A checklist of birds of Kerala, India

Praveen J


B303, Shriram Spurthi, ITPL Main Road, Brookefields, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560037, India






doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.2001.7.13.7983-8009 | ZooBank: urn:lsid:zoobank.org:pub:ADF45BA2-D906-4D08-90DC-38B1405A9089


Editor: Mewa Singh, University of Mysore, Mysuru, India. Date of publication: 17 November 2015 (online & print)


Manuscript details: Ms # o4305 | Received 11 May 2015 | Final received 23 September 2015 | Finally accepted 29 September 2015


Citation: Praveen, J. (2015). A checklist of birds of Kerala, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(13): 79838009; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.2001.7.13.7983-8009


Copyright: © Praveen 2015. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.


Funding: None.


Conflict of Interest: Vernacular names used in this MS has been directly taken from an online directory maintained by

Birdwatchers of Kerala Facebook group with explicit permission from its moderator.


Acknowledgements: I would like to acknowledge the contribution of my team members viz., P.O. Nameer, Rajeev Raghavan, A. Bijukumar, Mohamed Jafer Palot and Sandeep Das in getting this checklist into a final shape. Dileep Anthikkad, Sandeep Das and Vivek Chandran contributed the images used along with this paper. I would also like to acknowledge help rendered by Jinesh P.S. of Birdwatchers of Kerala Facebook group in finalising the vernacular names of birds of Kerala. My thanks are due to two anonymous referees for correcting several errors in this paper.






Abstract: A checklist of birds of Kerala State is presented in this paper. Accepted English names, scientific binomen, prevalent vernacular names in Malayalam, IUCN conservation status, endemism, Wildlife (Protection) Act schedules, and the appendices in the CITES, pertaining to the birds of Kerala are also given. The State of Kerala has 500 species of birds, 17 of which are endemic to Western Ghats, and 24 species fall under the various threatened categories of IUCN.


Keywords: CITES, endemism, Malayalam name, vernacular name, Western Ghats, Wildlife (Protection) Act.




Birds are one of the better studied groups of vertebrates in Kerala. The second half of 19th century was dotted with pioneering contributions from T.C. Jerdon, Bourdillon brothers, H.S. Ferguson, James Stewart, Rhodes Morgan and William Davison while the early half of the 20th century included significant works of A.P. Kinloch, H.R. Baker and E.G. Phythian-Adams; all of these British workers contributed immensely to our present day ornithological knowledge. The first significant inventory of birds of Kerala was by Ferguson & Bourdillon (1903–04) who provided an annotated checklist of 332 birds from the princely state of Travancore. However, the landmark survey of the states of Travancore and Cochin by Dr. Salim Ali in 1933–34 is widely accepted as the formal foundation in ornithology of Kerala. These surveys resulted in two highly popular books, The Birds of Travancore and Cochin (Ali 1953) and Birds of Kerala (Ali 1969); the latter listed 386 species. After two decades, Neelakantan et al. (1993) compiled information on 95 bird species that were subsequently recorded since Ali’s work. Birds of Kerala - Status and Distribution (Sashikumar et al. 2011) that covered 453 species is the most recent work from the state. A checklist of birds of Kerala was also published based on this book (Sashikumar et al. 2010). As a part of this work, all records from Kerala were critically assessed and species that were included in prior publications without sufficient documentation were deleted. Praveen & Narayanan (2013) updated this checklist with 32 more species recorded between May 2010 and December 2013. They additionally listed eight species which have been historically recorded from Kerala with definite evidence, but not recorded since 1 January 1975. Since the publication of Praveen & Narayanan (2013), eight species have been added to the avifauna of Kerala through formal publications. These cases are annotated with footnotes. Though naturalised species like Rock Pigeon Columba livia are included in the checklist, definite or potential cage escapees like Red-breasted Parakeet Psittacula alexandri, Budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus and Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis are excluded. Acute identification difficulties exist in some cases for sight and photographic records particularly for Riparia martins where field separation is impossible on current knowledge. Hence, Pale Martin Riparia diluta and Sand Martin R. riparia are excluded from the list (Praveen & Narayanan 2014) though definitely one of the species has been reported multiple times from Kerala. Pelagic birds that occur within the maritime limits of Kerala are marked in blue.

Avian taxonomy is in a lot of flux in the last decade with genetic studies questioning traditional taxonomy. We followed the taxonomy of Howard & Moore 4th edition (Dickinson & Remson 2013; Dickison & Christidis 2014) putting a premium on stability over informed speculation. This would mean that several splits proposed by recent authors (Rasmussen & Anderton 2012) and uncritically accepted by other global taxonomies (Gill & Donskar 2014; Clements et al. 2014) are not considered here as these proposals are conjectures awaiting separate taxonomic treatment. Birdlife International (2014) follows taxonomy based on the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (delHoyo & Collar 2014); however, the second part on passerines, which essentially has encountered major upheavals, is yet to be assessed. However, there is definitely a scope that most of these taxonomic proposals are likely to be supported in the future with molecular evidence. Hence, we provide the details of contradicting taxonomies as footnotes. In the context, it is worthwhile to state that we follow Praveen et al. (2014) for English names. This reference essentially follows Howard & Moore 4th edition for taxonomy but have adapted the English names that are more widely used in India (e.g., Yellow-throated Sparrow for Chestnut-shouldered Bush Sparrow). Alternate English names that are prevalent in India for these birds are included in brackets.

Birds probably have the most extensive vernacular literature in Kerala. Names proposed by Neelakantan (1984) and later extended by Grimmett et al. (2007) and Sashikumar et al. (2011) are generally accepted. Alternate names prevalent in other parts of Kerala are also included. The complete compilation of Malayalam names for all the species were posted in the Birdwatchers of Kerala community in social media (Facebook) and several feedbacks and suggestions obtained are incorporated. BirdLife International has published the 2015 revision of redlist for birds and the same has been used in this work.

In this monograph, 500 species of birds in 88 families and 22 orders are listed. Out of which 17 are endemic to Western Ghats. Twenty-five species fall under the various threatened categories of IUCN, 32 are Near Threatened, 443 fall under one of the schedules of Wildlife (Protection) Act and 71 fall under one of the appendices of CITES.





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