Birdwatching at Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur

Common Coot
Common Coot

Are you looking to spend a leisurely weekend in Jaipur? Set your eyes on Man Sagar Lake, a generous gift of nature which is tucked away from the city centre. You can spot resident birds throughout the year and hear their cheeps and chirps. But remember, by the end of winter (end of February- beginning of March), migratory birds start returning to their homeland.

Although I am not a seasoned bird watcher, I could easily spot around 15 different birds during my visit.

A wader
A Wader

You have to know a thing or two about birds so that you can tell one bird from the other when you find them in natural surroundings. Here are some snippets of information about the resident and migratory birds:

Resident Birds

The lake is home to three types of cormorants: Great, Little, and Indian (Indian Shag). All three are black. The shag, the smallest cormorant, has a long slender beak. The little one with domed head has a short beak without any yellow hints. The throat of the largest cormorant (Great) is yellow. All three dive in water to catch fish – their staple diet.

Flying cormonant
A flying Cormorant

Egrets are white birds that fly over and rest at the banks of the lake. A bird enthusiast would always love to see all the four different categories of egrets – Great, Intermediate, Little, and Cattle Egrets. The largest egret (Great) is a leggy with a long beak and long curved neck. Intermediate is not exactly a twin brother of Great, but the bird watchers confuse one with the other. The only differentiating factor is the legs. While Great Egrets have thick legs, the Intermediate Egrets have comparatively thinner ones. The neck of an Intermediate Egret is slanted and both the birds have yellow beaks.

Reef Egret
Reef Egret

Little Egret is generally seven-tenth of Great in size. The legs of Little Egrets are also thick but the thin beak is black. Cattle, the smallest egret, is slightly more than half of Great in size. It has a short yellow beak. Great, Intermediate, and Little Egrets eat fish and like company of each other, waders, and herons. However, the smallest egret chases cattle.


Herons are classified as Black-crowned Night, Indian Pond, and Grey. Black-crowned Night Herons rarely make appearance in the presence of sun. As the dusk sets in, they come out of woods. That is why they are called Black-crowned Night. The back, beak, and cap of the nocturnal bird are black. The red eyes and yellow legs add a tinge of colour to this exquisite creature.

Flying Heron
A flying Pond Heron

Indian Pond Herons have brownish bodies, yellow beaks and thin yellow legs. Tall Grey Herons enjoy knee-deep water. While the body is mainly grey, the beak is yellow and the long neck is curved. All herons eat fish.

Pond Heron

Omnivorous Common Moorhen, a resident crake, survives on frogs, mollusks, and water plant shoots. The dark body of the bird is complemented by bright red beak and forehead. The underparts are bluish. The lower body has white lines.

Common Moorhen
Common Moorhen

Cute Black-winged Stilt has thin long legs of pink colour. The beak is long and cylindrical. The underparts and the head are white, whereas the upper parts are black. The stilt wades through polluted lakes and ponds to find micro-organisms that make its diet.

Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt

Small Laughing Dove lives in the lake environment. The dove has black spots on the upper breast. The underparts, neck, and head are brownish. The long tail features black stripes. It lives on weed seeds, grains, and cereals.

Migratory Birds

The ducks that migrate to Man Sagar Lake during winter (December-March) include Common Teal, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Pintail and Ruddy Shelduck.

Common Teal, a dabbling duck from Siberia, loves swimming in group. The male teal has a white horizontal stripe along the feather at the base of the wing. Its eye stripe is generally green and rarely blue. Chestnut brown colour adorns its head.

Common Teal
Common Teal

The dabbling ducks prefer dabbling to diving when it comes to looking for food.

Grey Gadwall has white belly and dark grey beak. This dabbling duck enjoys a swim with other ducks. Its meal consists of mollusks, worms, and water vegetation.

Eurasian Wigeon is another dabbling duck, which is a photographer’s delight. The duck has yellow crown and forehead, pink breast, and chestnut brown head. Wigeon feeds on insects, larvae, and water plants and likes to socialise.

The long tail of Northern Pintail points upwards. The grey body has black linings. A bird watcher cannot help but observe its contours. With a slender beak it catches larvae and insects that complement its seed and vegetation based diet.

Omnivorous Ruddy Shelduck with copper colour body uses its thin black beak for catching insects and collecting shoots and tubers. The legs are reddish. The duck prefers to breed in the Himalayas.

The crake Common Coot with black body has white forehead and beak. You can find it swimming alone or in groups. The coot survives on insects, water plants, and worms.

Common Coot
Common Coot

Some birds like Pied Cuckoo migrate to the lake environment during summer and monsoon. The cuckoo with black body has long tail. But its underparts and throat are white. The bird feeds on ants, beetles, caterpillars, flying termites and mollusks.

Birdwatching event at the Man Singh dam

You can join the birding event at the Man Singh dam overlooking the lake to know more about the birds. Alternatively, hire a professional guide or just take a copy of Oxford Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by Richard Grimmett and Tim Inskipp during a birdwatching tour.

In the last week of January 2015, the Tourism and Wildlife Society of India (TWSI) hosted a two-day Indian Birding Fair at the man-made lake located in the northern part of Jaipur. The purpose of hosting the annual fair is to conserve about four centuries-old lake.

Raja Man Singh built the lake while damming the Darbhawati River to use rain water for recreation and irrigation. His successor constructed Jal Mahal, a red sandstone palace amid the lake. The palace in Moghul and Rajput style of architecture adds charm to the already exotic environment.

Conservation efforts need to be upped since many winged inhabitants have already left due to plummeting fish population of the lake. The water deprived of aquatic vegetation, micro-organisms and planktons also affect the population of migratory birds.