RANGANATHITTU BIRD SANCTUARY, also known as PAKSHI KASHI is a bird sanctuary in the Mandya District of the state of Karnataka. It is the largest bird sanctuary in the state about 40 acres in area and comprises 6 islets on the banks of the Kaveri River. This bird sanctuary is situated 3km away from the historic town of Srirangapatna and 16km north of Mysore. The sanctuary attracted about 2.90 lakh visitors during 2011-2012, which shows its notability as an important bird sanctuary.
The islets came into being when an embankment across the Kaveri River was built in 1648 by the then Mysore King Kantirava Narasimharaja Wodeyar. The ornithologist, Doctor Salim Ali observed that the islets formed an important nesting ground for birds and persuaded the Wodeyar Kings of Mysore to declare the area a “wildlife sanctuary” in 1940. The Forest Department of Karnataka State is maintaining the bird sanctuary and makes great efforts to improve the sanctuary, which includes purchase of nearby private lands to expand the protected area.
The islets experience heavy flooding during certain rainy seasons when water is released from the KRS dam upstream. During heavy flooding, boating is suspended and tourists are allowed to watch the nesting birds from a distance. Frequent flooding has also damaged some portions of 3 islets over the past few decades.
Riverine reed beds cover the banks of the islets, while the islets themselves are covered in broadleaf forests, with dominant species being Terminalia Arjun, (Arjun tree), bamboo groves and Pandanus trees. Eucalyptus and Acacia trees have also ben planted which might lead to long-term eradication of native species.
Roughly around 170 birds have been recorded here in great numbers over the years. Of these, birds like the painted stork, Asian open-bill stork, common spoonbill, woolly-necked stork, black-headed ibis, whistling duck, stork-billed kingfisher and other common birds like egrets, cormorants, oriental darter and herons breed here regularly. The great stone plover and river tern also nest here. It is also home to a large flock of streak-throated swallows. During the months of January and February, more than30 species of birds are found and the season of the sanctuary is from November to June. About 50 pelicans have made RANGANATHITTU as their permanent home.
During winter months, starting from mid-December, at certain seasons, as many as 40,000 birds congregate in this bird sanctuary and some birds come from Siberia, Latin America and parts of North India. This sanctuary is a popular nesting site for the birds and about 8,000 nestlings were sighted during June 2011.
The islets are also host to numerous small mammals including Bonnet Macaque, colonies of flying fox and common small animals like palm civet and Indian grey mongoose and the monitor lizard. The mugger crocodile or marsh crocodile is a common inhabitant of the riverine reed beds and RANGANATHITTU has the largest fresh water crocodile population in Karnataka State.
Ranger-guided boat tours of the islets are available throughout the day, and are a good way to watch birds and crocodiles. There is no lodging at the sanctuary, so visitors have to stay over at Mysore or Srirangapatna. The seasons for visiting the sanctuary are June-November (the nesting season of the water birds). The best time to watch migratory birds is usually December, but it can vary year to year.
The Karnataka State’s 1st Bird Festival ——— HAKKI HABBA was inaugurated on Friday, the 27th of March, 2015.