Wildlife around Agra

Indian Skimmer, Chambal River
Indian Skimmer, Chambal River

Yes, there is more to Agra than just the Taj Mahal. There are several sanctuaries and wetlands in and around Agra ideal for watching birds and other wildlife. In this post I will talk about about some of the well known and then some lesser known places that a wildlife enthusiast or nature lover can visit when they're in the city of the Taj. 

Wildlife Hotspots around Agra
Wildlife Hotspots around Agra

Wildlife spotting around Agra can be adventurous and a great alternative for those of you looking to go beyond the Taj. To visit some of these places you will need a local familiar with the area as the exact location, timings, road conditions and wildlife reports are not available online or if they are then the information is likely not to be updated on a regular basis.

birds of bharatpur
Marsh Harrier, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

As an avid birdwatcher and wildlife enthusiast, I make it a point to visit the below places of interest around my hometown (Agra) on a regular basis. Some of my favorite places within a couple of hours drive from Agra include:
  • Kheetam Jheel or Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary: one hour from Agra going towards Mathura on the old Agra - Delhi highway. During the walk through the forest and around the lake you can see pelicans, several species of migratory birds, raptors, pythons, jackals and nil gai. There is an entry fee to visit the Park. Vehicles are allowed up to a certain point. No naturalists are available so you have to explore the sanctuary on your own. There are no hotels near the sanctuary and you should plan to stay in Agra. 
Sarus Cranes in Bharatpur
Sarus Cranes, Bharatpur
  • Keoladeo National Park: one hour from Agra going towards Jaipur is the world famous pedestrian friendly Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur. Besides thousands of birds during the winter months you can also see spotted deer, sambhar deer, nil gai, jackal, hyena, turtles and other reptiles.  On occasion leopards are known to enter the Park too and a few years ago a tiger was also spotted in camera traps. You can rent rickshaws, bicycles, a golf cart or simply walk the park to see it's wildlife. There are several hotels within walking distance from the Park, advance bookings are highly recommended during peak season (November to March).
Jodhpur jhal near agra
Barn Owl
  • Jodhpur Jhal - a water catchment created by the Irrigation department near the village of Jodhpur also on the old Agra-Delhi highway. Migratory birds visit in massive numbers during the migratory season and it's also a great place to see sarus crane and raptors. The drive to Jodhpur Jhal is through farms which are prime habitat for birds of prey such as falcons, eagles etc.
Birding in Dholpur
Plum headed Parakeet
  • Bari & other wetlands near Dholpur: An hour and half from Agra on the way from Dholpur to Karauli are a few wetlands ideal for bird watching. Pelicans in the hundreds, flamingoes, ducks, geese, sarus cranes, common crane and raptors such as osprey, marsh harrier, black winged kite are seen here. Mammals I've seen include the jungle cat, deer, jackal and sloth bear and leopards are also spotted here after dark.
  • Patna Bird Sanctuary: An hour and half drive from Agra going towards Avagarh is a small and lesser known bird sanctuary called Patna (not to be confused with the city Patna in Bihar). This sanctuary was once the hunting grounds of the Avagarh royal family. In winter thousands of migratory birds make their way to this wetland surrounded by farms on all sides. The wetland also has a section of mysterious date-palm trees and no one knows when and who planted them.
Desert Fox
Desert Fox
  • Chambal River Safari can be done in Dholpur near the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh border (upstream) and in Bah, Uttar Pradesh (downstream), both spots are up to an 1.5 hour drive from Agra. During the river safari you can see Indian Skimmer, various geese, Eurasian & Indian thick-knee, terns and raptors. It is a reptile haven as you can see crocodiles, gharial (critically endangered fish eating crocodiles), eight species of turtles, desert fox, hyena and if you're really lucky a Gangetic river dolphin.
Bayana vultures
Indian or Long billed Vulture
  • Bayana: Ideal for those of you keen to see vultures (Indian, griffon, king and slender billed) and other birds of prey. These vultures have found a new home on the safe and steady rocky ledges of a hill in this historic town between Bharatpur and Karauli. Nearest place to stay is Bharatpur and can be combined with a visit to Dholpur for the Chambal River Safari. If you have more time you can also visit the historic fort ruins that are on top of the same hill where the vultures nest.
Sarus Crane
Sarus Crane

By now, you must have realized that there are indeed some amazing wildlife spotting opportunities around Agra. Other than Keoladeo in Bharatpur, the places I mentioned above are not on a wildlife enthusiast's itinerary so you can expect to be one in a handful of tourists visiting these places.


To make the most of your visit to any of these places, plan to dedicate at least one full day to each place. If you rush and plan too many things in the same day you won't enjoy and it will be a waste of effort and money.

White-tailed Lapwing
White-tailed Lapwing
 
Keep in mind traffic conditions and fog on the highways in the winter months especially towards the end of December till mid January. Therefore, you need to be flexible with your travel plans as low light conditions are not favorable for driving (and photography) and visibility only begins to improve around noon. It also gets dark by 5pm and it is not advisable to be hanging around in these places after dark. Always carry drinking water, food and cash as there are no tourist friendly facilities or ATMs other than in Bharatpur. 


All the above locations are accessible by road and can be self driven or reached by taxi. Trains and buses are not recommended other than from/to Bharatpur which lies on the Agra-Jaipur highway. Please get in touch, should you have any questions or would like to visit these places. I can be your naturalist and also arrange for transportation to and from these places.

birds of chambal
Osprey and Gharial Crocodile, Chambal River

Please Note:
  • There is no guarantee that you will see the above wildlife. The river and / or sanctuary is their habitat and sightings depend on water level in the river, human interference, weather conditions, migratory pattern of birds, most of which are beyond your and my control. 
  • What to carry: photo identification, camera, binoculars, warm jacket (in the winter), backpack, sun glasses, cap, vizier, sun block, some cash, drinking water.
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol is strictly not permitted in National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • Please do not throw trash on the floor even if you don't see a trash can. Please ask me and I help to dispose it off properly.
  • To prevent any disturbance to wildlife, I do not permit the use of any call playback to attract birds, feeding or baiting of wildlife. Despite this, if you do and are caught by the authorities or called out by locals or fellow wildlife enthusiasts, then you are entirely on your own - embarrassment, fines and other penalties as per the local laws governing national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are to be borne by you.

For any questions, email info@travelwith.in or call / whatsapp +919717148483.

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