The bird habitats of Bhutan can be roughly divided into forest, scrub, wetlands, alpine habitats, agricultural land & that land around human habitation.
Unlike other Himalayan countries, Bhutan still retains much of its forest intact. The country's forests are rich, diverse & beautiful, forming some of the best remaining representatives of forest habitats in the Himalayas. Forests & bushes support the highest proportion (84%) of the country's breeding birds. In addition 57% of Bhutan's globally threatened birds & 90% of the country's restricted-range birds are dependent on forests.
Subtropical & warm broadleaved forest grows along the foothills up to 1,200m. Globally threatened Rufous-necked Hornbill is virtually confined to these forests & requires mature fruiting trees. It is common in Bhutan but rare & declining elsewhere in its range. The endangered species, the Beautiful Nuthatch is rare & poorly known and has been found only in Bhutan in warm broad-leaved forest. These forests are also important for the enigmatic Chestnut-breasted Partridge that is both internationally threatened & restricted in distribution. Other species with restricted ranges, such as Yellow-vented Warbler and White-naped Yuhina are almost confined to subtropical & warm broad-leaved forests. These are also the main habitat of Broad-billed Warbler & Rufous-throated Wren Babbler.
Cool broad-leaved forest grows on moist exposed slope up to 2,900m above the warm broad-leaved forests. They are second only to the subtropical & warm broad-leaved forests in their bird species richness. Globally threatened Chestnut-breasted Partridge and Blyth's Tragopan have been found here, the latter in the far east. Wood Snipe, an altitudinal migrant, probably winter in the cool broad-leaved forests.
Two globally threatened wetland species occur regularly in Bhutan - The rare White-bellied Heron breeds & frequents only those rivers & lakes in dense broad-leaved forests below 1,400m, and Pallas's Fish Eagle (which has bred) inhabits larger rivers below 1400m. Typical species breeding along rivers & streams are kingfishers, fork-tails, dipper, wagtails, blue Whistling-Thrush & White-capped Water Redstart.
Phobjikha valley, in central Bhutan, is an important wintering ground for Black-necked Cranes, Black-tailed Crake & Ruddy-breasted Crake which are found in wetlands in spring & summer.
Bhutan has a diverse avifauna. 616 species have been recorded so far & many more are likely to be found as more people visit the country to see its birds. Around 464 species are resident although some of these are augmented by winter visitors that breed further north. Some residents are sedentary throughout the year, whilst others undertake irregular movements, either locally or more widely in the region, moving around according to the abundance of their food supply.
About 40 species are summer visitors or partial migrants to Bhutan & that include species such as cuckoos, swifts, bee-eaters, warblers, flycatchers & drongos. The migration routes of a number of these summer migrants are unknown. Many species winter further south in the subcontinent including Common Hoopoe, Barn Swallow and Ashy Drongo. Other species such as the White-throated Needletail & Asian Emerald Cuckoo, move southeast, perhaps as far as Malaysia & Indonesia, although Bhutanese birds may not travel so far. The Lesser Cuckoo winters in Africa.
Around 50 species are known to over winter in Bhutan. These include ducks, waders, birds of prey, thrushes, finches & buntings.
14 species recorded in Bhutan have been identified as globally threatened by BirdLife International. These include White-bellied Heron, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Chestnut-breasted Partridge, Blyth's Tragopan, Wood Snipe, Dark-rumped Swift, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Grey-crowned Prinia and Beautiful Nuthatch, all of which probably breed in Bhutan. The country is an important wintering ground for another internationally threatened species - the Black-necked Crane. Greater-spotted Eagle is a rare passage migrant, Baer's Pochard, Imperial Eagle and Hodgson's Bushchat are regular vagrants.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 616
National Bird: Common Raven Corvus corax
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* Field Guides & Bird Song
For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering Asia as a whole - please see the Asia page of Fatbirder
A Field Guide to the Birds of Bhutan
Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp and Richard Grimmett Series: CHRISTOPHER HELM IDENTIFICATION GUIDE SERIES 192 pages, 70 col plates, col photos, maps, b/w line illus. Christopher Helm 2004
ISBN: 071366990XBuy this book from NHBS.com
A Photographic Guide to Birds of India
[Including Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh & Bhutan] Bikram Grewal, Bill Harvey and Otto Pfister 512 pages, 850 col photos, 800 maps. Christopher Helm
ISBN: 0713664037Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds in Bhutan: Status and Distribution
Peter Spierenburg 383 pages, maps, illus. Oriental Bird Club 2005
ISBN: 0952954516Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of Bhutan
Salim Ali, Biswamoy Biswas and S Dillon Ripley Series: RECORDS OF THE ZOOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA 136 250 pages, b/w photos, tabs, map. Zoological Survey of India 1996
ISBN: 62224Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of the Indian Subcontinent
By Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp & Tim Inskipp | Christopher Helm | Softcover | 2012 | Edition: 2 | 528 Pages | 226 Colour Plates | Colour Distribution Maps | Black & White Illustrations
ISBN: 9781408127636Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
Despite the Bhutanese people’s abiding love of nature, bird watching as an organized pursuit is a new concept in Bhutan, and most of the birding tours are lead by foreign tour guides. While generally knowledgeable, these guides typically lack the in-country experience necessary to maximize the chances for successful sightings. In contrast, at ACROSS BHUTAN, we take pride in having a team of experienced and professional Bhutanese bird watching guides….
Quality Birding in the Himalayas - Organizing birds watching and wildlife photography tours. Despite the Bhutanese people abiding love of nature, bird watching as an organized pursuit is a new concept in Bhutan, and most of the birding tours are lead by foreign tour guides. While generally knowledgeable, these guides typically lack the in-country experience necessary to maximize the chances for successful sightings. In contrast, at Bhutan Birding we take pride in having a team of experienced and professional Bhutanese bird watching guides…
Bhutan Birding Tour
Bhutan Footprints Travel
We provide specialized historic highlights with well-organized transportations, accommodations, and impressive treks in the tranquil Himalayas, in a professional and dependable manner….
Bhutan Majestic Travel
The highlight of this trip is the Festival for the Endangered Black Necked Crane. By legend the cranes are believed to be the reincarnated souls of Lamas that come to pay homage at the monastery of Gangtey Gompa. Each year at the cranes return it is said that they circle the monastery three times before landing in the wetlands below. The Festival is sponsored each year by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature and the Phobjikha Valley community. Foreign guests are asked to make a small donation for attending the festival…
We expect to find most of Bhutan’s fabled Eastern Himalayan species such as Beautiful Nuthatch (and other nuthatches), Ward’s Trogon, the unbelievable Fire-tailed Myzornis, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Ibisbill, and of course Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, and other vivid pheasants. Other highlights include Wallcreeper, spectacular sunbirds, five species of parrotbills, up to ten species of laughingthrushes, striking and gorgeous forktails along the fast-flowing rivers – in addition to a plethora of other tantalizing jewels….
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
Jachung Travel is a Bhutanese-owned, San Francisco-based tour company offering cultural tours and trekking in Bhutan, in cooperation with its partner, White Lake Adventures, a professional, licensed tour operator in Bhutan. We promote good travel ethics and respect for the environment and culture while making sure that you enjoy your adventure and that you experience Bhutan to the fullest. Through us you will learn about the Bhutanese culture, expand your mind, and leave with the feeling that you've had a unique, unforgettable experience. We hold ourselves to the highest standards and provide the best services possible, with the goal of giving you the adventure of your life.
Rockjumper Birding Tours
With seemingly endless forests and arguably the most magnificent mountain scenery in the world, Bhutan is a thoroughly recommended and highly enjoyable destination. Our tour targets include Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Ibisbill, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Ward’s Trogon, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Beautiful Nuthatch and an astounding selection of wren-babblers and parrotbills.
Tashi Gongphel Tours
The natural habitat of Bhutan is home to more than six hundred species of birds. More birds are being discovered every year and special surveys are going on to identify the magnitude of bird life in the country. Experts tout Bhutan as a bird watcher’s paradise…
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2007 [03 March] - Mark Finn - Birdwatching Breaks
This was the second Birdwatching Breaks tour to Bhutan nestling in the shadow of the mighty Himalayan mountain chain. March is a good month to visit as we had a wide range of wintering species in addition to migrants from further south. Highlights were many but included Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Ibisbill, Rufous-necked and Wreathed Hornbills, Wood Snipe, Beautiful Nuthatch, Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Cutia, a wide range of laughingthrushes and scimitar babblers and mixed flocks of migrant warblers…
2008 [04 April] - Christian Boix
…Access to this prime birding area, the montane forest of the eastern Himalayas, has long been difficult, but birders have begun taking advantage of Bhutan opening its doors to tourists. This provides access to a wide variety of rare and little-known birds, many of which we saw on this year's tour, including Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Ward's Trogon, Beautiful Nuthatch, Slender-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler, Dark-rumped Swift, Rufous-necked Hornbill and Yellow-rumped Honeyguide…
2008 [04 April] - Dave Farrow
Having considered various adjectives to describe this year’s Birdquest tour to Bhutan, that one stands out as being the most succinctly descriptive! I could also begin with just the final figure, 453 species (a tour record), of which 364 species were within the borders of Bhutan…
2009 [04 April] - Ravi, Namita & Medha Potluri
We managed to get exceedingly good and multiple sightings of the top 3 birds in our target list – the Satyr Tragopan, the Himalayan Monal and the Blood Pheasant. Of the other target birds we had, while we dipped on a few, we bagged a few surprises which more than made up. In all, we had close to 200 species (highlights below), many of which are lifers to us, and were a pure delight to be able to see after only fantasizing about them all these years…
2009 [05 May] - Dave Farrow
Once again we enjoyed another superlative Birdquest to the wonderful mountain kingdom of Bhutan. We recorded 387 species on the tour, 351 that were inside Bhutan itself - our second highest ever total for the country…
2010 [04 April] - Josh Engel
Starting in Kaziranga, in the plains and lowland forests of the northeast Indian state of Assam, we saw well over 100 species that we would not see again in Bhutan. The park is best known for its charismatic megafauna—we saw innumerable Indian one- horned rhinos, Indian elephants, wild Asian water buffalo, as well as deer, otters, boars, and primates…
2012 [05 May] - Dave Farrow
…Some of the headliners included a lengthy encounter with the magnificent White-bellied Heron – the leaders bogey-bird that chose this year’s tour to finally gave itself up, twenty sightings of fourteen Satyr Tragopans (surely a record count!), stunning views of Chestnut-breasted Partridge, the colourful partnership of Blood Pheasant and Himalayan Monal on our first morning, a stunning pair of Beautiful Nuthatches attending their football-like nest, and numerous Rufous-necked Hornbills including a great encounter with a female walling herself into her nest hole….
2012 [11 November] - Mike Nelson - Bhutan & Assam
…It was time for a scrumptious lunch at our base in Paro – the beautiful Ugyen Phendeyling Resort & Meditation Center. After lunch, a visit to the nearby river delivered a group of Rufous-breasted Accentors but the strong winds were not in our favor. We also enjoyed further views of Plumbeous and White-capped Water Redstarts – both common species that always impress. In the later afternoon it was time for another attempt at Ibisbill…
2013 [04 April] - K David Bishop
…Some years we have done very nicely with the enigmatic and globally critically endangered White-bellied Heron while in other years no one has seen it at all. Sometimes we struggle with Satyr Tragopan while in other years they behave like a dream and males show off to us–as they did this year! Beautiful Nuthatch is yet another blue-ribbon bird, but has become very difficult at one site, possibly because of excessive use of tape play-back. Because we know Bhutan and its birds so well, we are able to take our participants to less utilised sites…
2013 [05 May] - Eustace Barnes
…We recorded 377 bird species on the tour, 346 of these in Bhutan of which a mere 15 were heard only. The tour highlights, too many to recount all in a short paragraph did include great views of the critically endangered White-bellied Heron at one of its more regular haunts. We also enjoyed stunning views of several male and female Satyr Tragopans at Sengor feeding on the broad verges. On our first morning at Chele La we saw numerous magnificent Blood Pheasants and several Himalayan Monals….
2015 [04 April] - Josh Engel - Bhutan and Kaziranga
In the modern world, it’s difficult for a place to retain an air of mystery. Yet Bhutan, with its unclimbed peaks, rumors of yetis, revered monarchy, and vast forests is one such place. In birding terms, this means that virtually every tour makes an interesting discovery or two, while taking in the fascinating culture, beautiful scenery, tasty food, and of course the abundant and diverse birdlife
2015 [04 April] - Julian Thomas - Bhutan & Kaziranga
...Several additional bird species were seen around the lodge, the best being a superb adult male Montaguâ€™s Harrier, with a supporting cast of Shikra, Hoopoe, Greater Coucal, Grey Francolin, Silverbill, Purple Sunbird, Common Kingfisher, Moorhen, Grey-crowned Sparrow larks and Rufous-tailed Larks, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Tailorbird, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Spotted Owlet, Indian Robin and Rosy Starlings.
2015 [04 April] - Richard Webster
Bhutan is a cold, rainy place. Or, it can be, and it was, and, as chance had it, it was a cold, rainy place when we went camping! Bhutan is a glorious place, even when it is cold and rainy, and more so when it isn't, which was most of the time. Actually, the weather was probably average, a real mix, with a few really clear days, a couple of rainy periods, and many more days that were cloudy but pleasant.
2015 [05 May] - Rockjumper
Our Bhutan tour kicked off at 350m above sea level in Samdrup Jongkhar, the border town close to Assam. The town's quiet gentility was quite a contrast to the hubbub of the Indian province in which we had just spent the last five days. Our arrival was in the late afternoon, so after settling into our hotel and meeting for dinner there wasn't much scope for birding. After supper, attempts to draw in a calling Collared Scops Owl were not entertained by the bird in question and a thunderstorm gently encouraged us to head to our rooms. This was to be the first of many encounters with rain in hutan!
2015 [06 June] - Peter Ericsson
For years I had wanted to visit Bhutan having heard glorious stories of snow covered mountain peaks and mountains laden with green prime forests in a country filled with birds.
2015 [11 November] - Birding Ecotours
2016 [03 March] - Nigel Jones
...A box lunch is eaten at picnic tables in the park. Then we set off for a walk looking at the wetlands. Our first birds include Red-breasted Flycatcher, Black-headed Ibis, Red-wattled and White-tailed Lapwings and many ducks - Indian Spot-billed, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler. We walk a little further and find Asian Openbill, White-breasted Waterhen, Greater Coucal and Painted Storks as well as a Nilgai - a large antelope....
2016 [04 April] - Aseem Kothiala
...Our afternoon and the next day session's were drive on the 34 Kms stretch for birding upto Chele La (3700m) the highest pass in Bhutan accessible by road. The climate changed drastically as we kept stopping and moving towards the pass. Sighted the Grey-backed Shrike, Spotted Nutcracker, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Tits, Northern Goshawk, Red-billed Chough, Rufous-backed Accentor and Plain mountain Finch in very large numbers and flocks...
2016 [04 April] - Aseem Kothiala
...Our afternoon and the next day session's were drive on the 34 Kms stretch for birding upto Chele La (3700m) the highest pass in Bhutan accessible by road. The climate changed drastically as we kept stopping and moving towards the pass. Sighted the Grey-backed Shrike, Spotted Nutcracker, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Tits, Northern Goshawk, Red-billed Chough, Rufous-backed Accentor and Plain mountain Finch in very large numbers...
2016 [04 April] - Richard Webster & Thinley Gyeltshen
...Rufous-winged Fulvetta is one of many babblers that are not front-cover material for the field guide, but are birds at which one keeps looking and looking because of the complicated, beautiful plumage...
2016 [04 April] - Wayne Jones - Bhutan
...villages dotted with occasional Asian Openbills and Lesser Adjutants. A midway stop, at a roadside wetland, yielded: a couple hundred Lesser Whistling Ducks; Oriental Darter; Little Cormorant, and Bronze-winged Jacana...
2016 [05 May] - Dion Hobcroft
...We were distracted by birds: Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Speckled Wood-Pigeon, Ultramarine Flycatcher, and more. We scoped the peculiar ungulate, the Gray Goral, and sat to a breakfast accompanied by a glowing male Verditer Flycatcher....
Bhutan - The Last Shangri-La
The Himalayas in general are an ornithological paradise: Nepal has more than 800 species, Sikkim and Bhutan more. Depending upon whose tally one adheres to, this compares favorably with the 1,200 to 1,800 species found in the entire Indian subcontinent. The abundance of birdlife reflects the extent of the diversity of life zones and habitats, as well as the central position of the Himalaya between two major biogeographical zones…
Bhutan Environmental Conservation
In 1988 Bhutan was identified by Norman Myers as one of the ten biodiversity hot spots in the world. It has also been identified as the centre of 221 global endemic bird areas. Bhutan`s ecosystem harbours some of the most exotic, endemic species of the eastern Himalayas. It has an estimated 770 species of birds, and over 50 species of rhododendron. The mountains brim with other exotic species like the blue poppy and different medicinal herbs. Animals like takins, snow leopards, golden langurs, tigers and elephants roam its forests.
Checklist - Birds of Bhutan
The Road Between Ura and Limithang in Eastern Bhutan
Bhutan has recently cracked its door ajar, permitting birders to sample some of its truly sumptuous avian delights…