Kole Wetland

Country/territory: India

IBA criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 13,632 ha

Bombay Natural History Society
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2003 not assessed high not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2004 baseline)
The Kole wetlands, covering an area of 13,632 ha are spread over Thrissur and Malappuram districts extending from the northern bank of Chalakudy river in the south to the southern bank of Bharathapuzha river in the north (Johnkutty and Venugopal 1993). The name Kole refers to the peculiar cultivation practice carried out from December to May. “Kole”, a Malayalam word, indicates a field that gives a bumper crop, so long as floods do not damage it (Nameer 2002). Rice cultivation in Kole started as early as the 18th century by reclaiming the Trichur kayal lands (backwaters) by erecting temporary earthen bunds. The water pumped out from the field is stored in a network of canals in the area. The Kole areas are low-lying and have a central, narrow strip covering a long expanse, with many pockets running into cultivated land on either side. The region is naturally subject to salt-water ingression. During the monsoon, the entire region, which gets submerged under water, is cultivated by draining the water and by erecting bunds. Regulators are provided at certain strategic points to prevent the intrusion of salt water into the Kole wetlands during the cultivation period. Grasses and sedges are found in shallow and drier zones. The main activity in and around Kole is paddy cultivation. As Kole is a large sprawling wetland, with human habitation all around, there are coconut and arecanut plantations, gardens and cultivated plants.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: A total of 182 bird species has been recorded from the Kole wetlands, of which 53 are winter visitors (Sivaperuman and Jayson 2000, Nameer 1994, Nameer 2002, Jayson 2002). The importance of these wetlands can be judged from the fact that between March 1988 and May 2001, Nameer (2002) recorded 21 bird species not recorded by Ali (1969). Of these, seven species i.e. Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos, White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus, Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus, Plain Sand Martin Riparia paludicola, Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris and Red Munia Estrilda amandava were recorded for the first time in Kerala (Nameer 2002). Kole wetland has been monitored by an organization called Nature Education Society, Trichur (NEST) (Nameer 1993). In 1992, NEST recorded 23,605 birds, including 50 species of waterbirds and four raptors (Jayson 2002). Next year, 54,000 birds, including 48 species of wetland birds were recorded (Nameer 1993). Kole wetlands may have the largest roost of terns in India. Nameer (2002) estimated about 25,000, including 10,000 Whiskered Terns Chlidonias hybridus. According to Wetlands International (2002), 1% population threshold of Whiskered Tern in India is 1,000. Therefore, almost 10% of the population of this species congregates at Kole wetland. Other species seen above their 1% biogeographic population threshold are (number seen at Kole given in brackets): Garganey Anas querquedula (7,887), Little Egret Egretta garzetta (5,000) and Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica (3,365). Sivaperuman and Jayson (2000) have reported Rufous Babbler Turdoides subrufus, a Western Ghats endemics found in tall grass and bamboo at the edge of forests (Grimmett et al. 1998). Kole wetland is selected as an IBA as it perfectly fits three criteria: A1: it has many globally Threatened and Near Threatened species; A4i: it has ³1% of the biogeographic population of Indian Whiskered Tern, Garganey and Gull-billed Tern, and A4iii: it has ³20,000 waterbirds.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Data on other fauna are not available.

Key contributor: P. O. Nameer.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Kole Wetland. Downloaded from on 23/09/2023.