India is probably the only country in the world that can boast of harbouring as varied and rich a birdlife as it does. Home to well over a thousand species, of which about 100 are to be found only in India, this country is a veritable paradise for any birdwatcher. The reason for this treasure-trove of species is undoubtedly the fact that India encompasses almost all the ecosystems to be found on the planet, ranging from the hot and humid evergreen forests of the north-east and south-west to the scorching deserts making up most of the western state of Rajasthan, providing habitats for variously adapted species, both residents and migrants, the latter numbering about 250 species. Two species, the Pinkheaded Duck and the Mountain Quail are now considered extinct whereas the Jerdon's Courser and the Forest Owlet were rediscovered recently after a gap of more than a century.
Even a cursory glance at the Indian countryside will reveal roughly 150 very common species, ranging from the ubiquitous House Sparrow and Indian Myna to such birds as the Red-vented Bulbul, Black Drongo and White-breasted Kingfisher. Common raptors include Black and Brahminy Kites, Honey Buzzard, Shikra and Egyptian Vulture. Waterbirds also offer quite a spectacle, especially in the winter, when the migratory waders arrive. Common resident species are White-breasted Waterhen, Indian Moorhen and Black-winged Stilt.
The main birding habitats in India can be broadly classified into forests, scrub, grassland & farmland, deserts and wetlands, each of these is home to a characteristic population of bird species, quite different from those found in other habitats. Notable exceptions are some species to be met with in any of these areas, such as the national bird, the Indian Peafowl, the Blue Rock Pigeon and the Hoopoe. See these habitat types in the Top Sites section below.
The best time to visit India from an ornithological standpoint is no doubt the months between October and April as, in addition to the variety of resident species, migratory waterfowl, raptors, starlings & other passerines and a host of other species are also to be seen all around the Indian countryside.