BIRD WATCHING

Where kanchendzonga  the third highest peak dominates the horizon, with such a small size and land area of 7096 sq. kms, bio-diversity in Sikkim can undoubtedly be one of immense interest to ecological and environmentalists, earth scientist and nature lovers, botanist and biological in equal measures.
 

There is a great variety and numerical abundance of the resident birdlife with an overall 550 species which would account as much as 50% of the aggregate bird species found in India.
 

From pheasants and tragopans, thrushes and magpies, to hawk-eagles and Kingfisher, the variety and richness is breathtaking.

The forest stands are very diverse, and non-forested areas such as cliffs, high alpine meadows, cascading streams and places all provided places birds to feed, rest and raise their young. A wide variety of residential and non-residential birds can be seen along the trail at different elevations and in different seasons.
 

Interest in birdlife of Sikkim started as early as in the 1840s. Brian Hodgson, Mandelli, Blanford and others collected specimens of birds of Sikkim. These collections are available for study in the British Museum of Natural History, London and also in various other museums in Europe and America. Collections are enlarged during the first half of the present century by several other ornithologist and more field data have been collected. Notable among these are the works of E.M. Bailey, Frank Ludlow, R. Meinertzhagen, Ernst Schafer and Herbert Stevens. The work of Salim Ali and Loke Wan Tho culminated in the publishing of the  Birds of Sikkim  book and is the only authoritative book hither to be printed on the birds of Sikkim.

Presently, about 550 species of birds are estimated to be found in Sikkim, including migrants and of those whose status is still to be ascertained. This record is based on available data and may vary as more information is collected.

 

Like everywhere else in the world, the population of birds, both in species and in general terms, is decreasing due to increased human activities leading to loss of habitat, lack of social awareness and interest in conservation. It is, therefore, a daunting task to prevent the species from disappearing from the face of earth. Unless all round efforts, by way of government legislation and other implementation and social awareness are mobilized, it may not be long before the existing species are gradually but surely eliminated.
 

The Blackened Crane, the most endangered crane in the world, is known to occur in Sikkim. Its future however remains insecure due to human activities in the area. Monal Pheasants, the Satyr Tragopan, the Blood Pheasants found in the higher elevations in Sikkim are a dwindling lot in their numbers in spite of their being in the Schedule List of the wildlife Protection Act. At middle and lower levels, bird which were once commonly observed such an the Cuckoos, Wood Peckers, King Fishers, Hornbills, Bulbuls, Fly Catchers, warblers are not as common now-all due to modern developments, leading to loss of ecological balance to make a choice between  Development  and  Ecological Balance   for the modern humans is the dilemma. A serious and a hard look at our concept of  sustainable development  needs to be looked into right away.
 

It will be observed that species differ at various altitudes. Jungle Fowls and Kaleej Pheasants prefer thick forest while the spotted dove is happy in village environ at the same level. There is no strict rule in the distribution pattern altitude wise as the same species are observed at the next higher or lower levels. In general, the same species are observed at the next higher or lower levels. In general, the following pattern distribution can be observed at various levels in Sikkim. The distribution can be observed at various levels in Sikkim. The distribution is only indicative and is not restricted to the same level:- 1300ft to 5000ft above M.S.L.

 

Jungle Fowl, kaleej Pheasant. Common Hill Partridge, Hornabill, Large Cormorant, Pariah Kite, Himalayan Falconet, Green Pigeon, Spotted Dove, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Bared Owlet, Hodgsons  Frogmouth, House Swift, Pied Kingfisher, White breasted Kingfisher, Broadbilled Rollerk, Green Hill Barbet, Yellownapped Himalayan Woodpeckers, White cheeked Bulbul.
 

5000ft to 8000ft: Black eared kite, Rufous Turtle Dove, Indian Cuckoo, Collared Owlet, Darjeeling Pied Woodpecker, Scarlet Minivet, Himalayan Black Bulbul, Verditter Fly Catcher, Rufousnecked Scimitar Babbler, Redbilled Leiothrix, Greenbacked Tit, Redtailed Minia, yellownapped Yuhina, whistiling thrust, whitecapped Redstart, Grey Drongo, Green Magpie, Tree Sparrow.
 

8000ft to 13000ft : Tufted Pochard, Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Morial Pheasant, Ibisbill, Snow Pigeon, Forest Eagle Owl, Hoopoe, Rufousbellied woodpecker, Hodgson  Grandula, Black Redstart, White collared Blackbird, Gould shorting, White breasted Dipper.

13000ft to 17000ft: Lammergier, Griffion Vulture, snow Cock, Lesser Sandplover, Horned Lark, Robin Accentor, Pipit, Raven, Snow Finch, Mountain Finch.

 

Important Bird Areas of Sikkim

1. Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary.
2. Dombang Valley Lachung Lema Chungthang
3.

Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary   Himalayan Zoological Park- Ratey Chu Reserved forest complex.

4.

Kanchendzonga National Park and Biosphere Reserve.

5.

Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary- Tsomgo Lake, Tamzee- Chola Complex.

6.

Lhonak valley

7. Lowland forests of South Sikkim (Melli-Baguwa-Kitam, Jorthang-Namchi, Sombarey)
8.

Maenam wildlife Sanctury   Tendong Reserved Forest.

9.

Pangolakha Wildlife Sancturay-Zuluk-Bedang Tso- Nathula Complex.

10. Tso Lhamo Plateau- Lashar- Sebu La-Yumesamdong Complex Yumthang  Shingba Rohododendron Sanctuary.

 

The best time for birding in the Eastern Himalayas is Feb to mid March and Oct-Nov, through any time of the year can be productive.

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