Birding in Nepal – The Discovery of the Terai and the Adventure of the Himalayas

What is it like birding in Nepal? Thanks to the stability and security of the country in recent years, and the fascination and awe many people experience when viewing the Himalayas, Nepal is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. Currently, it  is not a well-known destination for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. But it has enormous potential. We confirmed this during our trip there this spring.
The Black Baza is a summer visitor that feasts on termites


Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the region is the wide variety of habitats it contains. These include lush tropical jungles to wide valleys.  It encompasses dense forests to icy peaks, and barren deserts to the Tibetan tundra. All are interlaced by rivers that descend from the heart of the Himalayas.The first stop on our journey was in Terai, the southern lowlands. Forests of Shorea robusta (Sal Forest), jungles and wetlands host a wealth of bird and mammal species.  The rare Bengal Tiger, the Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) and even the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) make their home here.
Mammals, like this Barking Deer, are more easily seen along the river

Chitwan National Park

In Sauraha, a beautiful town on the edge of Chitwan National Park, we met Hem Subedi. Hem has worked in conservation and as a guide for the past twenty years. After spending some time birding with him along the Rapti River, we knew he would be the perfect person to lead trips in Nepal for Whitehawk. His knowledge of local birds and Nepali culture and his deep involvement in conservation make him the ideal person for the job.
Dawn and dusk are magical along the banks of Rapti: Cinnamon Bittern, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch… dozens of species are found just a few steps from the village. And several mornings we were treated with sightings of rhinos on this same bank! Although many people come here for the mountains, the forest is undoubtedly one of Nepal’s greatest untapped destinations.
One of the favorite sightings of the trip – a Brown Wood Owl rests during the day in the forest

After making all the preparations, we headed out for the mountains full of enthusiasm. Our destination, Langtang, is one of the best places for trekking and to see the  forest and mountain birds of Nepal.



It is late April and the rhododendrons are starting to bloom in the Himalayan foothills, offering a tremendous visual spectacle while also sheltering a wide variety of birds: Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus), Darjeeling Woodpecker (Dendrocopos darjellensis), Streaked Laughingthrush (Trochalopteron lineatum), Green-tailed Sunbird (Aethopyga nipalensis), Nepal Wren Babbler (Pnoepyga immaculata) and White-browed Fulvetta (Fulvetta vinipectus), to name a few. Sometimes woodpeckers, nuthatches, sunbirds, and other passerines formed in large mixed flocks that kept us busy for hours.

Nepal Wren Babbler 

We continue to walk, and the road gets a little steeper, but there is no rush. We stop frequently to enjoy the scenery and add more species to our growing list. On one of our stops we see a Black Bear of the Himalayas (Ursus thibetanus)! As well as some species of ungulates. I can’t help but imagine that there is a Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) lurking somewhere closeby, too, as the Langtang National Park is home to this rare cat.

The landscape continues to  change as we climb higher and higher. The valley opens, the snowy peaks get closer and we leave behind the tree line. On the slopes we catch our first glimspes of Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) and Bearded Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus). The grandeur of the Himalayas is breathtaking. An experience both moving and unique. Those lucky enough to have walked these trails know that this is not a sensation that can be described. It needs to be lived.

Bearded Vulture

Birding Nepal

In total, birding in Nepal yielded  370 species of birds and 23 mammals, including the Spiny Babbler (Turdoides nipalensis), the only endemic for Nepal, a rarity for the country -the Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus) and ¡A cetacean! the Ganges Dolphin (Platanista gangetica) showed us its tiny dorsal fin on more than one occasion. We marveled at the beauty of many birds, like laughingthrushes, parrotbills an yuhinas among many other species. The raptors, like the Black Eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis), the  Grey-headed Fish Eagle (Icthyophaga ichthyaetus) and the Black Baza (Aviceda leuphotes) left us in awe. Not to mention the spectacular Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus impejanus) and, one of the most charistmatic owls of the region, the Brown Wood-Owl (Strix leptogrammica).

Himalayan Monal

This fall, Whitehawk will be offering an intense journey through Nepal with tour guide Hem Subedi, one of the best ornithological guides in the country. The mountain and forest combined in two weeks full of birds, landscapes and unforgettable lifetime experiences! Of the latter, there is no doubt.

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