Grass Hills

Country/territory: India

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

Area: 65,700 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
The Grass Hills plateau in the southeastern part of the Indira Gandhi (Anamalai) Wildlife Sanctuary extends c. 65 sq. km. On the southern and southeastern sides, the plateau is continuous with Eravikulam National Park in Kerala. On the north and northwest, it is bounded by forest and tea plantations, and on the northeast, west and southwest sides, by forest. A township with tea estates, Akka Malai, lies on the plateau. Akka Malai can be approached from the townships of Valparai or Iyerpadi through the Peria Karamalai group of estates (Mishra and Johnsingh 1994). There are several ridges and peaks with extensive cliffs. A mosaic of grassland-shola is present all along the crests of the Western Ghats. Besides being the major habitat of the Nilgiri Tahr Hemitragus hylocrius, it is used by a diverse array of fauna. Several large mammals, many of them protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972), use the grassland areas. Unfortunately, these grasslands, which represent a unique ecosystem, have been traditionally viewed as wastelands by the Forest Department. There have been repeated attempts of converting the grasslands into commercially valuable exotic plantations. In the last 100 years, vast areas of grassland and Evergreen Montane Forest have been converted into such plantations (Mishra and Johnsingh 1994). This IBA has extensive short grassland, little shrub cover and several perennial sources of water. Only the valleys have tall grasses. Grass species recorded from the area include Eulalia phaeothrix, Themeda quadrivalvis, Arundinella purpurea, Chrysopogon zeylanicus, H. contortus, and Tripogon ananthaswamianus.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Thanks to its remoteness, Grass Hills is perhaps one of the finest habitats in the Western Ghats for endemic and restricted range species. Although no detailed work on avifauna has been done, 8 of the 16 restricted range species have been identified. Along with Eravikulam National Park, this IBA is the main habitat of the Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis. Nilgiri Wood-Pigeon Columba elphinstonii and Broad-tailed Grass-Warbler or Grassbird Schoenicola platyura are other vulnerable and restricted range species found here. As a detailed checklist of birds of Grass Hills is not available, it is not known how many biome species are found here. The site lies in Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest.) Looking at the extent of intact shola, many biome-restricted species are likely to occur here, especially high altitude forest birds of the Western Ghats.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Besides the Nilgiri Tahr, Grass Hills is famous for large herds of Gaur Bos frontalis. Other fauna include the Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard P. pardus, Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Sambar Cervus unicolor and Barking Deer or Indian Muntjak Muntiacus muntjak.

Key contributors: Charudutt Mishra, T. R. Shankar Raman, Divya Mudappa and Abi Amen.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Grass Hills. Downloaded from on 29/11/2021.