Birding in the clouds…
Who is wearing a green coat, sitting on a clouded hill?
Well, she's Meghalaya, one of India's greener states and popularly known as Home Of The Clouds. Being comparatively wetter and colder than its neighbours in the North Eastern corner of the Republic of India, has brought distinction to this hilly province as the Scotland of the East. From lush green coniferous forests to bamboo thickets, from limestone caves to rippling waterfalls, from miles of hilly croplands to forbidden jungles the very diversity makes this a unique realm. This fog-shrouded land is also home to the wettest place on earth (Mawsynram), besides sheltering a plethora of wonders. The conjunction of three distinct hill ranges Khasi, Garo and Jayantia, amid forests, scintillating streams, untamed hills, mountain lakes, tree covered slopes and green valleys, make it a panoramic destination that has a bewitching appeal. The undiscovered delights of Meghalaya are divine blessings for both its guests and host.
With a geographical area of 22,42,900 hectares, Meghalaya harbours diversity in all senses, be it topography, be it vegetation, be it climatic condition or be it people & their cultures. The forests of Meghalaya i.e. Sub-Tropical Pine, Sub-Tropical Broadleaf, Tropical Wet Evergreen, Tropical Semi-Evergreen and Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest fall under two different Bio-geographic zones. Sacred groves of both the Khasi and the Garo hills areas are yet another significant forest type, which is a haven for a variety of life forms.
Meghalaya in simple words can be called nature's treasure house; the variety in life forms that it houses and the exquisite landscape is self-explanatory. Be it orchids, be it mammals, or be it birds, the diversity is unparalleled. Mammals include; Lesser Panda, Indian Bison, Serow, Sloth Bear, Binturong, Clouded Leopard, Tiger, Leopard, Elephant, Slow Loris, Golden Cat, Hoolock Gibbon, etc. Of 1200 different species of orchids found in India, 300 types are only found in Meghalaya, besides hundreds other wild varieties of plant including the rare insect eating Pitcher Plant Nepenthes khasiana.
There are about seven protected areas in the state; out of which, two are National Parks and the other five are Wildlife Sanctuaries. Which together with a few other relatively unexplored areas, provide shelter to a magnificent bird life. Ten such areas are rich with avifauna: Mawphlang Sacred Grove, Balpakram Complex, Nokrek Biosphere Reserve including Nokrek National Park, Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, Norpuh Reserve Forests, Riat Khwan – Umiaum, Saipung & Upper Shillong, Cherapunjee cliffs. The Gorges and Sacred Groves have been identified by Birdlife International, UK as Important Bird Areas.
A few of the most noteworthy bird species are: Palla's Fish Eagle Haliaeetus leucorphus, Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis, Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola, Purple Wood Pigeon Columba punicea, Slender-billed Babbler Turdoides longirostris, Marsh Babbler Pellorneum palustre, Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bangelensis, Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis, Tawny-breasted Wren Warbler Spelaeornis longicaudatus, Darter Anhinga melanogaster, Lesser Grey-headed Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus, Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus, White-cheeked Hill Partridge Arborophila atrogularis, Blyth's Trogopan Trogopan blythii, Great Pied Hornbill Buceros bicornis, Brown Hornbill Anorrhinus tickelli, Greater Adjutant Leptotilos dubius, Blyth's Kingfisher Alcedo Hercules, Grey Sibia Heterophasia gracilis, Rusty-capped Fulvetta Alcippe dubia, Crested Finchbill Spizixos canifrons, etc.
There is always the chance of a rare glimpse of White-winged Duck Cairina scutulata in the Balpakram area, although recent records are very rare. To watch Dark-rumped Swift (Khasi Hills Swift) Apus acuticauda, try trekking to the cliffs of Khasi hills, Cherapunjee, Lyetkynsew or the Nohkallikai waterfalls.
Pranab J Patar
Coordinator, Central Assam, GREEN GUARD-nature organisation
Number of Species
State Bird: Hill Myna Gracula religiosa
Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)
Balphakram National Park
This park has been established in the west Garo Hill district in an area of 220sq km. The nearest town is William Nagar about 15km…
Meghalaya Wildlife Parks
The forests, meadows and orchards of Meghalaya are the habitat of a thousand types of moths and butterflies. Meghalaya is also rich in wildlife.
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.
2004 [01 January] - Neils P Dryer & Peter Lobo
North East India is a vast area comprising of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. The variations of altitude, diversity of habitat, and extreme precipitation are factors which are responsible for the diversity and abundance of resident birds in this region. Some of the rare birds which occur are the Bengal Florican, Dark rumped Swift, White-Winged Duck, and the Marsh Babbler, Black breasted Parrotbill, White-belied Heron, Snowy-throated Babbler, Rufus -Vented Laughing thrush, Rufus-backed Sibia and the Beautiful Nuthatch.