Thattekkad Wildlife Sanctuary

Country/territory: India

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 2,516 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 Thattekad or Sâlim Ali Bird Sanctuary is situated in Devicolam taluka of Idukki district, on the northern bank of River Periyar. The Rivers Periyar and Edamalayar meet at Koottickel in the southwest before reaching Bhoothathankettu Dam. The southeast boundary is the reserve boundary of Neriyamangalam Range over a distance of 5 km. Kuttampuzha village is located on the eastern and northeastern sides. Most parts of the Sanctuary area are hilly and fully covered by forest. The Periyar and Kuttampuzha rivers on two sides and Kolombathodu and Orulamthanni on the other two sides border the Sanctuary. Thattekad lies at the base of the western slopes of the Western Ghats. The highest point in the Western Ghats, the Anaimudi Peak (2,695 m), is directly uphill of Thattekad. The terrain is undulating and includes two high peaks called Thoppimudi and Njayapillimudi. Bhoothathankettu Barrage has created a large and deep water body, 6 to 10 m deep. This has destroyed almost all the luxuriant riverain forest, which existed along the banks. About one- third of the total Sanctuary area is under monoculture, mainly of Teak Tectona grandis and Dipterocarpus. The remaining forest consists of somewhat disturbed Evergreen, Semi-evergreen and Moist Deciduous forests and grassland with rocky outcrops. There are some private holdings, ranging from 0.02 ha to 6.07 ha or more along the fringes of the Sanctuary. However, there are no settlements inside the Sanctuary. Since its declaration as a Sanctuary in 1983, there have been no regular forestry extraction and plantation activities inside the Sanctuary area. As a result, there is a fairly thick undergrowth everywhere, including in the plantation.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Thattekad is a bird watcher’s paradise and its importance has been appreciated by the internationally known ornithologist Dr. Sâlim Ali, who recorded 167 bird species here (Ali 1964). Later, Sugathan and Verghese (1996) have recorded 269 species from this IBA. During his visit to Thattekad in the 1930s, Sâlim Ali described it as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India, comparable only with the Eastern Himalayas. In 1983, the Government of Kerala declared it as a Bird Sanctuary on his recommendation. It is now very popular with birdwatchers and new species are being added constantly to the bird checklist of Thattekad. To date, 271 bird species have been reported from the Sanctuary, including some globally threatened and restricted range species. Sugathan and Verghese (1996) have reviewed the birds found in Thattekad (but see comments by Santharam 2000). They found that globally threatened Nilgiri Wood Pigeon Columba elphinstonii is “not uncommon’ and moves between the moist evergreen forests and plantations with secondary forest. But, Simpson (2000) saw only a single bird in December 1999. He was also told that it is common in the Sanctuary. Thattakad has three globally threatened species and eleven restricted range species. The site lies in the Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area (EBA). Sixteen species have been identified in this EBA. All those restricted range species which are likely to occur here are found, which proves that the habitat is suitable. However, species composition and density have changed. For example, Ali and Whistler (1936) and Ali (1964) found Wynaad Laughtingthrush Garrulax delesserti as one of the commonest birds in Thattakad in the humid rainforest and dense undergrowth, while Sugathan and Verghese (1996) say that it is a rare resident, and very rarely seen nowadays. This is despite the fact that the latter have done extensive mist-netting in this site which would have brought out this skulking bird, while Ali had no such facility. Thattakad lies in Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest) of the BirdLife International (undated) classification. Fifteen species are listed in this Biome of which nine have been identified from Thattekad till now. One of the interesting species is the Ceylon Frogmouth Batrachostomus moniliger, a bird of undisturbed rainforest. While Sugathan and Verghese (1996) say it is rare, Simpson (2000) who did two nights birdwatching at this site, found it “very common, both inside and outside the sanctuary; 10+ heard in three hours one evening”. According to Sugathan and Verghese (1996), Broad-tailed Grassbird (Grass Warbler) Schoenicola platyura is resident but not common. It affects grass and scrub covered hillsides. Thattakad is also a wintering site for many uncommon migrants, such as Rufous-tailed (Rusty-tailed) Flycatcher Muscicapa ruficauda. According to Sugathan and Verghese (1996) it is a rare winter visitor. Simpson (2000) also saw it only in Thattakad in south India. It has wide distribution in Asia but in India, it is a bird of temperate forest of the Himalayas between 1,800 m to 3,500 m. Another interesting species is Tytler’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis, a rare winter visitor to Thattakad, with two records (Sugathan and Verghese 1996). It mainly winters in the northern parts of the Western Ghats, especially around Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra. One of the most interesting records is of Green Munia Amandava formosa, a globally threatened species (BirdLife International, 2001). It is a bird of scrub forest and open jungles of central and northwest India. Sugathan (see Santharam 2000 and editor’s note) saw around seven birds for two consecutive years. Two birds were even mist-netted for identity confirmation. It is possible that they were escapees, as Green Munia is a popular cage bird (R. Bhargava, pers. comm. 2001).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Despite its small size, Thattekad is home to most of the large mammals found in this area, such as the Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard Panthera pardus, Leopard Cat Felis bengalensis, and Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus.

The Small Travancore Flying Squirrel Petinomys fuscocapillus fuscocapillus, an endemic to the southern Western Ghats, is also found in Thattekad. Draco or Gliding Lizard Draco dussumieri is common in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests.

Key contributor: The IBA Team.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Thattekkad Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 26/09/2023.