The Vembanad Backwater (Kayal) is the largest of the series of coastal wetlands of Kerala. Most of the extensive water body, except a central portion of it has been converted to paddy fields, coconut groves and human habitats over the last century. Kumarakom is a part of this vast backwater labyrinth extending over an area of over 794 sq kms. Six major rivers originating in the Western Ghats drain into it. The rivers branch out to numerous delta, forming several island of ecological significance especially to bird life. The species recorded include great Cormorants, Open billed storks, Grey Herons, Yellow Bitterns, White Ibis, Cotton Teal, Pheasant tailed Jacanas, Koras, Blackcaped Kingfishers, Ruddy Crakes, Gull Billed Terns, Shikra etc..
The main birding areas at Kumarakom include the the KTDC complex (unofficially called the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary), which was previously known as Baker estate, in honour of the Englishman who developed this into a sanctuary for birds early in the last century. It harbours large populations of breeding darters, Purple Herons, Little cormorants, Indian Shag and Pond Heron. Areas like Kaipuzha Muttu, Pathiramanal, the Paddy Fields around Kumarakom, Narakathara, Thollayiram Kayal, Poothapandi Kalyal, and Palluruthy Roost are also excellent locations for birding. The ten most abundant species recorded are the Lesser Whistling teal, Little Cormorants, Whiskered Terns, Pond Herons, Intermediate Egrets, Indian Shag, Cattle Egrets, Purple Heron, Little Egret, and the Cotton Teal.