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Location India, Madhya Pradesh
Central coordinates 80o 53.15' East  22o 20.13' North
IBA criteria A1
Area 94,000 ha
Altitude 600 - 900m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description Kanha National Park (Tiger Reserve) in the central Indian highlands is well known as a world-class natural heritage site due to its large mammals, but not many people know that it is also an excellent bird watching area. Located in the heart of Madhya Pradesh and stretching over an area of 94,000 ha, Kanha National Park is part of one of the largest Tiger Reserves in the world. The National Park constitutes the core of the Tiger Reserve. The buffer zone comprises of 194,500 ha of Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest and grassland. We have considered the National Park as an IBA. Two river valleys are prominent features of the Park’s topography: the Banjar in the west and the Halon in the east, both tributaries of the Narmada. Kanha is a comparatively well-studied area (Schaller 1967, Kurt 1973, Martin 1977, Newton 1984, Kotwal 1984, 1987; Panwar 1977) but information on birds was lacking till Newton et al. (1986) published a preliminary list. Since then, there have been many additions to their records. Four principal vegetation types have been identified in Kanha: Moist Deciduous Forest, Dry Deciduous Forest, valley meadow and plateau meadow. The vegetation is chiefly made up of Sal and bamboo forests, and grassland. The vegetation has been described in detail by Jain and Sastry (1983) Kotwal (1984, 1987), and Kotwal and Parihar (1989).

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: More than 260 bird species have been listed from this IBA site (Newton et al. 1986; D’Cunha 1998, 2003). Besides, the two Critically Endangered vulture species, the Oriental White-backed Gyps bengalensis, and the Long-billed Gyps indicus, the highly endangered Lesser Florican Sypheotides indicus is also occasionally seen in the grasslands of Kanha (Ranjitsinh 1983). The Sarus Crane Grus antigone is found just outside the Park, in Khapa in the buffer zone (Newton et al. 1986). Sightings of Dark Grey Bushchat Saxicola ferrea and Gold-fronted Chloropsis Chloropsis aurifrons have increased their known distribution range. Newton et al. (1986) also recorded that the Rosy Minivet Pericrocotus roseus is not a sporadic winter visitor to central India, as recorded by Ali and Ripley (1987), but also breeds in this area, as they observed a bird with nest material in May. Newton et al. (1986), during their visits to Kanha between 1980 and 1983, found the Oriental White-backed Vulture to be common, “scavenging tiger (Panthera tigris) and Dhole Cuon alpinus kills”. However, Eric D’Cunha (pers. comm. 2003) says that this species has become extremely rare. The Long-billed Vulture was always rare, mainly due to lack of nesting cliffs, but now it has disappeared completely from Kanha. The Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus, mainly found in the Western Ghats, east India and Sri Lanka (Grimmett et al. 1998) was found to be common in the Sulkam Valley of Kanha (Newton et al. 1986). In central India, Kanha is one of the largest and best protected areas, with well preserved forests. Therefore, the bird life is rich and varied. It has most of the representative species of Indo- Malayan Tropical Dry Zone (Biome-11). Of the 59 Biome-11 species listed by BirdLife International (undated), 33 are found in Kanha. As this National Park is visited by many birdwatchers, new sight records are regularly reported. For instance, D’Cunha (2003) has recently reported Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja, which is fairly common in the Himalayas and northeast hills and comes down to winter in the adjacent plains (Grimmett et al. 1998). It was reported once by D’Abreu (1913) from Balaghat district, so this is the second record from central India.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The Park was originally established to protect the hard-ground Barasingha Cervus duvauceli branderi, which is presently restricted to the Park (Panwar 1977). Today there are about 200 individuals. Other mammals include Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard P. pardus, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Indian Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, and all other large and small mammals typically seen in central Indian forests. Hispid Hare Caprolagus hispidus has also been reported from the Kanha meadows, but has not been confirmed by sighting (Bell et al. 1990, Goutam Narayan pers. comm. 2002).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Indian Vulture Gyps indicus non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Lesser Florican Sypheotides indicus resident  2004  present  A1  Endangered 
Sarus Crane Antigone antigone resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 

IBA Monitoring

2013 low favourable medium

No known threats no known threats happening now whole area/population (>90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Forest   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Kanha National Park 94,000 is identical to site 94,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   -
Grassland   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
Notes: Agriculture
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism and recreation

Acknowledgements Key contributor: The IBA Team.


Ali, S. and Ripley, S. D. (1987) Compact Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (Second Edition). Oxford University Press, Delhi.

Bell, D. J., Oliver, W. L. R. and Ghose, R. K. (1990) The Hispid Hare Caprolagus hispidus. In: Chapman, J. A. and Flux, E. C. (Eds) Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN Gland, Switzerland.Pp. 128-136.

BirdLife International (undated) Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Asia: Project briefing book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K., unpublished.

D’Abreu, E. A. (1913) The occurrence of the Himalayan Yellowbacked Sunbird Aethopyga seheriae in the Central Provinces and extension of its habitat. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 22(2): 392-393.

D’cunha, E. P. E (1998) Checklist of the birds of Kanha National Park (M.P).

D’Cunha, E. P. E. (2003) Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja seheriae in Madhya Pradesh. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc.100 (1):147-148.

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

Jain, S. K. and Sastry, A. R. K. (1983) Botany of some tiger habitats in India. Botanical Survey of India, Dept. of Environment, Government of India.

Kotwal, P. C. (1984) The ecology and social organization of Hanuman Langur (Presbytis entellus Dufresne, 1797) in Kanha Tiger Reserve, central Indian highlands. Ph.D. thesis, Oxford University, U.K.

Kotwal, P. C. (1987) Ecological studies on evaluation of certain wildlife habitats and their utilization by major mammals in Kanha National Park. D.Sc. thesis. Doctor Harisingh Gour Vishwavidyalaya, Sagar.

Kotwal, P. C. and Parihar, A. S. (1989) Management Plan of Kanha National Park for period 1989 to 1998-99. Project Tiger, Kanha, Mandla.

Kurt, F. (1973) Zoologisch-okologische Exkursion in den Kanha- Nationalpark (Indien). Vierteljahrsschr. Naturforsch. Ges. Zurich. 118. In German with English summary.

Martin, C. (1977) Status and ecology of the barasingha (Cervus duvauceli branderi) in Kanha National Park (India). J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 74: 61-132.

Newton, P. N. (1984) The ecology and social organization of Hanuman langurs (Presbytis entellus Dufresne 1797) in Kanha Tiger Reserve, Central Indian Highlands. D. Phil. thesis, University of Oxford.

Newton, P., Breeden, S. and Norman, G. J. (1986) Birds of Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 83.

Panwar, H. S. (1977) Success with the Branderi, Barasingha. Tigerpaper 4(4): 1-6.

Ranjitsinh, M. K. (1983) Occurrence of Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indica) in Kanha National Park. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc.80(3): 641.

Schaller, G. (1967) The Deer and the Tiger. Chicago University Press, Chicago.

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