Owing to the creation of bare patches in the forest, shrub vegetation characteristic of forest edges now dominates this IBA. Rhododendron nilagiricum, endemic to the Nilgiris, is very common. The grassland in and around this site has disappeared during the 20th century.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Cairnhill provides a home to a number of Western Ghats endemics such as the Nilgiri Laughingthrush Garrulax cachinnans, Nilgiri Flycatcher Eumyias albicaudata, White-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx major, Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon Columba elphinstonii and Small Sunbird Nectarinia minima. Besides, a number of restricted range and biome related species are recorded from this site. The checklist of bird species recorded in Upper Nilgiris Plateau is given in Zarri et al. (2002). This IBA lies in Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest) in which 15 species are listed. Although only two species of this biome are found till now (more species are likely to occur), many species of other biomes are found here in winter. The species recorded in different biomes are:- Tickell’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis (Biome-5: Eurasian High Montage- Alpine and Tibetan); Indian Blue Robin Luscinia brunnea and Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus magnirostris (Biome-7: Sino- Himalayan Temperate Forest); Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus (Biome-8: Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest); White-cheeked Barbet Megalaima viridis and Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii (Biome-10); Painted Bush Quail Perdicula erythrorhyncha, Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus, Common Indian Nightjar Caprimulgus asiaticus, Lesser Goldenbacked Woodpecker Dinopium benghalense, Indian Robin Saxicolides fulicata, Jungle Babbler Turdoides striatus, Ashy Prinia Prinia socialis and White-browed Fantail Flycatcher Rhipidura aureola (Biome-11: Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone). The site lies in the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area (EBA), where Stattersfield et al. (1998) have listed 16 restricted range species. All the five restricted range species associated with Wet Temperate sholas and Subtropical Broadleaf Hill Forest (Stattersfield et al. 1998) are found here despite the fact that shola have seen tremendous modification during the last 100 years. There are not many biome species. This site is, therefore, selected on the basis of globally threatened species and Restricted Range species of the Western Ghats (Endemic Bird Areas 123).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Tiger Panthera tigris and Leopard P. pardus are apparently very rare, probably because of disturbance and lack of continuity with the neighbouring forests. Sambar Cervus unicolor and Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak are still common. Troops of Bonnet Macaque Macaca radiata and Nilgiri Langur Trachypithecus johni can easily be seen. Other mammals include Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Jungle Cat Felis chaus, and Brown Palm Civet Paradoxurus jerdoni.

Key contributor: Ashfaq Ahmed Zarri.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Cairn Hill Reserve Forest (Nilgiri). Downloaded from on 06/12/2021.