Jammu and Kashmir
In the west Kashmir is a beautiful Himalayan valley with breathtaking mountain scenery, clear lakes, lush vegetation and magnificent forests. The capital city Srinagar (1,730m) is famous for its canals, houseboats and Mughal gardens. India's best-known ornithologist Salim Ali once called Kashmir a heaven on earth for migratory birds. Indeed the local folk are much more aware of the migratory visitors rather than the resident species and organised birding in the Valley is virtually non-existent even though it is home to a rich biodiversity which includes a large number of bird species, many of which are unique to Kashmir. Number of bird species: 550+
To the east Ladakh is a cold high altitude desert cut off from the monsoon clouds by the Great Himalayas and a host of subsidiary ranges. The wind, water from the minimal winter snows and chemical reactions within the rocks themselves have carved a fantastic, and in places grotesque, landscape referred to as the moonscape. Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet (2,750m) at Kargil to 25,170 feet (7,672m) at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram with the capital city Leh at 3505m. It has a number of high-altitude lakes and is the only breeding ground for the black-necked crane outside China. Number of bird species: 300+
Some of the very best birding locations are listed below.
Dachigam National Park
This one-time exclusive hunting preserve of the Maharaja of Kashmir was declared a national park in 1951. Dachigam contains the last viable population of Hangul or Kashmir Stag in the world. The two sectors of the Park - Upper and Lower Dachigam are spread over an area of 141-sq-km. and altitudes vary between 1,700 and 4,300m. Two steep ridges enclose the Park with its great topographical variety - deep ravines, rocky outcrops, steep wooded slopes and rolling alpine pastures. The Dagwan stream flows from the Marsar Lake (4,300m) through Lower Dachigam. Avifauna: Over 150 species of birds have been reported including Crimson Tragopan, Monal Pheasant, Blood Pheasant, Koklas Pheasant, Golden Eagle, Lammergeier etc. Status: Theatened by human encroachment.
The famous Dal Lake of Srinagar has been described as hardly what one would expect a lake to be like - it's a maze of intricate waterways and channels, floating islands of vegetation, houseboats that look so firmly moored they could almost be islands and hotels on islands which look like they could simply float away. The famous Dal Lake has shrunk from an area of 16 sq. kms in the 1980s to about 9 sq. kms today.
Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve
Gulmarg is located at a distance of 48-km to the south-west of Srinagar. It is a major tourist destination and a world-class Ski resort.Avifauna includes pheasants and upland birds amongst other resident and migratory species. Avifauna: Griffon Vulture, Monal Pheasant, Snow Cock, Koklas Pheasant, Blue Rock Pigeon, Kashmir Roller, Eurasian Hoopoe, Jungle Crow etc. I have observed the Himalayan Greenfinch and Yellow-billed Blue Magpie. Status: Theatened by increased tourism.
Kashmir Wetlands (Hygam, Hokersar, Shalibug, Mirgund)
Migratory birds from Siberia and Central Asia use the wetlands in Kashmir as their transitory camps between September and October and again around spring. Avifauna: Greylag Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Pintail, Teal, Mallard, White-Eyed Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Shoveller, Brahminy Duck, Wigeon, Snipe, Garganey, Lapwing, Kingfishers, Herons, Little Bittern. Hygam, Wular Lake [Ramsar site no. 461] A number of wetlands, such as Malgam, Hygam and Nawgam are located on the fringes of the Wular Lake, which is the largest freshwater lake in India with extensive marshes of sub-water tubers and floating vegetation, like the water chestnut. These wetlands play a vital role in sustaining a large population of wintering, staging and breeding birds. The Hygam wetland located some 50kms from Srinagar has shrunk from 4.5 sq. kms to less than 1.5 sq. kms. Status: Theatened by siltation and human encroachment. Hokersar [Notified Wildlife Sanctuary, Ramsar notification under process] Hokersar, 14 km north of Srinagar is another world class wetland spread over 13. 75 sq kms including lake and marshy area. It attracts birds from Siberia, Central Asia, China, North Europe and the Indian sub-continent. A record number (over 400,000) migratory birds were estimated to have been spotted at the Hokersar Wildlife Sanctuary this winter. Status: Threatened by siltation from the Doodh Ganga river. Shalibug is Kashmir's largest bird reserve. Status: Theatened by siltation and human encroachment.
Tso Morari Lake, Ladakh
This freshwater to brackish lake lying at 4,595m above sea level is the world's highest Ramsar site. Avifauna: The lake is the only breeding ground outside of China for one of the most endangered cranes, the Black-necked crane Grus nigricollis, and the only breeding ground for Bar-headed Geese in India. A small northern offshore island forms the main nesting site for the Bar Headed Geese and the Brown Headed Gull. Status: Threatened by increased tourism. A Tso Morari Conservation Trust has been recently formed with the help of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) Leh office for conservation of the lake.
Dr. Bakshi Jehangir
Srinagar - Kashmir
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 550+
State Bird: Black-necked Crane Grus nigericollus
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* Field Guides & Bird Song
For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering India as a whole - please see the main India page of Fatbirder
Birds of Northern India
by Richard Grimmett and Tim Inskipp Helm Field Guides 2003 RRP ?19.99p
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 0713651679Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Breeding Birds of Kashmir
R.S.P. Bates, E.H.N. Lowther Hardcover - 390 pages (27 June, 1991) OUP India
ISBN: 0195625625Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
Anytime Tours - 14 Days Birding in Ladakh
This tour is ideal for birdwatchers who want to see special trans-Himalayan species while a lot of them are Pale- arctic. This tour is meant for birders who are in good physical health and can walk in high altitude area. The treks and walks are moderate in nature. This tour can be customized. Best time: May to September…
Ladakh-Described as "The land where snow never melts and only corn ripens" by its discoverer, Fa-hian, a chinese traveler, who traveled across its inhospitable terrain in 399 A.D. Known for centuries as the 'land of passes' (La-pass; Dacha-land), Ladakh is a mysterious land shrouded in myth and legend and much of its ancient history is known only through the mythology of its people…
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.
2012 [07 July] - David Stanton
…I first visited Kashmir in April 1987 and again in July 1988. I was not birding at the time, but can remember well seeing Orange bullfinch on Shankracharya hill, European bee-eaters and rollers on power lines all over the valley, Eurasian jackdaws in fields, Little bitterns in Dal and Nagin lakes, White-throated dippers in streams and Mistle thrushes in parks….
2014 [03 March] - Pritam Baruah - Hemis National Park, Central Ladakh
… spent several more hours around camp, getting good looks at four White-browed Tit-Warblers that flitted through the willows in camp and a Woolly Hare in the poplar plantation near my tent…
2014 [10 October] - Hannu Jannes
...Birdlife in this part of Ladakh is also fascinating, although the number of species is low, and highlights included Himalayan and Tibetan Snowcocks, Tibetan Partridge, Black-necked Crane, Ibisbill, Tibetan Sandgrouse (positively numerous here!), Saker and Red-necked Falcon, Mountain Chiffchaff, Hume’s Whitethroat, the strange Groundpecker, Güldenstadt's Redstart, Brown and Robin Accentors, Plain and Brandt's Mountain Finches, Great and Streaked Rosefinches, and Tibetan and Blanford’s Snowfinches....
2015 [08 August] - Jean-Yves Barnagaud - Ladakh, Spiti and Delhi
The purpose of my 2015 trip was to mix birding and visiting new places, including the Dah and Spiti valleys, and some 8 trekking days into the valleys of Karnakh, all of which are near tourist free (and rarely birded), although they offer exceptionally scenic landscapes, diverse habitats and unforgettable time with local people. I have tried to keep a track of all bird records of this trip on a day-per-day basis, except for the most abundant species. This report is bird-focused but a non-bird report is available upon request.
2015 [08 August] - Simon Colenutt - Rajasthan & Kashmir
...We birded the first 300-400m of the track which led through thorn scrub, wet grassland and a Water Hyacinth choked lagoon. Birds here included Greater Coucal, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Asian Openbill Stork, Red-naped Ibis, smart Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Purple Gallinule and Grey Francolin.
2016 [03 March] - James Eaton - Kashmir, Andamans & Western Ghats
From the north-westernmost tip of the subcontinent to the south-east islands of the Andamans and finishing off in the southwest of the peninsula, this custom tour covered a vast area of India in search of some of the most sought-after endemics.
2016 [07 July] - James Eaton - Ladakh, Kashmir & Rajasthan
Our Pre-tour Ladakh extension had the primary goal of locating Tibetan Sandgrouse and we ended up having splendid views of a pair feeding amidst the magnificent scenery of Tso Kar, high on the plateau. Great Rosefinch, Mountain Chiffchaff, Sulphur-bellied Warbler, Red-fronted Serin, Ground Tit, Black-necked Crane and Blanford’s Snowfinch were also recorded. The main tour began in Leh with Ibisbill, Mountain Chiffchaff and Hume’s Whitethroat the main birds recorded as we drove west to Kargil, then south towards Srinagar. With ‘unrest’ around Srinagar making life difficult for us, we made base up the valley at our fine ‘glamp’, taking in large numbers of Spectacled Finch, Black-and-yellow Grosbeak, Pink-browed Finch, Rufous-naped Tit, Kashmir and White-cheeked Nuthatches, Himalayan Parakeet, Tytler’s Leaf Warbler and, eventually, Kashmir Nutcracker.
2016 [12 December] - Debbie Colbourne
...We knew that migrants wouldn’t be around but we actually saw a very good selection of birds, including White-browed Tit-warbler every day at Hemis National Park. We saw Himalayan Snowcock, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Tibetan Partridge, Ibisbill and a good selection of finches....
2017 [01 January] - Marta Curti
...We spend several hours scanning the hillside. We see a number of Bharals (also known as Blue Sheep for the bluish tinge of the fur on their legs) nearby....
2017 [03 March] - Dick Filby
...Our views of the Snow Leopards were unusual in another way this year, in-as-much as most of our sightings involved many hours watching the animals hunt by day, with, on one occasion, a Snow Leopard at full tilt and closing in on a Blue Sheep that miraculously escaped after the Snow Leopard got within 10 metres or so....
Places to Stay
Hotel Jammu Ashok
Hotel Jammu Ashok is a modern & comfortable hotel & is an ideal setting for the discovery of Jammu, the winter capital of Kashmir. It is also a convenient base for a pilgrimage to the VaishnoDevi shrine.
Dachigam National Park
Colourful pheasants include the crimson tragopan, the iridescent monal pheasant with its glittering plumage, the blood pheasant and the koklass pheasant. The golden eagle and the bearded vulture or lammergeier are seen circling the brilliant blue skies.
Jasrota Wildlife Sanctuary - Kashmir
Jasrota Wildlife Sanctuary has an area of 10 sq km, it houses an appreciable variety of bird and animal life, most notably cheetal or axis deer.
Kishtwar High Altitude National Park - Jammu
When in a sanctuary or national park it is important to dress in camouflage colors (khaki, green etc). Do not make undue noise and avoid littering the forest floors with paper, tins and food leftovers. while photographing take due caution not to disturb the birds and animals.
Birds of Kashmir
In July 1987, I spent 3 weeks in Kashmir on a group tour/trek organized by the Youth Hostel Association. We spent a week in Sonmarg and the rest of the time in Ladakh. Because of the nature of the trip, there was not much time to devote to proper bird-watching. Most of the sightings below had to be picked up while struggling to keep up with the group, or from the window of a bouncing bus…
delhibird - The Northern India Bird Network
Site guide, recent sightings, photo gallery, checklists and more…
Photographers & Artists
Bird Photographs - Dr. Bakshi Jehangir