Khijadiya Lake and Bird Sanctuary

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
The IBA site consists of a group of three shallow, freshwater lakes and extensive marshes adjacent to a large area of saltpans and salt marshes. It lies on the south shore of the Gulf of Kutch, about 10 km from Jamnagar. Part of the Sanctuary was the intertidal zone of the Gulf of Kutch before the construction of reclamation bunds across two creeks to control salinity and to recharge ground water. It has a dry tropical monsoon climate, with rainfall mainly concentrated in July and August. Habitats in this seasonal inland wetland include freshwater shallow marshes, intertidal mudflats, creeks, saltpans, saline land and mangroves (Singh 1998). The freshwater marshes dry up in summer, and at high tide, the water of the marsh becomes saline. The wetlands are partly owned by the Forest Department and Revenue Department, and partly under private ownership. Khijadiya Sanctuary has both freshwater marshes and intertidal mudflats and marshes (divided by a 5,996 m earthen reclamation bund). The freshwater marsh is covered by thick stands of Typha angustata and Saccharum spontaneum, while on the long bund, Prosopis chilensis, Acacia nilotica and Salvadora sp. are seen (Singh 1998).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Over 200 species of birds have been recorded from the area (Singh 2001), which is a unique combination of seasonal freshwater wetland and coastal wetland ecosystems. It supports over 90 species of waterfowl and waders, some of which like Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus breed here (Singh 2001). The Sanctuary is located in the extreme western part of the country and is an important stopover site and wintering ground for migratory birds. Threatened birds include Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri and Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis. This site has been designated as an IBA mainly based on the congregatory criteria (A4i, iii). During good rainfall years, when the expanse of the freshwater lake is maximum, more than 20,000 ducks and waders are found in this Sanctuary. The saline marshes attract thousands of waders such as stints, sandpipers and plovers. A few threatened species have also been found in Khijadiya. Over all it makes for an excellent IBA. Although recent information on species-wise population is not available, based on old information (Scott 1989), Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus, Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala, Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, Ruff Philomachus pugnax, Common Crane Grus grus, and Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca occur above their 1% biogeographic population thresholds as determined recently by Wetlands International (2002). There is a record of sighting of 190 Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis (Scott 1989) and 76 in March 2000 (BirdLife International 2001). The Near Threatened Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus is regularly seen in Khijadiya. Probably, it breeds nearby but no nest has been located. Several species of waterbirds breed in the area, including Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, Purple Swamphen or Moorhen Porphyrio porphyrio, Coot Fulica atra, Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus, and Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. At least four pairs of Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus bred in 1984, and since then they have been regularly seen breeding.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The wild mammals of the site include Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Indain Fox Vulpes bengalensis, Bluebul or Nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus and Common Mongoose Herpestes edwardsi.

Freshwater turtles are quite common in some parts of the Sanctuary.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Recurring drought; Overgrazing; Increase in salinity; Disturbance to birds by ship breaking industries; Infestation of Prosopis chilensis; Overuse of water of wetland by farmers; Poaching.

As the Sanctuary lies close to Jamnagar town, disturbance is very high. However, at the same time, there is a great opportunity to sensitize visitors about the importance of wildlife. Khijadiya is also an interesting place to learn about the difference in the flora and fauna of freshwater and saline ecosystems. The exotic invasive shrub Prosopis chilensis has colonized most part of the terrestrial habitat. In some areas, thickets are so dense that the wetland is not visible. These could easily be thinned to allow sighting of birds. The biggest danger to this small Sanctuary is from the unauthorized drawing of water for irrigation that reduces water levels during the peak winter season. Livestock over-grazing is a curse as in most of the sanctuaries of Gujarat, but in the case of Khijaidiaya limited grazing is beneficial to the freshwater wetland as it removes the biomass, which otherwise would accumulate excessively. A study on the carrying capacity of the wetland for aquatic vegetation would allow us to know how much grazing should be allowed. Jamnagar is a fast growing town, due to rapid industrialization (at the cost of the Marine National Park, another IBA). Khijadiya, due to its easy accessibility could become a major tourist attraction. An interpretation centre on wetlands and waterfowl could be developed at the entrance of the Sanctuary. Khijadiya could also be an ideal Sanctuary for nature education camps and research.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Khijadiya Lake and Bird Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 18/01/2019.