Bhadra – Abode for River Terns


Bhadra, the land of wilderness, is the home of thousands of river terns that migrate during summer. Bhadra Wild Life Sanctuary is in the midst of the Western Ghats in Chikmagalur and Shimoga districts.  The migrated River Terns mate, breed, and raise their chicks before getting back to their original destination. For people who love birds and want to observe them closely, this is the right place.

I signed up for Bhadra trip with Darter not knowing much details. After hectic schedule at work, I wanted to visit a forest and unwind myself. We stayed in River Tern Jungle Lodge, that is on the banks of back waters of river Bhadra. This lodege provides you an amazing view of the river in the evenings.

Sunset at Bhadra River Tern Lodge

We left Bangalore on 3rd May 2013, early in the morning and reached River Tern Jungle Lodge by lunch time. JLR provides both boat and jeep safari to have a glimpse of the habitats, flora, and fauna of the forest. We went for boat safari and I was stunned to see thousands of river terns flying everywhere in and around the islands . Even before getting into the river terns, I would want to mention about the elephant that was keeping itself cool in the river. Initially, we were wondering if it is alive or dead as it hardly made any movements. As the boat started moving closer to the elephant, we could see his movements. Apparently he was disturbed by our boat. Looks like he decided to make a quick move by having a bath with the muddy water.

Once he was out of the water, it was time for him to pour mud on him to protect himself from the heat, and insects. Of course, he had to put the mud on all parts of his body 🙂

After this, he just vanished into the thick jungle. As we moved ahead, we went closer to the islands to observe the river terns. Here are some images of them, before I get into the specific observations.

In just two days of my stay in JLR, I had few unique observations. The most important one is the river tern feeding its baby. Here are some images of the same. I was lucky enough to observe this and shoot them as well. The river tern parents hunt for fish in the river and get the fish back to the chick. As the chicks moves from the nest, it is a tough task for the parents to look out for their chick and give the feed.

The other observation I had was a chick approaching a parent for food and the parent flying off without giving the fish. I was wondering about this behavior and did enough research on net until I came across this article in JLR Explore – “River Tern Rendezvous” by Himansu Tripathy. Thanks to this article, I got my answer. Basically, river terns get the fish and start looking out for their chick. With so many chicks around, it is easy for the parent to mistake a chick as its own and vice versa. As soon as the parent realizes that the chick is not its own, it just takes off without giving the fish to the chick. You get to see lot of river terns with fish in its beak and looking around most often.

Threat for the river tern chicks are huge by the predators. Once we saw a woolly necked stork approaching the island and the entire population of river tern started flying to chase away the stork as they saw a threat in it.

Another incident was two Boneli’s Eagle picking a river tern chick from the nest. Few minutes before this incident, I had seen two chicks with its parents. It looked like the nest was inside the dead bark of a tree that was bit protective to the chicks. One chick moved out and the other stayed there. After few minutes, I heard lot of disturbance and moved my camera towards it. Within few seconds the eagle took the chick and flew away. Though I felt sad for the chick, realized that is how law of nature works!

I have been talking only about the river terns and forgotten tigers completely! How is that possible when Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary is a tiger reserve as well! Well, I got a glimpse of my first tiger rather tigress in the wild. She was sitting for quite a long time and resting on the banks of Bhadra. She gave us enough time to shoot and then moved and hid behind a rock staring at us. It looked to me as if she is telling now leave me alone!

Along with river terns, you get to see plenty of birds in the wildlife sanctuary. We saw plenty of Malabar Parakeets, wood peckers, malabar giant squirrel and so on. Some of the birds I captured during the boat ride are here.

After all this, how can I forget the beauty of Bhadra river and the surroundings.  Here are some glimpses of what I captured during my two day stay in JLR.

I want to go back to Bhadra again and observe the river terns more and more! I have realized I enjoy observing birds and their behaviour more than anything else :).


  1. Deepa Mohan
    December 9, 2015 @ 5:11 am

    Exhaustive post on Bhadra! Loved the images. You seem to have packed a lot into one visit Pari!Enjoyed it very much. Deepa.


    • Pari
      December 10, 2015 @ 5:05 pm

      Thanks Deepa! Yes, it was a place filled with activities and felt that I might have missed some :).


  2. Santhosh Krishnamoorthy
    December 9, 2015 @ 5:13 am

    Lovely writeup and images !!


    • Pari
      December 10, 2015 @ 5:05 pm

      Thanks Santosh!


  3. Manish Lakhani
    December 22, 2015 @ 1:08 pm

    Wow.. nice images and write up is really going well . 🙂


    • Pari
      January 3, 2016 @ 12:19 pm

      Thanks Manish! 🙂


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