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Location India, Tamil Nadu
Central coordinates 77o 43.80' East  8o 28.20' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i
Area 129 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description The Koonthangulam Bird Sanctuary is located in Naguneri Taluka of Tirunelveli district between Moolakaraipatti and Kariandi. It is about 20 km from Tirunelveli town. It is a rain and river-fed freshwater tank, and receives water from the Manimuthar river. The globally threatened Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis breeds here, along with other birds. It is one of the oldest known pelicanries in India, having existed for 200 years or more. Rhenius first reported this pelicanry in 1906 (Rhenius 1907). The villagers believe that the birds that come to Koonthangulam are harbingers of good luck and their yearly arrival ensures good rainfall. They also benefit from the rich guano deposited in the breeding colonies. This is used to fertilize the fields. Guano-rich tank water is used for irrigation. Koonthangulam (also transcribed as Koondakulam) has a large tank within the village precints, and several smaller tanks scattered in the vicinity. These waterbodies and the fields are the main foraging grounds for birds. Koonthangulam is basically an agricultural area, so there is no forest as such. Acacia nilotica has been planted in about 35.5 ha. This is where most of the birds nest.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: The pelicanry at Koonthangulam is quite famous and commented upon by various naturalists (e.g. Rhenius 1907, Webb-Peploe 1945, Wilkinson 1961, Nagulu and Rao 1983, Kumar 1993 and Thomas et al. 2000). In the early 1990s, about 1000 Spot-billed Pelicans were recorded (Anon. 1993). This constitutes more than 8% of the biogeographic population. During a pelican survey in January 2003, only about 452 Spot-billed Pelican were recorded breeding. BirdLife International (2001) has listed records of pelicans from 1906 up till 1993 from this site. Besides the Spot-billed Pelican, Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala breeds in the village in large numbers, sometimes on the trees inside private property. In some years, Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber also built nest mounds, though breeding has not been confirmed. Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans, Oriental White or Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus, Black Ibis Pseudibis papillosa, Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger, Pond Heron Ardeola grayii, Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax, Darter Anhinga melanogaster, Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus, Northern Pintail Anas acuta, Northern Shoveller Anas clypeata, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, Common Coot Fulica atra, White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus, Indian Moorhen Gallinula chloropus, Purple Moorhen Porphyrio porphyrio and various species of waders are also seen here, many in numbers greater than their 1% biogeographic population threshold. This IBA site is also famous for its vast flocks of Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus sometimes up to 1,000 are seen together, foraging in the inundated crop fields or flying from one foraging area to another.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Most of the smaller mammals of rural areas are seen in this site, such as Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, and Jungle cat Felis chaus.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis resident  2004  present  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 

IBA Monitoring

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

Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - herbicides and pesticides happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Kuthankulam Sanctuary 129 is identical to site 129  


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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
water management -
Notes: Irrigation; Water management

Acknowledgements Key contributors: V. Kannan, Robert Grubh and Asad R. Rahmani.


Anonymous (1993) Directory of Indian Wetlands, 1993. WWF India, New Delhi and Asian Wetland Bureau, Kuala Lumpur.

BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: The BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Kumar, S. V. (1993) Koondakulam. Sanctuary 14(8): 40-41, 70-73.

Nagulu, V. and Rao, J. V. R. (1983) Survey of south Indian pelicanries. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 80(1): 141-143.

Rhenius, C. E. (1907) Pelicans breeding in India. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 17: 806-807.

Thomas, J., De Britto, A. J., Johnson, J. A. and Sridhar, S. (2000) A preliminary study on the biodiversity of Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu. Indian Journal of Environmental Sciences 4(2): 135-142.

Webb-Peploe, C. G. (1945) Notes on a few birds from south of the Tinnevelly district. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 45: 425-426.

Wilkinson, M. E. (1961) Pelicanry at Kundakulam, Tirunelveli district. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 58: 514-515.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Kunthangulam Bird Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

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