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Location India, Tamil Nadu
Central coordinates 79o 52.48' East  12o 32.03' North
IBA criteria A1, A4iii
Area 80 ha
Altitude 0
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description The Vedanthangal (50 ha) and Karikili (30 ha) bird sanctuaries are located about 85 km southwest of Chennai, in Chengalpet district of Tamil Nadu. These are old water storage reservoirs for irrigation in the Chengalpet plains. They have also become important as breeding sites for large waterbirds. There are several much larger tanks (e.g. 350 ha Madurantakam Tank) in the surrounding plains, but these are generally less important from the wildlife point of view. Vedanthangal tank receives some water from Madurantakam tank through a link channel, but Karikili is wholly rainfed. Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is one of the oldest bird sanctuaries in south India. Documentary evidence of its existence is available from 1793. In 1798, the Collector of Chengalpet district issued a prohibitory order against shooting of birds in Vedanthangal. In 1858, a sub-magistrate revived the 1798 order as it had not been followed strictly. But only in 1936 did the Collector officially recognised Vedanthangal as a Sanctuary and sanction government funds towards its maintenance (Venkatraman 1996a). Vedanthangal has been visited by many ornithologists since the last 100 years. Hume and Oates (1889-1890), Bates (Bird Life in India 20-47), Whistler and Kinnear (1937) during their Vernay Scientific Survey, Sanjeeva Raj (1956) and Spillet (1966). Vedanthangal has been developed to enhance its value to wildlife; a number of elevated mud islands have been created and planted with trees to provide ideal nesting sites for herons, egrets and other colonial nesting birds. By contrast, Karikili Tank is undeveloped and remains in much the same condition as Vedanthangal was during the 1950s. Karikili is situated about 10 km from Vedanthangal, and is in fact two small tanks with a combined area of about 50 ha. Both tanks fill up during the northeast monsoon in October-November. In immediate vicinity of the tanks there are bare plains, paddy fields and scrub forest. During the monsoon, shallow pools are formed in many places, which provide additional foraging areas for water birds. The area has a tropical monsoon climate, with an average annual rainfall of about 1,000 mm, mostly during October-November (northeast monsoon). There are mainly common herbaceous plants in the marshy areas. In the late 1970s, the islands in Vedanthangal were replanted with Barringtonia acutangula to replenish the dead and dying trees. These trees are preferred for nesting by Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans and Black-headed or White Ibis Threskiornis melanocephala.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: Vedanthangal and Karikili tanks satisfy IBA criteria A1 and A4iii and are treated as one IBA site due to their proximity. Both sites are used by a large number of waterbirds for nesting (Vedanthangal) and foraging (Karikili). An estimated 30,000 birds are present at Vedanthangal Tank during the breeding season. The main species at both the tanks are the Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis, Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger, Darter Anhinga melanogaster, Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia, Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, Asian Openbill and Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii. A small number of Spot-billed Pelicans also visits both tanks. Pelicans breed occasionally in Vedanthangal, mainly on Barringtonia trees (Paulraj and Gunasekaran 1988, Venkatraman and Muthukrishan 1993). According to the booklet produced by the Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu, 15 species of storks, egrets and cormorants breed in Vedanthangal. The total number of bird species seen is about 115, mostly common species. These tanks are also important as roosting sites for many birds, especially Little Cormorant, outside the breeding season. Large numbers of migratory waterfowl are seen on passage and in winter, particularly the Northern Pintail Anas acuta, Garganey Anas querquedula, Northern Shoveller Anas clypeata, Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, and many shorebirds and terns, particularly Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida. Santharam (1999) has seen the globally threatened Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga in 1996 in Vedanthangal. This site is selected as an IBA mainly because of the occurrence and occasional breeding of the globally threatened Spot-billed Pelican, and other Near Threatened species and presence of more than 30,000 waterfowl during winter.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: There is no large wild mammal of conservation concern in these sanctuaries as they are surrounded by human habitations and agricultural fields.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis resident  2004  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  2004  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

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

Biological resource use fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration very high

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Karikili Sanctuary 61 protected area contained by site 61  
Vedanthangal Sanctuary 30 protected area contained by site 30  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - aquatic   -
Shrubland   -
Artificial - terrestrial   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
Notes: Agriculture
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
water management -
Notes: Water management

Acknowledgements Key contributors: IBA Team.


Hume, A. O. and Oates, E. W. (1889-1890) Nests and eggs of Indian Birds. Second Edition, R. H. Porter, London.

Paulraj, S. and Gunasekaran, G. (1988) The Vedanthangal water-bird Sanctuary: a new breeding ground for pelicans and Painted Storks. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 85: 414-415.

Sanjeeva Raj, P. J. (1956) Occurrence of the Spottedbilled Pelican, Pelecanus philippensis Gmelin, in the Vedanthangal heronry. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 53: 703-704.

Santharam, V. (1999) Records of Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga from Southern India. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 96: 470.

Spillet, J. J. (1966) A report on Wildlife survey in South and West India. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 65(3): 633-663.

Venkatraman, C. (1996a) Studies on the colonial waterbirds and the characteristics of the lake of the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, Madras, Tamil Nadu. Ph.D. thesis submitted to University of Madras.

Venkatraman, C. (1996b) Human disturbance a major factor for nest destruction. Newsletter for Birdwatchers 36: 33-34.

Venkatraman, C. and Muthukrishnan, S. (1993) Density of water birds at Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu. Pp. 55-60. In: Bird conservation, strategies for the nineties and beyond. Bangalore: Ornithological Society of India. (Eds. Verghese, A., Sridhar, S. and Chakravarthy, A.K.). Bangalore: Ornithological Society of India.

Whistler, H. and Kinnear, N. B. (1937) The Vernay Scientific Survey of the Eastern Ghats (Ornithological Section): J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 39: 447-463.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Vedanthangal and Karikili Bird Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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