Located on the southwest coast of India, Kochi is the most populated city in the state of Kerala. This port city straddles the backwaters, covering the southern end of the peninsula, including several islands and a portion of the mainland. This geographic position has been pivotal in the socio-cultural and economic history of Kochi. While we understand this, we need to keep in mind the ecological history of this place. This region is the bedrock of many unique species including crabs, frogs, mudskippers, otters, and turtles. Thick vegetation constituting palm trees, pandanus shrubs, and various leafy plants grow alongside the backwaters.
In the heart of Kochi is the Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary covering an area of about 2.74 hectares. It is an ecologically sensitive area that is a nesting ground for various migratory birds. It is also the only bird sanctuary in Kerala which is located in a Mangrove forest. According to the records of the Forest Department, there are about 80 species of migratory birds that flock to Kochi every year. Some of these include waders like the Common greenshank and Common redshank, Brahminy kite, White-breasted waterhen, and Marsh sandpiper.
The mangroves in and around Willingdon Island, Vallarpadam, and Kadamakkudy also display this rich diversity in birds. From Brahminy kites to the elusive blackhead kingfishers, bitterns, hornbills, and sandpipers, there are several different species found here from September to April.
From October to February the wetlands around the city serve as winter resorts for water birds. In regions like Vypin Island, beautifully crafted nests by the Baya weavers can be found hanging from the branches of trees. Egrets, herons, water-hens, and purple moorhens can often be spotted in these marshlands and mangroves. Godwits, terns, ospreys, golden plovers, pratincoles, Paradise flycatcher, and Osprey birds are some of the other winged visitors in and around Kochi.
While these wetlands and backwaters provide a haven to the various birds visiting, within Ernakulam alone one can find a variety of birds, depending on the flora around. Trees with small berries and flowering plants with nectar attract a great many species, from the purple-rumped sunbird to magpie robins, white-cheeked barbets, and bulbuls.
Kochi is considered a paradise for these migratory birds. However, the peculiar position of the rapidly urbanizing city, closely straddling the mangroves and the backwaters, threatens to upset the delicate balance of these ecosystems. There are reports of a decline in bird population in and around the region. Disappearing wetlands and the changing landscapes are the major reasons for this decline.