Top 10 Migratory Birds in India: Name the Spectacular Travelers and What Makes Them Special

India is home to a variety of spectacular migratory birds. Every winter and summer, these travelers from faraway lands journey to India and make it their temporary home. From tiny hummingbirds to majestic cranes, let’s take a moment to appreciate the majestic beauty and unique features of some of the top 10 migratory birds in India.

These nomadic birds traverse long distances over land, sea, and sky in order to reach their destination. They’re both an amazing and inspiring sight to behold. Let’s explore the different varieties of feathered visitors that come and go every year, as well as what makes them so special. After reading this article, you’ll be an instant expert on the spectacles that grace our skies!

Amur Falcon: The Long-Distance Migrant

When it comes to long-distance Migratory birds in India, it doesn’t get much more impressive than the Amur Falcon. This small raptor migrates an astonishing 10,000 km from Central Asia to South Africa! This incredible feat is due in part to its wingspan of nearly three feet and a migratory route that veers only slightly off its direct course.

Amur falcon - Migratory Birds in India
Amur falcon, Falco amurensis. It breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China before migrating in large flocks across India and over the Arabian Sea to winter in Southern and East Africa, Lonavala India

The Amur Falcon is a brownish-gray bird with distinctive red legs and black tips on its wings and tail. They are typically seen in flocks over open fields and grasslands, though they can be found roosting during their stopover in India in areas like Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan.

Aside from their impressive migration range, the Amur Falcon also distinguishes itself through its feeding behavior. Its diet mostly consists of insects caught in the air, which makes them delicately balanced predators that maintain natural habitats and ecosystems.

Bar-Headed Goose: The High-Altitude Flyer

The Bar-Headed Goose is no ordinary waterfowl—it is known to fly across the Himalayas at an astonishing altitude of 5,000-9,000 meters! Its long, slender wings allow it to glide at higher altitudes and are a sight to behold.

The Bar-Headed Goose migrates from the Tibetan Plateau and Central China to Indian wetlands in the autumn, then returns to its nesting ground in the spring. It stays in India from October through March, choosing Danrup Jheel in Assam as its wintering habitat.

What makes this species even more distinctive is its diet. Along with their customary plant matter and aquatic invertebrates, these birds have been known to eat algae growing on rocks or exposed sand bars. They are also flexible foragers who can adjust their diet depending on food availability.

Bar-Headed Goose
Bar-headed goose, Anser indicus, single bird on the grass.

If you want to spot a Bar-Headed Goose during its migration season, you must head out early—they tend to keep their highest altitudes during sunrise and sunset!

Black-Necked Crane: The Tibetan Plateau Visitor

If you’re looking for a unique showstopper, the Black-Necked Crane is the one for you! These graceful and stunning birds are found in Tibet, as well as parts of India like Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Standing at an impressive 130 cm tall, they migrate from the Tibetan Plateau to the Indian plains during winter—a true spectacle to gaze at! – Migratory Birds in India

Black-Necked Crane
Black-necked crane, also known as the Tibetan crane, is the world’s only alpine crane.

Here are some unique features of these birds that make them so special:

  • Natural camouflage: They have white bodies speckled with black patches near their head, wings and tail. This helps them blend in with their snowy background when flying!
  • Dancing wings: The way they flap their wings is a sight to behold, as if they’re dancing while they soar through the sky.
  • Spectacular honk: Its call can be heard from a mile away—it’s loud and clear enough to stop you in your tracks!
  • Status Symbol: Black-necked cranes are seen as symbols of good luck among some nomad tribes in Tibet.

All these features make this migratory bird one of the most spectacular travelers of India.

Siberian Crane: The Endangered Migratory Bird

The Siberian Crane, also known as the red-crowned crane is one of the most majestic species of migratory birds you can find in India. It is a large bird, with a wingspan that extends up to 2 meters wide.

It’s unfortunately an endangered species, with only an estimated 3,600 mature individuals left in the wild.

Unique Features:

  • Its feathers are usually white, but can be gray or brown depending on its age
  • It has a bright red crown, facial skin and bill
  • Its long glossy neck is curved like an ‘S’ shape
  • Legs are generally black and their feet are yellow
  • Notable call consists of loud trumpeting sounds
  • Uses its long beak to feed on fruits grains and insects
Siberian Crane
Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus) in flightSiberian crane (Grus leucogeranus) in flight

These majestic birds travel thousands of kilometers each year— they usually depart from Siberia in October and arrive at the wetlands of Bharatpur in November ready for breeding season. From February to early April they start making their way back, flying over India and Nepal before reaching their final destination in Siberia by May. And so this incredible journey starts all over again!

Oriental Darter: The Snakebird Migrant

The fifth entry in our list is the stunning Oriental Darter, also known as the Snakebird. This migratory bird species is found across India, and is recognizable for its long and slender neck.

Here’s why you should keep an eye out for this spectacular traveler:

  • It’s a large-sized bird, measuring up to 90 cm in length.
  • Its plumage features a glossy black crown and breast while its neck is chestnut red.
  • It has a long, sharp bill that resembles a snake ready to strike its prey!
  • Its diet mainly consists of fish that it expertly spears with its pointed bill.
  • It can be seen flying over wetlands in groups of 5-6 birds with flights of up to 15 birds in the winter.
  • It nests in colonies near water bodies and breeds once a year during the rainy season from June to October.
Oriental Darter

The Oriental Darter is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, since it enjoys wide distribution throughout Southeast Asia, India and Australia.

Eurasian Wigeon: The Beautiful Migrant Duck

Number 6 on our list of migratory birds in India is the Eurasian Wigeon. This duck’s scientific name, Mareca penelope, comes from the legend of Penelope, a faithful wife who waits for her husband to return home from the Trojan War for 20 years! Just like Penelope, this duck is also spotted all over the world — and it migrates to India every winter.

The Eurasian Wigeon is one of the most striking ducks you’ll ever see — it has an orange head with a green neck, white stripes on its chest, and brown wings flecked with white feathers. In flight, they look like they have double wings — they tuck the secondary pair when they fly in formation.

Eurasian Wigeon

Here are a few unique features that make this beautiful migrant duck stand out:

  • It lays 10-14 eggs in an open grassy area near a freshwater pond or lake.
  • It can dive while swimming to find food under water – invertebrates such as snails and insects.
  • Its Lifespan can be as long as 30 years — which is quite a feat for any bird!

Tufted Duck: The Diving Duck Migrant

When talking about migratory birds in India, you have to mention the gorgeous Tufted Duck. This magnificent duck is a diving duck migrant that visits India during the winter season. Here are a few of its unique features:

  • Colorful Feathers: The Tufted Duck can be easily identified by its black head with white tuft, yellow eyes and gray-brown feathers. The male usually has an extra tuft in front of the eyes and its undertail is very noticeable.
  • Unique Behavior: You will rarely find a Tufted Duck by itself; if you find one, it’s most likely part of a flock. They love to be in water and feed on aquatic plants, molluscs and other invertebrates. If spooked or frightened, they will dive into the water and won’t surface until the danger has passed. They also use this technique to sleep underwater at night.
  • Superb Flyers: The Tufted Ducks are great flyers as well; they fly with their wings pushed forward, which gives them an elegant look when spotted in flight. They migrate between their breeding grounds in Europe and Central Asia to escape harsh winter weather in their homes. They have been known to reach incredible altitudes when traveling—at times, over 4000 meters!

So there you have it—the beautiful Tufted Duck that migrates to India during winter season and spends its time here till April or May before starting its journey back home!

Gadwall: The Underrated Migratory Duck

You’ve probably heard of ducks, but may not have known that the Gadwall is a migratory duck in India. This beautiful bird spends its summers breeding in Russia, Kazakhstan, and other parts of Central Asia before migrating south to spend winter in India.

Gadwalls stand out for their distinct rufous-brown head and neck, and gray body plumage. Male gadwalls have a white patch on the secondary flight feathers as well as on the wings — these features can be seen when these birds take flight.

  • A few special features of these lovely birds:
  • Males are larger than females
  • They tend to congregate around small bodies of shallow water
  • Feed mostly on vegetation such as pondweeds, water lilies, and small insects
  • Their breeding season includes courtship displays involving powerful wing movements

Common Teal: The Pint-Sized Migratory Duck

Another migratory bird you’ll find in India is the Common Teal. You can identify them by their small size—they’re the smallest dabbling duck in the world! They have a distinctive pale brown color on their bodies, while they have white-gray feathers under the wings.

Since they’re pint-sized, Common Teal are often preyed upon by larger birds. To avoid being eaten alive, they’ve developed an interesting adaptation—they tend to stay in large flocks near a lake or a pond. This way, if a predator approaches, they can all take off together and fly away quickly.

If you want to spot Common Teal in India, head over to Thol Bird Sanctuary in Gujarat or Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan during migratory season from August to October. Just make sure you listen for their call—it’s a nasally-sounding “keek-keek”, rather than cooing like other ducks!

Northern Pintail: The Elegant Migratory Duck

You might know the Northern Pintail when you see it—it’s an elegant bird with mostly white feathers, a long tail, and an unmistakable profile. This migratory duck is one of the most graceful waterfowls you can find in India.

So what makes the Northern Pintail special?

  • Fleeting Appearance: Northern Pintails are found in India from August to November before they make their journey back to their breeding grounds in Eurasia. So, if you get a chance to witness them, be sure to take it!
  • Elegant Profile: The Northern Pintail is easy to recognize due to its unique profile—the males have grayish-brown heads and necks, and white bodies with a black patch on its wings. The females have more muted colors—brown heads and bodies with black patches along with some streaks of white. Both genders have slender necks with unmistakable dark-tipped tails.
  • Special Behavior: Northern Pintails are known for their ‘puddling’ behavior—they tend to gather in large numbers on wet sandbars or shallow pools of water where they search for food like aquatic plants or fish eggs by dabbling in the water or upending themselves in search of food underneath the surface. You won’t want to miss this display!


Who knew such majestic creatures could be found in our part of the world? From the soaring Himalayan Vultures to the delicate Painted Storks, the list of migratory birds in India is truly impressive. In their own unique ways, they play an important role in our country’s biodiversity and it is an honor to know that these spectacular travelers exist in our lush environment. Whether you’re a bird-watcher or just an admirer of wildlife, we hope you enjoyed learning about these marvelous creatures and may each of us take the time to appreciate their beauty and the part they play in our country’s diverse ecosystem.

Frequently Asked Questions On Migratory Birds in India

  1. Which is the largest migratory birds in India?

    Siberian Crane is the largest migratory bird in India.

  2. What is the most famous migratory birds?

    The most famous migratory bird is arguably the Arctic Tern, known for its incredible annual migration of up to 44,000 miles.

  3. What is the fastest migratory bird?

    The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest migratory bird, capable of reaching speeds of over 240 mph (386 km/h) during its migration.

  4. Which state is famous for migratory birds in India?

    Rajasthan is one of the most famous states in India for migratory birds, as it hosts a number of bird sanctuaries and wetlands that attract a wide variety of migratory species.

  5. Which lake is also famous for migratory birds in India?

    Chilika Lake, located in the state of Odisha, is famous for migratory birds and is one of the largest wintering grounds for migratory waterfowl in the Indian subcontinent.

  6. Do flamingos one of the migratory birds in India?

    Yes, flamingos are one of the migratory birds in India. The greater and lesser flamingos are known to visit various parts of India for breeding and feeding purposes.

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