The Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan. Spread over an area of little over 232 sq kms, Keoladeo derives its name from the Shiva Temple in the heart of the sanctuary.
Formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, ornithologist Salim Ali, is credited for bringing this park to public notice. Nesting indigenous water- birds as well as migratory water birds and waterside birds, this sanctuary is also inhabited by Sambar, Chital, Nilgai and Boar.
Initially, it was a natural depression; and was flooded after the Ajan Bund was constructed by Maharaja Suraj Mal, the then ruler of the princely state of Bharatpur, between 1726 to 1763. The bund was created at the confluence of two rivers, the Gambhir and Banganga. The park was a hunting ground for the maharajas of Bharatpur, a tradition dating back to 1850, and duck shoots were organized yearly in honor of the British viceroys.
More than 300 species of birds are found in this small wildlife park of 29-sq-kms of which 11-sq-kms are marshes and the rest scrubland and grassland. The Keoladeo Park is not very large being less than 30 sq km. The major attractions of tourists visiting the park are the numerous migratory birds, who come from as far away as Siberia and Central Asia and spend their winters in Bharatpur, before returning to their breeding grounds.
Migratory birds at Bharatpur bird sanctuary include, several species of Cranes, Pelicans, Geese, Ducks, Eagles, Hawks, Shanks, Stints, Wagtails, Warblers, Wheatears, Flycatchers, Buntings, Larks and Pipits, etc. There are well-defined treks, which can easily be covered on foot or on a cycle (the best way) or you can hire a rickshaw.
At the beginning of this century, this lake was developed, and was divided into several portions. A system of small dams, dykes, sluice gates, etc., was created to control water level in different sections. This became the hunting preserve of the Bharatpur royalty, and one of the best duck – shooting wetlands in the world.
Hunting was prohibited by mid-60s. They are available on hire. Rickshaw pullers have been trained by the park management in bird watching and are quite knowledgeable. Boats are also available on hire. A boat trip early in the morning or late evening is quite a rewarding experience. Do not forget to carry a binoculars for watching the birds.