Nepal boasts over 800 species of birds, almost 8% of the world's recorded population. This is not surprising, in a country which rises from near sea level in the Terai Region through the low hills and the foothills to the mighty Himalayas and the highest place on earth, all within a distance of approximately 200km.
Bird Watching in the Kathmandu Valley
Within the Kathmandu Valley alone, over 500 species of birds have been recorded. The surrounding hills offer a varied ecology ranging from primary and secondary forests to rhododendron, oak and pine forests. In addition, the wetlands and open fields inside the Valley make up a diverse habitat for many species of birds.
The most popular bird watching spot is the Phulchoki hill, the highest peak on the Valley rim situated 20 km southeast of Kathmandu, with some 265 species recorded to date. The birds seen here included babblers, warblers, tits, thrushes, minivets, woodpeckers, eagles and many migrant birds. Godavari, at the foot of Phulchoki hill where the Royal Botanical Garden is situated, records over 100 species of birds including the lesser Racket-tailed drongo, Tibetan siskin and the spotted forktail.
The Shivapuri Watershed and Wildlife Reserve, situated 11km to the north of Kathmandu, is another exciting location. Nagerjun Royal Forest on Jamacho hill is situated 5km from Kathmandu on the way to Kakani from Balaju. It delights bird enthusiasts with blue magpies, kalij pheasants, Bonelli's eagles, Great Himalayan barbets and other exotic birds.
As for the wetlands in the Valley, the banks of the Manohara river on the way to Bhaktapur, and the Bagmati river, which flows into the Valley from Shivapuri hill and out through Chobhar Gorge, are good places for watching waders and waterfowls. Harbouring 40 species of birds mostly dependent on wetlands, Taudaha, a lake on the way to Dakshinkali, attracts flocks of migrant birds.
Good roads lead to all these places and guides are also available. Accommodation is easy to find in the Valley with a wide range of hotels to suit all pockets.
Popular Bird Watching Sites Outside the Kathmandu Valley
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
As well as other kinds of fauna, the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is renowned for being one of the best locations for birding. Still within Nepal's sub-tropical Terai belt, this is the smallest (175 sqkm) and easternmost reserve in Nepal, just to the northeast of the convergence of the Sapt Koshi and Trijuga Khola rivers. Its situation on the Sapt Koshi floodplain means that the environment of this reserve varies dramatically according to the seasons. During the Monsoon (May to September) the flow becomes torrential and covers most of the floodplain, while during the dry seasons, many flat, sandy islands are exposed. The habitat is a combination of scrub grassland and deciduous riverine forest, with over 280 species of birds recorded so far, including 20 species of duck, ibises, storks, swamp partridges (Francolinus gularis); herons, egrets, Bengal floricans (Eupodotis bengalensis); and many other exotic and migratory waterfowl not found elsewhere in Nepal. To avoid the twelve hour bus ride, it is advisable to take an internal air flight to Biratnagar from Kathmandu.
Chitwan National Park
Is approximately five hours by road from Kathmandu or a 35 minute flight situated in the Terai region. It is renowned for its array of birds, with over 255 species recorded. There are many species of parakeets. Other birds include Blue-Throat (thrush); Long-tailed Nightjar, Indian Peafowl, Great Barbet, Red-billed Blue Magpie and Tickell's Red-breasted Blue Flycatcher. A two night/three day package, staying at a lodge within the Park, is an ideal way to combine birdwatching with other pursuits.
One of the best ways of viewing birds in Nepal is a leisurely trek through the foothills of the Kingdom. There are three main trekking areas in Nepal: the Langtang region six hours by road north of Kathmandu, the Solu Khumbu region eight hours by road east of Kathmandu and the Annapurna region, six hours by road or a 30 minute flight west of Kathmandu. Of the three trekking regions, the Annapurna region offers the widest variety of species. The region is also easily accessible.
To set the scene a little, the Annapurna region is a Conservation Area (ACA); covering around 2600sq km towards the north-central region of Nepal. The Kali Gandaki River runs north to south through this region, the world's deepest gorge, some 6,000m below the highest peaks of ACAs central Annapurna and Dhaulagiri massifs, seven of these peaks at over 7,000m, the highest (Annapurna I) at 8,091m.
To set the scene a little, the Annapurna region is a Conservation Area (ACA); covering around 2600sq km towards the north-central region of Nepal. The Kali Gandaki River runs north to south through this region, the world's deepest gorge, some 6000m below the highest peaks of ACA's central Annapurna and Dhaulagiri massifs, seven of these peaks at over 7000m, the highest (Annapurna I) at 8091m.
A few facts and figures above, but as you can imagine, the ACA therefore supports a remarkable but delicate biodiversity, with 441 recorded species of birds (so far); including the only endemic species of Nepal, the Spiny Babbler (Turdoides nepalensis). Bird habitat ranges from the sub-tropical lowlands towards Pokhara in the south of ACA to dry sub-alpine conditions above the tree-line towards the north.
The Kali Gandaki valley is also a major migration pathway in the autumn, when 40 species, including Demoiselle Cranes (Anthropoides virgo); can be seen around Jomosom and Tukche. Happily this coincides with one of the two trekking seasons (spring and autumn).
Migrating west about this time further south around Kaare and Dhampus are about 20 identified species of eagle and other birds of prey. The most commonly observed are: Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus (Bearded Vulture); known as the Giddha in Nepal, it frequently occurs at 4,100m. Golden Eagle Aquila cryaetos, known as Baaj in Nepal.
There are six Himalayan pheasants to be found in ACA: Himalayan Monal Lophophorus impejanus Satyr Tragopan Tragopan satyra (Crimson Horned Pheasant)Blood Pheasant Ithaginis cruentus Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii Kalij Pheasant Lophura leucomelana, most commonly occurring of Nepali pheasants, though easily hunted
Nick is based in Nepal and handles various nature groups throughout the country
Number of Species
National Bird: Himalayan Monal Ophophorus impejanus
Number of bird species: 891
Number of endemics: 1
Spiny Babbler Turdoides nipalensis
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
* Field Guides & Bird Song
For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering Asia as a whole - please see the Asia page of Fatbirder - for guides etc. covering the Indian sub-continent please see the India page
A Field Guide to Birds of the Indian Subcontinent
Krys Kazmierczak, Ber van Perlo (Illustrator) Hardcover - 336 pages (30 May, 2000) The Pica Press
ISBN: 1873403798Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Guide to the Birds of Nepal
C Inskipp and T Inskipp 400 pages, 8 col plates, b/w illus, 703 distribution maps. Christopher Helm 1991
ISBN: 0713681098Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Photographic Guide to Birds of India and Nepal
Bikram Grewal, Bill Harvey and Otto Pfister 512 pages, 850 col photos, 800 maps. Christopher Helm
ISBN: 0713664037Buy this book from NHBS.com
Field Guide to the Birds of Nepal
Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp 288 pages, 110 col plates, 8 col photos. Christopher Helm 2000
ISBN: 0713651660Buy this book from NHBS.com
Helm Identification Guides
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
Bird Conservation Nepal - BirdLife International Partner
Bird Conservation Nepal, PO Box 12465, Kathmandu, Nepal Email: email@example.com Web: http://www.birdlifenepal.org/
Guides & Tour Operators
Birding Ecotours prides itself on two things above all; tour quality and conservation and offer many trips world wide. They have teamed up with Fatbirder to offer exclusive 'anytime' tours to couples and small groups…
We offer the best birding tour in Nepal and provide specially trained guides for the tour…
This 21 day trek is incorporates all the highlights of the bird-rich and spectacular Langtang valley. Our trekking route traverses one of the most spectacular Himalayan landscapes in Nepal. Includes Phulchowki mountain, rugged valleys around Kyanjin and the Langtang village, as well as the sacred Gosainkunda Lake (4300m above sea level).
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
First 48 are a UK based tour operator. They operate a number of bird/wildlife based tours (mainly in India/Nepal). Backpacker Tours & Adventure Travel. As a land only tour operator we greet all of our clients at the airport on their arrival. Experience has shown us that many budget flights tend to arrive in the early hours of the morning. After a long flight this can be a daunting time to have to arrange your own transport and accommodation, especially through the noise and apparent chaos that meets you when the airport doors close behind you.
Lots of companies offering Nepal treks.
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 [05 May] - Stijn De Win
Annotated list and diary…
2008 [02 February] - Martin Tribe
Birdfinders’ 2008 tour to Nepal began with the group meeting at Heathrow for the flight to Doha (Qatar) and then onto Kathmandu. On landing at Kathmandu we were met by our local guide Suchet Basnet, who turned out to be an excellent birder with a terrific knowledge of Nepal’s birds, amazing eyes and ears when it came to finding birds and a great person to be with…
2010 [03 March] - Peter & Rosemary Royle
My husband, Peter and I had visited Nepal in January 1982 - we spent time at Chitwan, Pokhara and did a 7 day Helambu Trek. We loved it and had always wanted to return and do the Langtang Trek which is reckoned to be one of the best for birdwatching and wildlife in general…
2010 [03 March] - Suchit Basnet
…We also came across a small flock of Black-faced warblers, Black-throated Tits, and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker amongst others. After a picnic lunch, we walked further down for about 2 and half hours before driving back to the hotel…
2010 [04 April] - Oscar Campbell
…It is also worth trying the nearby Damside Park for some forest edge birding. Species logged here but not further up into the hills, apart from the predictable egrets and the odd wader, included Khalij Pheasant (easy along the lake shore early am), Fulvous-breasted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers (woodpeckers were actually amazingly scarce, or at least hard to pin down on the trek), Blue-throated Barbet, Dusky Warbler and Taiga Flycatcher…
2012 [01 January] - Mark D. Read & Terri-Lynn Brennan
Our budget trip to Pokhara was planned as a break from Dhangadhi, in the Far-West Terai region of Nepal, where we have been working for the last 6 months…
2013 [03 March] - Jim Rose
…The locals had more than one way to cross the river. I imagine the river would be difficult to cross in boats during the monsoon season. A long way to the local shops!…
2013 [03 March] - Richard Coomber & Hem Sagar Baral - Chitwan, Koshi & Phulchowki
…We still had to go through security and as luck would have it we followed a very large party from China. However there was still time to stroll along to the departure gate birding whenever the possibility arose. The list included White-breasted Waterhen, Brown Rock Chat, Jungle Babbler, Red-vented Bulbul and Purple Sunbird – quite respectable…
2013 [04 April] - Ann Gifford
..Anyway, we thought it a good omen when we stopped fairly early on to observe a Red-headed Vulture – massive with very striking features and after we had gained more height we stopped in a village and decided to climb up the hillside…
2013 [04 April] - Pete Aley - Langtang & Chitwan
…We arrived at Hotel Trekker’s Inn in Syabru Besi and watched a Blue Whistling Thrush (subsequently commonly seen) and some Long-tailed Shrikes from the balcony, before the festival ended and it was safe to venture out along the river! Here we saw the first of many beautiful White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstarts of the trip, had prolonged views of a Wallcreeper on the rock face and glimpsed a Crested Kingfisher. Other sightings included: Grey Treepie, Black-throated Tit, Himalayan Bulbuls, Striated Prinias, and Grey-hooded Warblers….
2014 [03 March] - Simon Harrap
…Highlights included seven species of vulture, including Slender-billed and India (both Critically Endangered), Indian Spotted Eagle, Swamp Francolin, Ibisbill, Indian Courser, Indian Eagle Owl, White-tailed Stonechat, Grey-crowned Prinia, Rufous-rumped Grassbird, Slender-billed Babbler and good views of Nepal’s only endemic, Spiny Babbler. We also saw lots of other sought-after species, often because they are in general decline but are holding their own in Nepal (or the Indian Subcontinent generally): Lesser Adjutant, Indian Black Ibis, Bar-headed Goose, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, White-eyed Buzzard, a flock of 20 Grey-headed Lapwings, Blue- bearded Bee-eater, up to 20 Great Pied Hornbills, Bay Woodpecker, Himalayan Flameback, Scaly Thrush, Himalayan Red- flanked Bluetail, Siberian Rubythroat, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Chestnut-headed and Grey-bellied Tesias, Smoky Leaf Warbler, Spot-winged Starling and a flock of around ten Black-headed Jays….
2015 [03 March] - Carol Inskipp - Chitwan National Park & Buffer Zone
Annotated list only
2015 [12 December] - Aseem Kothiala
Birding in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, Dudhwa National Park and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve...
Places to Stay
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Camp
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Camp, set up in 1993, was the first luxury camp in this wildlife Reserve. It was set up primarily for bird watchers. The Camp is ideal for all nature lovers seeking peace within a paradise of nature.
Bird Conservation Nepal
PO Box 12465, Kathmandu, Nepal Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web:
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is an example of one of the finest birding sites in Asia. Koshi Tappu was established as a wildlife reserve in 1976 with an aim to protect the last remaining population of Asiatic Wild Buffaloes in Nepal. The reserve has a total area of 175sq. km. and is roughly rectangular in shape. The principal habitats in the reserve include: wetlands, grasslands and small patches of riverine forest. To date this is the only Ramsar Site (a wetland of international significance) in Nepal. More than half of Nepal's birds are recorded from Koshi Tappu! Among the mammals, besides Wild Water Buffaloes, the elusive Gangetic Dolphin and Fishing Cat are occasionally seen here.
Nepal is endowed with rich and varied biodiversity.Altitudinal variances in short distance give Nepal's biogeography variety that range from lush moist forests and sparse alpine deserts to luxurious grasslands in lowland Terai. The mountainous country also shelters some of the world's most rare animals…
Royal Chitwan National Park
There are more than 43 species of mammals, over 450 species of birds, and more than 45 species of amphibians and reptiles in the park…
Sagarmatha National Park
Inskipp (1989) lists 152 species of birds, 36 of which are breeding species for which Nepal may hold internationally significant populations. The park is important for a number of species breeding at high altitudes, such as blood pheasant Ithaginis cruentus, robin accentor Prunella rubeculoides, white-throated redstart Phoenicurus schisticeps, grandala Grandala coelicolor and several rosefinches…
Nepal presently has 1 site designated as a Wetland of International Importance, with a surface area of 17,500 hectares…
I've been to Nepal lots of times but only in recent years as a birder, so I re-visited places to see whay kind of birdlife I had missed. It's hard to choose between Annapurna and Langtang for birding.
This area was good for Olive-backed Pipit, Blue-throated Barbet and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker. After the flight to Biritnagar we travelled by road along flat agricultural land to the Kosi Tappu Game Reserve near the Kosi Barrage, a major irrigation project…
Checklist - Birds of Nepal