In a small but modern city like Chandigarh, where options of places to visit on weekends, other than the crowded restaurants, malls, clubs and multiplexes, are few, most of us still tend to miss looking up some leisurely but delightful places despite being fully aware of them. Visiting one such place, long lurking in my mind, with my family on a Sunday (March 12) turned out to be a very pleasant experience.
As the family stepped onto the weekend traffic-restricted approach road to the place, seeing a steady stream of visitors walking down the narrow lane, lined with colourful bill boards of exotic birds, towards the entrance came as a pleasant surprise to me. I would never have imagined it to be such a popular destination. It also got me wondering why it took me so long to convince myself to come here!
Photos By : Life In Chandigarh
Nestling in the lap of nature, and spread over 6.5 acres of forest land, the Chandigarh Bird Park can rightly claim to be one of the jewels of the City Beautiful. Aesthetically designed, the park boasts of beautiful landscaping, well planned sections with attractively structured small and large aviaries (enclosures where birds are housed), waterfalls, ponds, other water bodies as well as arched and meandering wooden bridges.
Two massive aviaries – one for aquatic birds (water birds) and other for terrestrial birds (type of birds generally found on the ground or close to it) – are in fact claimed to the largest structures in the aviary domain in the country.
Located at Nagar Van, adjacent to the Sukhna Lake Club sports complex and developed by the Department of Forest & Wildlife, UT Chandigarh, Chandigarh Bird Park was inaugurated in November 2021 by the then First Lady of India, Mrs Savita Kovind. The purpose was to create awareness about bird conservation especially among the young minds.
The main attractions in the park, which is home to some of the exotic aquatic, terrestrial and tamed birds commonly bred in India, are African Love Birds, Budgerigars, White Swan, Black Swan, Wood Duck, Golden Pheasant, Yellow Golden Pheasant, Green Wing Macaw, Dun Conures, African Grey Parrot, Finches and Melanistic Pheasant.
Care has been taken to provide ample space for each and every bird. A 58 feet flying height with total ground area approximately 200×150 feet has been ensured in each enclosure for the aquatic and terrestrial birds. The structures are designed in a way that they surround hundreds of plants of varying canopies, which gives an ideal habitat, food and shelter to these birds so that they can freely fly and breed.
The jingling sound of huge metal chain hanging curtains, adorning the entry points and some sections of these massive enclosures, is also a major attraction for visitors.
Apart from this, there is an exclusive enclosure for tamed birds where visitors, for an additional per head fee, get an opportunity to closely interact with their feathery friends, and also take pictures with a tamed bird. We made it a point to visit this enclosure. A trainer/bird handler is at hand to assist the visitors in making a tamed large Green Wing Macaw perch on your forearm. Panchhi ke saath ek yaadgar photo leini to banti hi hai!
The most amazing part of the entire project, executed in less than 18 months during the peak of the pandemic, is that the entire conceptualisation, planning and execution has been done in-house by the Department of Forest & Wildlife, UT Chandigarh, without the help of any professional consultant, a rarity for projects of such scale in UT Chandigarh.
Later, in a telephonic conversation with your own news website LifeInChandigarh.com, Chief Conservator of Forests, UT Chandigarh, Debendra Dalai, an Indian Forest Service Officer, shared that the inspiration for the Chandigarh Bird Park has come from the Jurong Bird Park (49 acres) on the slopes of the Jurong Hill in Singapore, which he visited back in 2019 (Jurong has since been relocated to a much larger park in Mandai region, and renamed Bird Paradise, where it is part of a huge integrated nature and wildlife precinct called Mandai Wildlife Reserve).
“We started work on the project during the pandemic, which afforded us an opportunity to focus completely on its execution at a decent pace. So, we shut down the Nagar Van to the public, as was done with all other public places then, and were able to devote our entire time to it. The idea was to work quickly and surprise the residents with a wonderful gift. We found support at all levels in the UT Administration for the project, and here we are,” Dalai said.
“Though I have seen such aviaries in Mysore, Raipur, Chhatbir Zoo in our neighbourhood, and at other places, in terms of size the large aviaries we have constructed for aquatic and terrestrial birds are the largest structures in the aviary domain in the country. We have not allowed any compromises to be made in terms of quality as well. We want to uphold Chandigarh’s status as a laboratory, for the rest of the country to emulate,” he added.
A Navgraha (9 celestial bodies) Vatika, Nakshatra (constellation or group of stars) Van and Rashi (zodiac sign) Van are other attractions of the park.
The only sore point right through the over an hour long trek through the park was the ill maintained Navgraha Vatika, where the various plants, each associated with one of the 9 celestial bodies as per Vedic astrology, were choked dry because of the heavy unattended weeding in their beds.
There are ample places to sit and rest during your long walk along meandering pathways through the park. No eatables are allowed to be taken inside. The Woods Café, managed by Citco, with a large open compound, vends reasonably-priced snacky foods and drinks. For the souvenir hunters, there is Exotica Souvenir Shop. To quench your thirst, machines dispensing free cooled water are installed at short distances. A washroom block has also been constructed.