Birding along the Killi river in Trivandrum city

Birding is an interesting hobby and I have been into it for over a year now. The article below was written on a different site which no longer exists and hence I decided to copy it over here.

Killi river and Karamana river are the two major rivers which runs across Trivandrum city in Kerala. Killi river joins Karamana river near Thiruvallam at the outskirts of Trivandrum city. At these places, the joint river is highly polluted carrying a lot of raw sewage from the city. The river is so bad at these areas that even accidently falling into the river can cause serious health issues and I am not sure whether any birds can survive is these areas.

Unlike the downstream areas of Karamana river, the upstream of Killi river is fairly clean. I live on the east side outskirts of Trivandrum city which is around 2KM from the Killi river (near Kanjirampara and Sasthamangalam on the way to Vattiyoorkavu). 

My idea was to start birding from Maruthankuzhy bridge walking upstream along the Killi riverbank. The Killi river is not very polluted here since it is yet to cross the city. Hence as of now it supports a good population of birds in the city. But things are rapidly getting worse. There is a lot of encroachment along the river bank and in many places raw sewage is directly dumped into the river. I also saw people dumping garbage in large sacks. Unless there is a very focused effort in getting it clean, Killi may turn into a sanitary sewer.

We (me and my cousin) started birding trip in the early morning of 4th April 2009. We started from the main road at Maruthankuzhy bridge on the Vellayambalam-Vattiyoorkavu road. There is a public footpath that leads to the Killi river bank. In theory, both river banks are government property and hence anyone should be able to walk along the river bank. But in many places people have encroached government land and in some places the pathway is completely blocked by private buildings or walls. Whenever we came across a wall, we took a detour through the adjacent road to get to the next bridge and started walking again.

We walked for about 2 hours covering approximately 2KM along the river side. We saw more than 12 bird species along the way. We also saw a number of bird nests along the river bank.

Birds of Killi River in Trivandrum City

Following is the list of birds I have photographed on the Killi river bank.  All the photos seen below were taken during the trip. We did see a couple of more species, but I decided to count only the ones I managed to photograph.

common mynaCommon Myna (Acridotheres tristis)

Mynas are so common that sometimes I think they will overtake crows as the majority bird species in Trivandrum. We saw about 10-15 of them including two nests on coconut trees.

house crow

House Crow (Corvus splendens)

Over 20 crows were spotted, but there is no increase in the number due to the river presence.

Yellow-billed Babbler (Turdoides affinis)

Yellow-billed Babbler (Turdoides affinis)

Just one group of about 6-8 members were spotted.

Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

These were flying very low and about 4 of them were spotted.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti)

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti)

Just one of these were spotted.

Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis)

Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis)

Very common and I spotted two distinct groups with 2-3 members.

Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger)

Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger)

I saw two of these and the population density is roughly 4 per KM of river.

Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis)

Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis)

I spotted two of these and I think we can expect a population of 2 per KM of Killi river.

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)

These are very shy birds and seeing one is not easy. I was able to spot 3 of them. So a population of about 4 per KM of river is a good guess.

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Wherever cattle is there, you can find one of these.  I spotted about 3 of these on the ground and about 2 in flight.

Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)

Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)

Spotted just one near a bridge where there is plenty of water.

Glimpse of Killi River (Click for a large photo)

Glimpse of Killi River (Click for a large photo)

Tips for Birding along Killi River

killi-river-near-maruthankuzhy-bridge Killi river can be approached from a number of places. The route of my birding trip is marked on the map (click on the map to see Google Map of the area). The best approach locations are at Maruthankuzhy bridge (which I took),  Mannammoola bridge (which is on the Peroorkada – Vattiyoorkavu road) and Thozhuvancodu bridge (approach from Sasthamangalam-Vattiyoorkavu road via Thozhuvancode temple).

All these places are about 4KM from Trivandrum city centre (Central Railway station) and plenty of bus services are available. If you take an auto, it will cost you about Rs.80 maximum. You can also go upstream to places such as Vazhayila, but then you are going out of city.

If you decide to go birding, don’t try to cross areas which has houses on the banks. If you really must cross, ask for permission. Also be prepared for a lot attention and enquiries from local people.  Media in Kerala has been generating a lot of unreasonable fear (FUD) about terrorism and the like and hence many people are now hostile towards strangers. Be nice and if someone becomes hostile, counter it with an enquiry about the local reduction in crow population.

Gear Used for Birding

  • Nikon D80 with 70-300mm G lens.
  • Nikon Action 10×50 binoculars
  • Vivitar VPT 3600 tripod
  • Liviya backpack/Zeikos DSLR bag

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April 24, 2010 | Posted in Travel Reviews No Comments » | By Jayson Joseph

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