Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary or Kunthankulam is a 1.2933 km2 (0.4993 sq mi) protected area declared as a sanctuary in 1994. It adjoins the tiny village of Koonthankulam in Nanguneri Taluk of Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu, India. It is just 38 km away from Tirunelveli (a bustling town on the banks of the Tambaraparani River). 8.58102°N 77.76123°E It is composed of Koonthankulam and Kadankulam irrigation tanks, conveniently linked by tar road. This is the largest reserve for breeding water birds in South India. International name: Kunthangulam Bird Sanctuary, IBA Code: IN269, Criteria: A1, A4i.
This unique sanctuary is actively protected and managed by the Koonthankulam village community. The local people take a keen interest in protecting this sanctuary and they live together in total symbiotic harmony. Birds coming to villagers backyards are protected vehemently and regarded as harbingers of luck. The excreta of birds and silt from the tanks is collected by villagers in summer and applied as fertilizer to their fields. All villagers protect the birds, their nests and fledgelings. Fallen chicks are taken care of in the rescue centre till they are able to fly on their own.
Anyone disturbing the nests are punished by shaving their head, or making a public procession on a donkey. The Indian festival Diwali is not celebrated here because the sound of crackers would drive away the winged visitors. An interpretation centre, watch tower, children's park and dormitary are open for public use throughout the year.
More than 43 species of resident and migratory water birds visit here every year. More than 100,000 migratory birds start coming by December and fly away to their northern homes by June or July after they lay and hatch eggs and the young ones mature enough to fly with the older ones.
The following migratory birds visit this area from different countries.
- Bar-headed Goose, Siberia
- Common Sandpiper,Lower part of Ladak
- Common Teal, Siberia
- Coot Central, Siberia
- Green Sandpiper, Siberia
- Greater flamingo Partially from Germany
- Pallavan, Siberia
- Pintail, Siberia
- Spotted Sandpiper, Siberia
- White stork, Germany