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Location India, Kerala
Central coordinates 76o 10.83' East  10o 11.48' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 13,632 ha
Altitude 0 - 1m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description The Kole wetlands, covering an area of 13,632 ha are spread over Thrissur and Malappuram districts extending from the northern bank of Chalakudy river in the south to the southern bank of Bharathapuzha river in the north (Johnkutty and Venugopal 1993). The name Kole refers to the peculiar cultivation practice carried out from December to May. “Kole”, a Malayalam word, indicates a field that gives a bumper crop, so long as floods do not damage it (Nameer 2002). Rice cultivation in Kole started as early as the 18th century by reclaiming the Trichur kayal lands (backwaters) by erecting temporary earthen bunds. The water pumped out from the field is stored in a network of canals in the area. The Kole areas are low-lying and have a central, narrow strip covering a long expanse, with many pockets running into cultivated land on either side. The region is naturally subject to salt-water ingression. During the monsoon, the entire region, which gets submerged under water, is cultivated by draining the water and by erecting bunds. Regulators are provided at certain strategic points to prevent the intrusion of salt water into the Kole wetlands during the cultivation period. Grasses and sedges are found in shallow and drier zones. The main activity in and around Kole is paddy cultivation. As Kole is a large sprawling wetland, with human habitation all around, there are coconut and arecanut plantations, gardens and cultivated plants.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: A total of 182 bird species has been recorded from the Kole wetlands, of which 53 are winter visitors (Sivaperuman and Jayson 2000, Nameer 1994, Nameer 2002, Jayson 2002). The importance of these wetlands can be judged from the fact that between March 1988 and May 2001, Nameer (2002) recorded 21 bird species not recorded by Ali (1969). Of these, seven species i.e. Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos, White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus, Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus, Plain Sand Martin Riparia paludicola, Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris and Red Munia Estrilda amandava were recorded for the first time in Kerala (Nameer 2002). Kole wetland has been monitored by an organization called Nature Education Society, Trichur (NEST) (Nameer 1993). In 1992, NEST recorded 23,605 birds, including 50 species of waterbirds and four raptors (Jayson 2002). Next year, 54,000 birds, including 48 species of wetland birds were recorded (Nameer 1993). Kole wetlands may have the largest roost of terns in India. Nameer (2002) estimated about 25,000, including 10,000 Whiskered Terns Chlidonias hybridus. According to Wetlands International (2002), 1% population threshold of Whiskered Tern in India is 1,000. Therefore, almost 10% of the population of this species congregates at Kole wetland. Other species seen above their 1% biogeographic population threshold are (number seen at Kole given in brackets): Garganey Anas querquedula (7,887), Little Egret Egretta garzetta (5,000) and Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica (3,365). Sivaperuman and Jayson (2000) have reported Rufous Babbler Turdoides subrufus, a Western Ghats endemics found in tall grass and bamboo at the edge of forests (Grimmett et al. 1998). Kole wetland is selected as an IBA as it perfectly fits three criteria: A1: it has many globally Threatened and Near Threatened species; A4i: it has ³1% of the biogeographic population of Indian Whiskered Tern, Garganey and Gull-billed Tern, and A4iii: it has ³20,000 waterbirds.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Data on other fauna are not available.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Garganey Spatula querquedula 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
Egretta garzetta 2004  present  A4i  Not Recognised 
Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis resident  2004  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Sterna nilotica 2004  present  A4i  Not Recognised 
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  2004  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2003 high not assessed not assessed
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - small-holder farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) moderate to rapid deterioration low
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of ground water (agricultural use) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - herbicides and pesticides happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Residential and commercial development commercial and industrial development happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) very rapid to severe deterioration low


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland)   -
Coastline   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
Notes: Agriculture
water management -
Notes: Water management

Acknowledgements Key contributor: P. O. Nameer.


Ali, S. (1969) Birds of Kerala. Oxford University Press. Bombay.

Grimmett, R., Inskipp, C. and Inskipp, T. (1998) Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Christopher Helm (Publishers) Ltd., London, U.K.

Johnkutty, I.and Venugopal, V. K. (1993) Kole wetlands of Kerala.Kerala Agricultural University. Pp. 68.

Jayson, E. A. (2002) Ecology of Wetlands Birds in the Kole lands of Kerala.

KFRI Report No. 244. Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi. Pp. 95.

Nameer, P. O. (1993) Birds of Kole Wetlands - Survey Reports II. Nature Education Society, Trichur (NEST) Kerala, Kerala Forest Research Institute and Kerala Forest Department. Pp. 1-21.

Nameer, P. O. (1994) Birds of Kole Wetlands - Survey Reports III. NEST and Kerala Forest Department.

Nameer, P. O. (2002) Kole wetlands - an internationally important wetland in peril. Proceedings of the Fourteenth Kerala Science Congress 29- 31 January 2002, Kochi, Pp 627-630.

Sivaperuman, C. and Jayson, E. A. (2000) Birds of Kole Wetlands, Thrissur, Kerala. Zoo’s Print Journal 15(10): 344-349.

Wetlands International (2002) Waterbirds Population Estimates: Third Edition. Wetlands International Global Series No. 12. Wageningen, The Netherlands.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Kole Wetland. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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