Goa: Sunbirds, Sea-Eagles and Sandplovers



This former Portuguese enclave midway along the west coast of peninsular India is an excellent introduction to Asian birding and popular winter birding destination.  In a mosaic of habitats, from the mangroves and wetlands of the coastal plain to dense tropical forests, all within close proximity and easily accessible, Goa hosts over 450 species, including many peninsular endemics, complemented by a considerable diversity of butterflies and small selection of mammals.


Our three-centre tour explores all of Goa’s varied habitats in search of a wide diversity of species and placing particular emphasis on finding all those endemic to the Western Ghats, the range of low mountains running parallel to the coast, available here.  We begin in the coastal resort of Arpora, a convenient base from which to explore various habitats in the northern coastal plains and further into Goa’s central rocky plateau.  In wide estuaries and mangrove-lined tidal creeks we will look for Collared and Stork-billed Kingfishers, Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, Terek Sandpiper, various gulls and terms including Pallas’s Gull, and White-bellied Sea-eagle, while lakes and flooded rice fields harbour a good selection of waterbirds including Indian Spot-billed and Comb Ducks, Baillon’s and Ruddy-breasted Crakes, Greater Painted-snipe, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Asian Openbill and Lesser Adjutant.  In sparsely wooded hills and areas of grass and scrub we will encounter a selection of larks and pipits including Malabar Lark and Richard’s Pipit, Bluethroat, Vernal Hanging-parrot, Jerdon’s Leafbird, Grey-headed Bulbul, Vigors’s Sunbird, Orange-headed Thrush and Indian Pitta.  From the coast we drive inland into the foothills of the Western Ghats to Goa’s eastern border to Bondla and the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary.  Dense jungle, cane thickets, bamboo brakes and tricking foothill streams are home to an enticing selection of forest specialities and Western Ghats endemics including Malabar Trogon, Great Pied Hornbill, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher and Ceylon Frogmouth.  Finally, we travel to southern Goa to explore two contiguous sanctuaries, Cotigao and Netravali.  These forest reserves offer a rich array of endemics and forest species from quiet sanctuary roads, key among which are Indian Rufous Babbler, Indian Scimitar-babbler, White-bellied Woodpecker, Malabar Woodshrike and Oriental Scops-owl. 


Our tour is a thorough exploration of Goa, from the coast into the foothill forests of the Western Ghats, just an hour’s drive away.  This is an excellent yet relaxed introduction to Asian birding, offering a good overview of southern India’s peninsular species, with the chance of 18 out of a total 30 species endemic or near endemic to the Western Ghats, one of the most ecologically rich regions of the world, and a selection of Palaearctic migrants in winter.

2 December - 16 December 2019

(also available as a custom tour)

Ground price: £ 1980

Single room supplement: £ 400

Deposit: £ 500

The price includes: Accommodation, all meals, bottled drinking water, all ground transport, all birding/wildlife activities as described, entry fees, guiding, pre-tour information, species checklists.

The price excludes: Flights, visa fees, travel insurance, drinks other than water, tips and any other expenses of a personal nature. 

Maximum group size: 8

Accommodation: Comfortable rooms with private facilities in wildlife lodges and hotels.

Tour grading: Easy.  Birding will be mostly on foot, often in warm, humid conditions. 

Key species: Collared, Blue-eared and Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers, Pallas's Gull, Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Indian Scimitar-babbler, White-bellied, Heart-spotted and White-naped Woodpecker, Indian Pitta, Malabar Grey, Malabar Pied and Great Pied Hornbills, Malabar Trogon, Malabar Whistling-thrush, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Small and Vigors's Sunbirds,  Ceylon Frogmouth, Jerdon's Nightjar Oriental Scops-owl, 




Day 1-6: Coastal Goa

Arrivals into Goa (Dabolim) airport in the morning of day 1 for a six-night stay.  We have the afternoon, and further five days to explore the varied habitats present in the coastal region of northern Goa from a base at the resort of Arpora, making excursions further inland into the grasslands and scrub jungle of the central plateau. The habitat diversity here is reflected in the variety of birds found in this region, and we can expect a good selection during our stay here, from waterfowl to woodland species, including our first regional endemics.  Immediately surrounding Arpora a sizeable stretch of dry fields will likely provide some of the first birds of the tour, including various pipits including Richard’s and Blyth’s, Malabar Lark, Spotted Dove, Indian Roller, Little Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Wire-tailed Swallow, Rosy Starling, Black Drongo, Long-tailed and Brown Shrikes, Bluethroat and Spotted Owlet.  Remnant patches of mature woodland on coastal headlands will offer additional species such as Eurasian Golden Oriole, Vernal Hanging-parrot, Grey-headed and Brahminy Starlings, Loten’s and Vigors’s Sunbirds, Tickell’s Blue, Asian Brown and Indian Paradise Flycatchers, Black-naped Monarch, Jerdon’s Leafbirds, White-browed and Grey-headed Bulbuls, White-cheeked and Coppersmith Barbets, Dark-fronted Babbler, Orange-headed Thrush and the secretive Indian Pitta.  Further afield, quieter beaches and Goa’s few sizeable lakes, together with areas of marsh and mangrove, host a good selection of gulls, terns, shorebirds, waterfowl, rails and crakes, including Grey-headed Swamphen, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Lesser Whistling-duck, Indian Spot-billed and Comb Ducks, Cotton Teal, Wood and Terek Sandpipers, Little and Temminck’s Stints, Red-wattled and Yellow-wattled Lapwings, Cinnamon Bittern, Greater Painted-snipe, Baillon’s and Ruddy-breasted Crakes, Painted and Woolly-necked Storks, Asian Openbill, Lesser Adjutant various egrets, Indian Baya and Streaked Weavers, Indian Reed-warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Citrine Wagtail, gulls including Pallas’s and Heuglin’s, Greater and Lesser Crested Terns, Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Small Pratincole, and birds of prey including Indian Spotted Eagle, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Brahminy Kite and Crested Goshawk.  A boat ride along the Zuari River will take us into the mangroves of the Cumbarjua Canal, in search of the highly localised Collared Kingfisher, Stork-billed, Black-capped and Lesser Pied Kingfishers and Slaty-breasted Rail.


Day 7-10: The Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Bondla

We will experience a change in landscape and habitat as we drive inland into the foothills of the Western Ghats for a four-night stay.  These hills delineate Goa’s eastern border and are considered one of the most ecologically rich regions in the world, home to 30 restricted range endemics and near endemics.  In the moist deciduous forest, interspersed with cane thickets, bamboo brakes and trickling streams we will look for up to 18 Western Ghats endemics available in Goa among further peninsular endemics and south Indian forest specialities, including Malabar Grey, Malabar Pied and Great Pied Hornbills, Nilgiri Woodpigeon, Greater Racket-tailed and Spangled Drongos, Malabar Trogon, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Malabar Whistling-thrush, Asian Fairy Bluebird, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Small Sunbird, Flame-throated and Yellow-browed Bulbuls, Malabar Barbet, Malabar Parakeet, Dark-fronted and Puff-throated Babblers, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Indian White-rumped Spinetail, Brown-backed Needletail, Crested Serpent-eagle, Rufous-bellied and Black Eagles, and a selection of night birds including Ceylon Frogmouth, Indian Jungle and Jerdon’s Nightjars, Brown Hawk-owl, Jungle Owlet and Brown Fish-owl.  We will also visit nearby Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary looking in particular for Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Blue-faced Malkoha, Rufous and White-naped Woodpeckers, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-capped Rock-thrush, Grey Junglefowl and Red Spurfowl.  We will no doubt encounter an impressive selection of butterflies in this region, with spectacular forest swallowtails and endemics that include Tamil Lacewing, Blue Oakleaf, Paris Peacock and delicate Malabar Tree Nymph, with Indian Sunbeam, Leaf Blue and Common Map along forest streams, and the striking Southern Birdwing, the largest butterfly in the Indian region. 


Day 11-14: Cotigao and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuaries

On day 11, a short drive south will take us to the coastal resort of Patnem in southern Goa, our base for exploring both Cotigao and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuaries during a four-night stay here.  Cotigao is noticeably drier than other forest reserves in Goa, and we will look in particular for endemics and forest species that favour these conditions, such as Malabar Woodshrike, White-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-footed and Grey-fronted Green-pigeons, Green Imperial Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Forest Wagtail and Oriental Scops-owl.  At Netravali, one of Goa’s least-explored areas, the sanctuary road climbs through primary forest to the peaks of a series of rounded hills where we hope to encounter Indian Rufous-babbler, Indian Scimitar-babbler, Speckled Piculet, Malabar Trogon, Indian Blue Robin.  Both here and in the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary we will also come across a small selection of mammals, including Bonnet Macaque, Northern Plains Grey Langur, the Malabar subspecies of Indian Giant Squirrel, Indian Palm Civet, and the ubiquitous three-striped Palm Squirrel, with the chance of Gaur and Leopard at Cotigao.


Day 15: Depart Goa

Depending on group departure plans we may have time for some final birding at Cotigao this morning.  Departures from Goa (Dabolim) international airport this afternoon.

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Bluetail Birding Limited is registered in England, Company No. 11807144

The address of our registered office is: The Roost, Leiston Road, Middleton, Saxmundham, Suffolk IP17 3NS