Keoladeo National Park is situated in eastern Rajasthan, the park is 2 km south-east of Bharatpur and 50 km west of Agra. The area consists of a flat patchwork of marshes in the Gangetic plain, artificially created in the 1850s and maintained ever since by a system of canals, sluices and dykes. Normally, water is fed into the marshes twice a year from inundations of the Gambira and Banganga rivers, which are impounded on arable land by means of an artificial dam called Ajan Bund, to the south of the park. The first time, usually in mid-July, is soon after the onset of the monsoon and the second time is in late September or October when Ajan Bund is drained ready for cultivation in winter.
Keoladeo MonsoonThus, the area is flooded to a depth of 1-2 m throughout the monsoon (July-September), after which the water level drops. From February onwards the land begins to dry out and by June only some water remains. For much of the year the area of wetland is only 1,000 ha. Soils are predominantly alluvial - some clay has formed as a result of the periodic inundations. In a semi-arid biotype, the park is the only area with much vegetation, hence the term 'Ghana' meaning 'thicket'.
The principal vegetation types are tropical dry deciduous forest, intermixed with dry grassland in areas where forest has been degraded. Apart from the artificially managed marshes, much of the area is covered by medium-sized trees and shrubs. Forests, mostly in the north-east of the park, are dominated by kalam or kadam, jamun and babul. The open woodland is mostly babul with a small amount of kandi and ber. Scrublands are dominated by ber and kair. The aquatic vegetation is rich in species and is a valuable source of food for waterfowl.
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Primates are rhesus macaque and langur. Large predators are absent, leopard having been deliberately exterminated by 1964, but small carnivores include Bengal fox, jackal, striped hyena, common palm civet, small Indian civet, Indian grey mongoose Herpestes edwardsi , fishing cat, leopard cat, jungle cat and smooth-coated otter. Ungulates include blackbuck, chital, sambar, hog deer, nilgai and wild boar and feral cattle. Other mammals include Indian porcupine and Indian hare.
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An estimated 65 million fish fry are carried into the park's water impoundments by river flooding every year during the monsoon season, which provides the food base for large numbers of wading and fish-eating birds. Some 364 species of bird have been recorded in the park, which is considered to be one of the world's finest areas for birds, with a unique assemblage of species.
The park's location in the Gangetic Plain makes it an unrivalled breeding site for herons, storks and cormorants and an important wintering ground for large numbers of migrant ducks. The most common waterfowl are gadwall, shoveler, common teal, cotton teal, tufted duck, comb duck, little cormorant, great cormorant, Indian shag, ruff, painted stork, white spoonbill, Asian open-billed stork, oriental ibis, darter, common sandpiper, wood sandpiper and green sandpiper. Sarus crane, with its spectacular courtship dance, is also found here.
Among land birds is a rich assortment consisting of warblers, babblers, bee-eaters, bulbuls, buntings, chats, partridges and quails. Grey hornbill and Marshall's iota are also present. There are many birds of prey including the osprey, peregrine, Pallas' sea eagle, short-toed eagle, tawny eagle, imperial eagle, spotted eagle and crested serpent eagle. Greater spotted eagle has recently been recorded breeding here, a new breeding record for the species in India and lesser spotted eagle nested in the park in 1986, the first nesting record for the species in India for some time.
Several other threatened avifauna species occur, including Dalmatian pelican, spot-billed pelican, greater adjutant, lesser adjutant, marbled teal, Baikal teal, Baer's pochard, red kite, cinereous vulture and sociable lapwing.
Reptiles include water snakes, Indian python, banded krait, green rat snake, turtles and monitor lizard.