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Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali – The Eminent Natural Historian and Birdman of India


Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali

Quick Facts

  • Full Name: Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali
  • Also Known As: Salim Ali, Birdman of India
  • Famous As: Ornithologist, Historian
  • Birth Date: 12 November 1896
  • Died On: 20 June 1987
  • Nationality: Indian
  • Birth Place: Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • Awards: Padma Bhushan (1958), Padma Vibhushan (1976)


Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali, the eminent Natural historian and the ‘Birdman of India’ has made his own place in the world by working with determination and dedication. He worked a lot over the study of birds. Salim has been felicitated with many awards including the Padma Bhushan.

Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali – Birdman of India

The Early Life of Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali

Salim Moizuddin, the amazing ornithologist and eminent natural historian have given a lot to this country. Salim lost both his parents in early childhood and was brought up a maternal uncle. The early inclination towards ornithology came for Salim when he shot a sparrow for bird. W. S. Millard the then secretary of the Bombay Natural History Society predisposed Salim towards the study of birds. This event was the turning point in the life of Salim as is mentioned in his autobiography, The fall of a sparrow. He went to the Zenana Bible and medical mission girls high school and then to St. Xavier’s college, Bombay. Salim had a tough time in Mumbai and after one year he dropped out of college.


After dropping out of college, Salim went to Tavoy and started taking care of the tungsten mining and timber entrepreneurship of his family. Salim from a very young age developed an interest for hunting birds.

Tavoy’s residence was close to a forest so it became convenient for Salim to fulfill his interest of hunting there. He came back to India in the year 1917. He then went to the Davar’s college. In the year 1926 Salim was given the designation of a guide lecturer in the Prince of Wales Museum and after two years he was given a chance to work with Erwin Stresemann in the Berlin Zoological Museum. Salim has referred to Erwin as his teacher in his autobiography. Salim had a really nice and intellectual time in Berlin. He was privileged to work with some of the out-standing and spectacular ornithologists. This eminent natural historian had immense interest in Zoology and Ornithology but due to his lack of a degree he was not able to get into this field.

Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali

On his return to India in 1930’s, Salim did a research on the mating system of the baya weaver. Salim after this received the opportunity to carry on the bird survey of the princely states of the British India. He worshipped his work and had an important role in saving the BNHS from the financial crisis by asking the then Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru to help the institution financially. He helped many institutions to obtain funding. He played an important role in the project done by BHNS that was based on reducing the bird hits faced on the Indian airfields. Books written by Salim have influenced many outstanding personalities like Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and many others.

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Awards of Salim Ali

The recurrence for the incredible and remarkable works done by Salim came quite late but he was felicitated and honored with many awards.

  • Joy Gobinda Law Gold Medal

  • Sunder Lal Hora memorial medal

  • Honorary doctorate from the Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, Andhra University

  • He received the Gold medal of the British Ornithologist Union

  • Paul Getty wildlife conservation prize

  • John C. Phillips memorial medal

  • Pavlovsky Centenary memorial medal

  • Padma Bhushan

  • Padma Vibhushan

Salim Ali died due to prostate cancer. After his death, Salim was honored by conferring many major institutions after his name like; Salim Ali Center for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) in Coimbatore and Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.

Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

Salim Ali has written numerous articles in various journals. The early life of Salim Ali was really tragic but with the passage of time, he did incredible and spectacular work in the field of study of birds. Salim is an inspiration for many people who run after success. Success and recognition came to Salim after a very long time but he never became impatient.


Written By: Arju Sharma


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