Birds of Tal Chhapar and Thar Desert – 1 Week Trip for 200 Species

Western India

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Tour Details

The arid landscapes that Rajasthan is home to may seem like the last place anyone would want to go birding. However, a closer look will reveal to you the amazing bird and animal life that these places support, much of which is specially adapted to the dry and water-scarce habitats, as well as being endangered. This tour gives you the opportunity to explore the Desert National Park and Tal Chappar Sanctuary, as well as the Jorbeer Sanctuary in Bikaner, some of the most popular arid-land birdwatching destinations in the subcontinent. You will also visit Ajmer/ Pushkar area on the way back to Delhi.

Finding life in the desert
After planning this trip for many years, and it is canceled for a myriad of reasons, I finally had the chance to do some birding in Rajasthan, mainly in the desert habitats. Non-birders reading this may wonder why I’m ignoring all the beautiful forests India is home to. The answer is simple - these places are far from lifeless. Whether it is the colorful local life and beautiful traditional textiles, or the myriad of birds and animals one can find here, much of it uniquely adapted to the harsh conditions, these places are special indeed!
The first place I visited was Tal Chhapar, from where I entered the desert, so to speak. While not completely barren, the habitat here is clearly of the drier variety. My main target here was the Indian Spotted Creeper. Most non-birders may see a photo of this bird in a book and think “Why is this so special? It’s not even colorful or graceful?” Well, the unique habit of this bird, to scale up and down tree trunks like a woodpecker in search of food is something I find fascinating. Couple that with its amazing camouflage (thanks to that “boring” plumage), and the challenge makes the search even more fun! Needless to say, with the help of the accompanying guide, finding this bird was not a difficult task at all, although I won’t say it was easy.
I also got amazing photos of herds of Blackbuck, a graceful antelope I had last seen in Velavadar in Gujarat. Not to mention my other lifer here - Yellow-eyed Pigeon. A lot of amateur birders may confuse this bird with the feral pigeons we see everywhere and again, this is something that only a birder will find special!
From Tal Chhapar, I moved on to Bikaner. The foodie in me knows Bikaner as the birthplace of many of my favorite snacks! However, I was here for a somewhat much less appetizing experience. My interest here was birding near Bikaner, namely the Jorbeer Vulture Conservation Reserve. This place is a livestock carcass dumping ground that attracts scores of multiple vulture species as well as other scavengers. Only a truly dedicated birder would visit here, or at least one who is desperate to see vultures. In the 1990s, the use of the veterinary drug Diclofenac caused the vulture population in India to drop by 99%, what experts call the “Asian Vulture Crisis”. I still listen fascinatedly to the stories of some of my older birding friends who tell of days when you could see flocks of vultures in the cities. Now you know why these birds are so sought-after by birders and the importance of places like Jorbeer.
After looking at what some (definitely not me) may call ugly birds in Bikaner, my next stop was Kheechan, to see a congregation of birds no one in their right mind would call anything less than elegant.
For years, locals in the village of Kheechan have put out grain for the Demoiselle Cranes that stop here during their migration. Kheechan has now become an important fueling stop for these amazing birds, who gather in the thousands, and a delight for birdwatchers who flock here (although in less numbers than the cranes).
After this amazing spectacle, I moved to the main stop on my tour: Desert National Park. Whoever thinks deserts are only hot has clearly not visited one in winter, and never done any birding at Desert National Park. The biting cold almost made me question my resolve a few times, but the promise of bustards was too great! Needless to say, my guide was simply amazing, and got me great sightings of not only Great Indian Bustard, but also Macqueen’s Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Desert Lark, several wheatears, and many more lifers!! Needless to say, a piping hot fresh meal at a local Dhaba was the least I could do for him!
What made this entire trip even more special was the colorful people here. Even in this harsh region, people are so welcoming, and their traditions and culture so colorful, it truly lifts the spirits. Several obligatory (but welcome) cups of chai in local houses, and a few games of cricket with the kids were the icing on the cake of my trip.



Day 01: Delhi to Tal Chapper
Day 02: Tal Chapper
Day 03: Tal Chapper to Bikaner
Day 04: Bikaner to Desert National Park
Day 05: Desert National Park
Day 06: Desert National Park to Jaisalmer
Day 07: Jaisalmer to Ajmer
Day 08: Ajmer to Delhi

  • Birds and Mammals
  • Bird Watching
  • Village Visits
  • Photography
  • Local Cuisine
  • Quaint Accommodation
Services Included
  • Accommodation on a twin / single sharing basis
  • Meals as per the itinerary
  • Birdwatching in Tal Chapper, Bikaner, DNP, and Ajmer area
  • Permits of DNP
  • Dedicated transport 
  • All taxes
Services Not Included
  • Optional tours, tips, laundry, soft and hard drinks, bottled water, meals not specified
  • Camera fee, additional safaris, Camel ride, Bullock Cart ride
  • Airfare, insurance, and any other services not specified in cost inclusions.
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