Birding in Nandi Hills

The first time I went to Nandi Hills in 2011 I almost swore not to go back again. We had lost our way horribly and reached the top at around 11.30 am. A terrible time to be in Nandi Hills, as we realized later. Picnic parties were in full swing with the area choc-a-bloc with cars parked bumper to bumper. There were monkeys swinging down from every branch and twig, snatching and begging for food. Chaos reigned supreme. Nandi Hills definitely was not my type of place, I surmised. 

Imagine my surprise when I read article after article on the thriving bird life there. And not just your usual birds but birds that were found in the Niligiri biosphere. We had gone searching for those birds in far flung places like Coorg and apparently they were there in Nandi Hills itself. Really? Amongst the madding crowd? The pictures on blogs said so. Maybe it was time for us to look at Nandi Hills with different glasses.Or binoculars.

That decided, we landed there one morning at 7.30 am with the whole family in tow. The in-laws a little bleary-eyed, but the little brat up and raring to go! I loved the cool morning breeze on my face as we wound our way up the steep bends. At one bend, the husband abruptly stopped the car. 

“I saw a flash of white….a white tail!”

Asian Paradise Flycatcher

A white tail could only mean one thing, the glamour boy of Nandi Hills, better known as the Asian paradise flycatcher. The celebrity bird turned out to be in an ungracious mood and did not offer its picture to be clicked. We had to be satisfied with a few fleeting glances before continuing on our upward journey. Once we had paid our entry fees at the gate and reached the top, we decided to park our car near the dosa stall and walk down the steps. I could not help but notice the beauty of the place, something which had got lost in the melee in my previous visit. Dark forests, thick shrubs, colourful flowers in full bloom and the trees resplendent in all their spring glory.Even the monkeys seemed peaceful.

Although there were only a couple of early morning revelers at that hour, we did not come across too many birds near the steps, barring a few oriental magpie robins, greenish warblers and puff throated babblers. Perhaps Nandi Hills was jinxed, too, just like Valley School and Gulakmale Village, where birds never show themselves to us. A little crest-fallen, we walked back up the steps, unaware of our impending success. Within the next hour, we came across several gems, lifers for us. The blue capped rock thrush, blue rock thrush, pied thrush, Indian blue robin, olive backed pipit, tickell’s leaf warbler and the Indian blackbird made it to our list of first time sightings. I also saw a bird that closely resembled the common rosefinch, which perplexed me a lot since nobody had reported the bird from Nandi Hills previously. Call it co-incidence or simple luck, but the first thing I saw on Facebook on returning home, was the picture of a rosefinch which was clicked at Nandi Hills by another person. 

 Blue capped Rock Thrush

 Indian Blackbird

Pied Thrush

Olive backed Pipit

We were jubilant and declared then and there that we shall come back again the next weekend. 

And so, there we were in Nandi Hills last Saturday, a bit earlier than last time. This time, we planned to explore the nursery area. We parked our car and walked down the bends towards the nursery. And who should we find on our way? The gorgeous orange-headed thrush! Someone had deposited a bunch of small tomatoes by the side of the road and quite a crowd had gathered to partake of the morning feast. There were Indian blackbirds, bulbuls, rock thrushes and even drongos in the group. We walked on, stopping here and now to observe the hide-n-seek games of oriental white-eyes and sunbirds, when suddenly I saw a pair of beautiful pigeons canoodling together near some bushes. These gentle creatures turned out to be the Nilgiri wood pigeons, another lifer for us. A little way ahead, a lone female grey jungle fowl was foraging the ground for food and immediately ran for cover at our approach.

Nilgiri Wood Pigeon 

 Orange headed Thrush

On reaching the nursery area, we found large groups of youngsters, posing and clicking away selfies and group pictures and what-nots. We felt it would be difficult to look for birds in that environment and retreated towards the car.Once again we were entertained by the bold, unperturbed blue capped rock thrush and Indian blue robin who went about their daily routine, ignoring our presence. The tawny-bellied babblers were not that accommodating though and played skittish all along. 

 Blue Rock Thrush

Ashy Drongo 

 Puff throated Babbler

 Tawny bellied Babbler

Oriental Magpie Robin

The husband and I had split up looking for birds, though frankly, I am more of a binoculars person than camera in case of birds. Suddenly, I saw him gesturing at me frantically and I rushed towards him. Silently, he showed me a little blue bird that he had captured on his camera monitor. At that moment, I did not know that I was looking at the beautiful migrant ultramarine flycatcher. As we were trying to locate the flycatcher, a peculiar noise, like that of a wood-boring insect, caught our attention and we turned around to find that it was made by our friend the Indian blue robin. Till then, I had not heard its call. A strange call for a bird so bold and beautiful.

Indian Blue Robin 

 Greenish Warbler

Tytler's Leaf Warbler 

Tickell's Leaf Warbler 

 Blyth's Reed Warbler

Greenish Warbler

The sun was making it presence felt by then and we decided to return home. On our way back, we went over our second trip’s haul and summarized the two trips’ hits and misses. Significantly, we had failed to catch sight of the one bird that everyone who comes to Nandi Hills sees – tickell’s blue flycatcher. Before visiting Nandi Hills, I was sure that I would see it even though I may not see other birds. And that’s the bird that eluded us on both the trips, along with the verditer flycatcher. 

Oh well, we can always come back to Nandi Hills. After all, it is such an amazing place! *swallows humble pie and scuttles away*

Ultramarine Flycatcher

Oriental White Eye

Indian Robin

List of birds sighted in Nandi Hills:

Asian Paradise Flycatcher (both white and rust morph), Common Rosefinch, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Niligiri Wood Pigeon, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Orange-headed Thrush, Pied Thrush, Indian Blackbird, Indian Blue Robin, Oriental Magpie Robin, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Puff-throated Babbler, Tytler's Leaf Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Ashy Drongo, Grey Jungle Fowl, Oriental White-eye, Common Tailorbird,  Green Bee-eater, Pied Bushchat, Indian Robin, Red-vented Bulbul, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Common House Sparrow, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Common Mynah, Jungle Mynah, Black Kite, White-cheeked Barbet, Common Hoopoe, Ashy Prinia, Rose-ringed Parakeet

Note - Besides its bagful of beautiful birds, Nandi Hills is also known for a lot of other things. Here’s what Wikipedia says (my selection):

Nandi Hills or Nandidurg is an ancient hill fortress of southern India, in the Chikkaballapur district of Karnataka state. It is located approximately 60 km from the city of Bangalore. The hills are now a popular tourist spot during summer. Some of the things to see and do while in Nandi Hills are -

1. Tipu's Drop - the place from where Tipu Sultan threw his condemned prisoners to death

2. Tipu's Summer Palace and Fort 
3. Temples - dedicated to Sri BhogaNarasimha, Sri UgraNarasimha and Sri Yoga Narasimha
4. Nehru Nilaya - where Jawaharlal Nehru used to stay, now a guest house of the horticulture department
5. Rivers - the rivers Pennar, Palar and Arkavati originate from these hills. Most of the sources have dried up. 
6. Paragliding 
7. Cycling/biking - Nandi Hills is cyclists’ paradise, a good ~400 meters of altitude gain in ~7 km of ride. 

The gates to Nandi Hills open at 6.00 am.

We were horrified to see people driving around with music blaring from their car speakers at 7.00 am. Perhaps a little peace and quietness is too much for city dwellers who are always surrounded by loud noises. How about enjoying the music of birds chirping for a few minutes, for a change? 

Our kind request to people who would like to visit Nandi Hills, please do not litter the beautiful place with plastic, garbage or noise pollution. Please refrain from feeding the monkeys, too.


  1. Amazing captures particularly the paradise flycatcher! What a sighting.

    1. Thanks, Mridula. It was very difficult to click this one. Must thank hubby for managing a decent pic in the fraction of a second, although he is not at all happy :) But I am not after quality much, a sighting is enough for me!

  2. So beautiful! Lovely pics which I enjoyed with your easy and flowing narrative!

  3. I would just not be convinced enough to believe the first para that you were not aware of the birding potential of Nandi hills ;)

    ...and added to that you see the Wood Pigeons / Pied thrush all foraging on the ground...!
    I'm strongly gaining to believe you either cast a magic spell or something else to ensure you see a whole lot in 1/2 trips :):)

    1. Really, Santosh, I used to be so amazed whenever you guys wrote about birding in Nandi Hills.. We thought we were the only ones who could see just the people and not birds :) Thank god, we went there and bust our own myth! I think the birds strategically appeared before us to teach us a lesson, to never underestimate any area in future :)

  4. Amazing report Sangeeta. Very beautiful photos too.

  5. A beautiful trip report makes me long to visit it :-) Thanks for the information.


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