Bird See in Nepal
Bird See in Nepal is also known as Bird watching tour in Nepal. Nepal is a major destination for amateur bird-watchers and professional ornithologists alike. It boasts an immense variety of birds and avian habitats, and a long history of bird-watching. Nepal is a bird watching destination of international importance. For a country of its size Nepal is exceptionally rich in its biodiversity, specially its avifauna. A total of 862 species of birds is an incredible number for such a small country. (The number varies; others say it is 875.) Nepal is similar to a small model of various climatic and topographical regions; the vegetation of the country ranges from lush sub-tropical forests to open grasslands, riparian forests to alpine pastures, to deserts of the trans-Himalayan region. Its location in the area overlapping the Pale arctic and Oriental regions has endowed it with the flora and fauna characteristic of these two regions. This has resulted in Nepal becoming a favorite with birds, both resident and migrant. Nepal is indeed a paradise for birds with over 800 species recorded representing 10% of the world’s population in just a tiny fraction of the earth’s land mass. Just to list a few: eight species of stork, six species of pheasant, 17 species of cuckoo, 3 species of crow, cormorant, egret, black ibis, eagle, falcon, duck, chukar, partridge, sarus crane, lapwing pigeon, bengal green pigeon, dove, parakeet, koel cuckoo, owl, vulture, peafowl, red jungle fowl, swallow, black drong, blue jay, wood pecker, black-headed shrike, common myna, red-vented bulbul, paradise flycatcher, brahminy duck, house sparrow, red mania, and hawk. The opportunity to see these and other birds will make your trip a memorable and enjoyable one. Bird watching trip also provide panoramic mountain views, glimpses of wild animals and exposure to the local people’s culture and traditions. Follwoing are the areas covered during your Bird watching tour:
Godavari Botanical Garden
At the foot of Phulchowki is the Godavari Botanical Gardens, a site well suited to bird watchers who wish to avoid the rigors of hill climbing. The garden is a plantation containing exotic and local flora, and is a ‘Garden of Dreams’ for birds and bird watchers alike. The Godavari area should be visited for bird watching only on working days, as on public holidays it is a popular picnicking location and the crowds reduce the chances of seeing the more timid birds. Bird watching in and around the Godavari Botanical Gardens one come across the same birds as on the lower slopes of the Phulchowki hill. Flocks of Tibetan Serins are common in winter.
Perhaps the most well-known, recommended and visited bird watching area around Kathmandu is Phulchowki, southeast of the city. This area covers the forests on the upper slopes of the Phulchowki hill and those on the lower slopes, extending into Godavari. The Phulchowki forests have managed to sustain the human onslaught right from the days of their existence as a hunting reserve to the modern day extraction of marble from its lower slopes.Today the forests no longer reverberate with gun shots, but with the beatific songs of the numerous birds that inhabit it. Phulchowki has a great density of bird species —around 300 species. Although its vegetation composition is similar to the other forests in the valley, Phulchowki is widely regarded as the best place to see birds locally. Nepali ornithologists will tell you that birds are easier to see at Phulchowki than anywhere else around the valley. According to H.S. Nepali, Phulchowki is where the highest number of birds can be seen in a single day. When asked why, he confesses that he doesn’t know. Suresh Shakya attributes it to the location, as the corridor area that runs from north to south creating a natural migratory pathway. This, he believes, attracts birds from diverse regions. Bird watchers in Phulchowki might encounter birds such as the Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Yellow-browed Tit, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Red-billed Leiothrix, Whiskered Yuhina, Besra, Bronzed and Racket-tailed Drongos, Greater Yellownape, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Nepal Cutia, Ultramarine Flycatcher, and Black-winged Cuckooshrike. Other birds include various types of warblers, babblers, and thrushes. Different eagle species are also found in the area, as are various vultures, including the White-rumped Vulture, the Slender-billed Vulture and the Cinereous Vulture. The Blue-naped Pitta is a rare bird found in the area. And the Spectacled Finch, a passage migrant, puts in an occasional appearance. Sometimes during winter it snows on Phulchowki hill. This results in an altitudinal migration of many birds, which descend to the lower slopes. This is an interesting aspect of bird watching in the area and can save birders time and energy.
The Nagarjun hill forms the northwestern boundary of Kathmandu valley. The forests of Nagarjun has a royal retreat for members of the royal family and therefore was and remains a protected area. Although the slopes facing the city have sparse forests, its northwestern slopes still have dense forests. That side of the hill is also less explored and makes for great birding. The area does not hold as many species as the other hilly areas in the Kathmandu valley, but its unexplored areas might hold great surprises. The slopes facing the city are ideal for a couple of hours of bird watching. If one wants to explore the area more thoroughly, an entire day is needed. Take your lunch, and bottled water. The area can be covered on foot, though motorways are also present.Besides many of the birds of the other two hill forests of Kathmandu, the Nagarjun area also hosts birds such as the Northern Eagle Owl, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Long-tailed Mountain Thrush, Chestnut-headed Bee-Eater, Maroon Oriole, Large Hawk Cuckoo, and Eurasian Woodcock. The Brown Wood Owl has also been recorded here.
Shivapuri National Park is one of the richest forested areas in the Kathmandu valley. The park has several entry points, the closest for Kathmandu dwellers being the army check point at Gairigaon, north of the Budhanilkantha Temple. The park is home to around 318 species of bird. That high number is not the only charming aspect of bird watching in Shivapuri, for the forests are relatively unexplored, especially the northern side, according to Suresh Shakya, who has studied the area’s birds for a long time. The potential for discovering new species is great in Shivapuri. It was here that Jochen Martin first discovered the Nepal Wren Babbler. The species was considered endemic to Nepal until recently when it was also recorded in India’s Corbett National Park. The forests hold a significant population of three restricted-range bird species: the Spiny Babbler, which is also Nepal’s only endemic bird, the Hoary-throated Barwing and the White-throated Tit. The park has a diverse vegetation; the lower slopes are now reduced to scrub, the upper slopes are covered in temperate forests. This diversity is reflected in the avifauna of the area, including the Hill Partridge, Great Barbet, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Eurasian Jay, Kalij Pheasant, Nepal Fulvetta, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Mountain Scops Owl and Grey-winged Blackbird. Birds of prey include various eagles, and a variety of robins, warblers and laughing thrushes are also found. Two globally threatened birds, the White-rumped Vulture and Hodgson’s Bushchat can also be seen. Shivapuri is a delight to all bird watchers who have an eye for exploration.
The Chitwan National Park was established as the country’s first national park in 1973. The park is a valley with an area of 972 km2 in the country’s central lowland Terai. The park’s vegetation consists predominantly of Sal (Shorea robusta), a hardwood tree. Small areas of grasslands, tropical and pine forests are also found. The Lami, Tamar and Devi Tals are the most prominent among the several lakes and ponds in the floodplains of the three rivers that run through the park. The majority of threatened species of Nepali birds, about 59 percent, depend on forests for their survival. This makes Chitwan a bird haven, given that it is the largest tract of lowland forest in the country. Over half of Nepal’s total bird species are found in Chitwan, numbering 540 species. This number includes about two-thirds of the country’s globally threatened bird species. Several of the birds of Chitwan are found nowhere else in Nepal. The endangered grassland species, the Bengal Florican is a resident bird of Chitwan. The Grey-crowned Prinia, Slender-billed Babbler and the Lesser Adjutant inhabit the Chitwan grasslands. The park is the only known place in Nepal where the Slender-Billed Babbler is found and is believed to contain the largest population of the species in the Indian sub-continent. Understandably, in 1983 the Chitwan National Park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Indian Spotted Eagle, an endangered species breeds in Chitwan. The park also holds the highest number of Nepal’s near-threatened bird species – 15 out of 22. These include Ferruginous Pochard, Great Hornbill, Black-bellied Tern, Grey-headed and Lesser Fish Eagles, White-tailed Eagle, Cinereous and Red-headed Vultures, Pallid Harrier, Laggar Falcon, Darter, Painted and Black-necked Storks, Rufous-rumped Grassbird and Yellow-breasted Bunting. Other birds include Sarus Crane, Bengal and Lesser Floricans, Indian Skimmer, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Jerdon’s Babbler and curlews. The Bar-headed Goose, a trans-Himalayan migrant, is seen near the Narayani river.
Bird watching in the Kathmandu valley is but a preview to Nepal’s extraordinary avifauna. The history of bird watching began in Kathmandu, but its presence in Nepal is in the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is an assortment of habitats; its 17,500 hectares include grasslands or phantas, riparian vegetation, ox-bow lakes, marshes and sparse forests. To its south is the Koshi Barrage area, a seven kilometer by five kilometer strip of land, more than half of which is covered in water. This habitat is tailor-made for the migrating birds in Nepal. In 1987 the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve became the first protected wetland in Nepal under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands signed at Ramsar, Iran in 1971. The Koshi Tappu and Koshi Barrage areas are of international significance for birds and birders alike. More than 170 species of birds can be seen there in a day. The largest heronry in Nepal was recorded from the area, comprising of nearly 26,000 nests of 12 species of waders. There are records of 20 globally threatened species from the area. The Swamp Francolin, a globally endangered species has its highest numbers here. The area’s reputation as a bird haven is corroborated by the fact that it shelters 13 of Nepal’s 22 near-threatened bird species. A reading of ornithological journals and survey reports shows that the majority of new species of birds discovered in Nepal in the last ten years have been at Koshi Tappu. A week-long Bird Festival is organized annually by the people living around the reserve, commencing on the 2nd of February, which is the International Wetlands Day. During the festival indigenous cultural programs are organized along with bird watching trips that are free of cost for everyone, including tourists. A large number of Nepal’s birds, especially the ones in the country’s threatened list, are found in the lowlands. 55 percent of the country’s threatened species are found in the lowlands, within the altitudinal range of 75 to 1000 meters. Thus, the lowlands are inhabited by some of the rarest birds of Nepal.