Kingdom of Bhutan

Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii ©Julien Bell Website
Birding Bhutan

The bird habitats of Bhutan can be roughly divided into forest, scrub, wetlands, alpine habitats, agricultural land & land around human habitation.

Unlike other Himalayan countries, Bhutan still retains much of its forest intact, which 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.

This page is sponsored by Birding Ecotours

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 680

    (As at April 2020)

    National Bird: Common Raven Corvus corax

  • Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • A Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh

    | By Bikram Grewal, Sumit Sen & Sarwandeep Singh | Princeton | 2017 | paperback | 792 pages, 4000+ colour photos, 1300+ colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780691176499 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Bhutan

    | By Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp & Richard Grimmett | Christopher Helm | 2018 | 3rd Edition | Paperback | 192 pages, 70 colour plates, colour photos, maps, b/w line illustrations | ISBN: 9781472941886 Buy this book from
  • 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: 9781408127636 Buy this book from

Abbreviations Key

  • Motithang Takin Preserve

    InformationSatellite View
    Motithang Takin Preserve, located in the Motithang district of Thimphu, Bhutan is a wildlife reserve area for takin, the national animal of Bhutan.
  • NP Jigme Dorji

    InformationSatellite View
    The Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP),[1] named after the late Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, is the second-largest National Park of Bhutan. It occupies almost the entire Gasa District, as well as the northern areas of Thimphu District, Paro District, Punakha, and Wangdue Phodrang Districts. It was established in 1974 and stretches over an area of 4316 km², thereby spanning all three climate zones of Bhutan, ranging in elevation from 1400 to over 7000 meters. The park provides sanctuary for 37 known species of mammals including several endangered.
  • NP Jigme Singye Wangchuck

    InformationSatellite View
    Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (formerly Black Mountains National Park) covers an area of 1,730 square kilometres (670 sq mi) in central Bhutan. It protects a large area of the Black Mountains, a sub−range of the Himalayan Range System. The park is also vital for various migratory faunal species, particularly migratory birds due to its wide range in altitude and vegetation, and central location in the country. It covers wide range of habitat types from permanent ice atop Durshingla peak (Black Mountain), alpine lakes and pastures, down through conifer and broad-leaved forests to temperate forest and sub-tropical forests.
  • NP Phrumsengla

    InformationSatellite View
    Phrumsengla National Park [formerly Thrumshingla National Park] in central Bhutan covers just over 905 square kilometres (349 sq mi) across four districts, but primarily in Mongar. It is bisected by the Lateral Road, and contains the Thrumshing La pass. Phrumsengla is home to six species of threatened birds: the rufous-necked hornbill (Aceros nipalensis), rufous-throated wren-babbler (Spelaeornis caudatus), satyr tragopan (Tragopan satyra), beautiful nuthatch (Sitta formosa), Ward's trogon (Harpactes wardi) and Chestnut-breasted partridge (Arborophila mandellii), as well as the near-threatened wedge billed wren babbler (Sphenocichla humei).
  • NP Royal Manas

    InformationSatellite View
    Royal Manas National Park is Bhutan's oldest national park, and the Royal government considers it the "conservation showpiece of the Kingdom" and a "genetic depository" for valuable plants. It has an area of 1,057 square kilometres (408 sq mi) and covers eastern Sarpang District, the western half of Zhemgang District, and western Pemagatshel District. Hundreds of species of birds — including four species of hornbills – rufous-necked, wreathed, pied and great Indian — also live in the vast park.
  • NP Wangchuck Centennial Park

    InformationSatellite View
    Wangchuck Centennial Park in northern Bhutan is the kingdom's largest national park, spanning 4,914 square kilometres (1,897 sq mi) over five districts, occupying significant portions of northern Bumthang, Lhuntse, and Wangdue Phodrang Districts. It borders Tibet to the north and is bound by tributaries of the Wong Chhu (Raidāk) basin to the west. Wangchuck Centennial directly abuts Jigme Dorji National Park, Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, and Thrumshingla National Park in northern Bhutan, and is further connected to Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park in central Bhutan via biological corridors. Thus, most of northern Bhutan is part of these protected areas. The park is home to over 200 species of vascular plants, 23 species of large mammals and over 100 bird species.
  • PA Phobjikha Valley

    InformationSatellite View
    The broad valley with its best-known marshland in Bhutan, is popular for its scenic splendour and cultural uniqueness. The valley is rich in faunal biodiversity and has, apart from the globally threatened black-necked cranes Grus nigricollis, 13 other globally threatened species. Within the ambit of the valley, an area of about 163 square kilometres (63 sq mi) has been declared a protected area, which is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN), for the protection of nature, authorized to manage, on lease basis, by the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • SNR Jigme Khesar

    InformationSatellite View
    The Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve in Bhutan covers 609.51 square kilometres (235.33 sq mi) in Haa District, occupying most of its area. It borders Sikkim and Tibet to the west and is connected to Jigme Dorji National Park via a "biological corridor."
  • WS Bumdeling

    InformationSatellite View
    The Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (also spelled Bumdelling or Bomdeling), which contains the former Kulong Chu Wildlife Sanctuary, covers 1,520.61 square kilometres (587.11 sq mi) in northeastern Bhutan at elevations between 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) and 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). The sanctuary has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because it supports black-necked cranes (it is one of the country’s two wintering sites), wood snipes and grey-crowned prinias.
  • WS Jomotsangkha (Khaling)

    InformationSatellite View
    Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary is the smallest protected area of Bhutan covering 334.73 square kilometres (129.24 sq mi) in Samdrup Jongkhar District along the southern border with Assam. Its elevations range between 400 metres (1,300 ft) and 2,200 metres (7,200 ft). Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary is, despite its small acreage, an important habitat for elephants, gaur (Bos gaurus), and other tropical wildlife. It may also contain the rare pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) and hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus) known to inhabit the adjacent Khaling Reserve in Assam, with which Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary forms a trans-border reserve
  • WS Phibsoo

    InformationSatellite View
    The Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary is the second-smallest national park in Bhutan, covering 268.93 square kilometres (103.83 sq mi) in western Sarpang District and southeastern Dagana District along the border with West Bengal. It is connected to Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and Royal Manas National Park via a "biological corridor" that crosses a national highway. Its elevations range from 200 metres (660 ft) to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft). Phibsoo is unique in Bhutan for its chital (Axis axis, "spotted deer") and natural sal (Shorea robusta) forests. Like Royal Manas National Park, Phibsoo is inhabited by elephants, bengal tigers, gaur, three species of mahseer, and possibly the rare Ganges River dolphin.
  • WS Sakteng

    InformationSatellite View
    Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary is a wildlife sanctuary located mostly in Trashigang District and just crossing the border into Samdrup Jongkhar District, Bhutan.[2] It is one of the country's protected areas. It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion. It protects several endemic species including the eastern blue pine and the black-rumped magpie.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Bhutan Birding

    Tour Operator
    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

    Tour Operator
    Set between the Plains of India and the High Himalayas, Bhutan is the perfect escape from daily routine where, Snow-capped mountains, verdant valleys, dense jungles and crystal-clear rivers combine with a calming ancient Buddhist culture where no harm is permitted to any sentient being, results in Bhutan being one of the top bio-diversity countries in the world.
  • Bhutan Majestic Travel

    Tour Operator
    The diversity of Bhutan’s avifauna is extraordinary. The wide range of altitudes make climactic conditions suitable to help support many species and biodiversity.
  • Birding Ecotours

    Tour Operator
    Our Bhutan birding tours visit all of this fascinating and picturesque Himalayan country’s prime birding sites and target a range of Himalayan bird specials.
  • Bluetail Birding

    Tour Operator
    Bluetail Birding is a dedicated bird tour operator offering both scheduled departure (small group) and custom travel worldwide. We specialise in bird tours across South Asia, to destinations throughout India, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka where we have been operating since 2009 as India Nature Tourism, which now acts as our ground agent in this region.
  • Red Hill Birding

    Tour Operator
    ...This tour is scheduled for what could be called the “alternate” birding season. While many Bhutan tours go in spring, we’ve decided to run an autumn trip. The birding is still excellent, the air is at its clearest, and we stand a great chance to find a few birds that are very difficult on spring trips, like White-bellied Heron, Black-necked Crane, and Wallcreeper...
  • Rockjumper Birding Tours

    Tour Operator
    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.
Trip Reports
  • 2004 [06 June] - John McAllister

    PDF Report
    This report is from (the late) John McAllister and is about a trip mostly organised through Fatbirder’s Anytime Tours. It took place between 15th may to 6th June 2004 and combined birding with culture. The participants were the “Chicken Chasers” (Birders who had Red Jungle Fowl as a major target species) – John McAllister and Elize McAllister of Wakkerstroom, South Africa and Jo Johnson of Cape Town, South Africa and the “Culture Vultures” (the Non-birders) – Shirley and Lisa Johnson of Cape Town, South Africa.
  • 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.
  • 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

    PDF Report
    ...villages dotted with occasional Asian Openbills and Lesser Adjutants. A midway stop, at a roadside wetland, yielded: acouple hundred Lesser Whistling Ducks; Oriental Darter; Little Cormorant, and Bronze-winged Jacana...
  • 2017 [03 March] - Andre Bernon

    PDF Report
    Our 12-day tour of this mountain Kingdom was highly successful in all other aspects of birding,as well as some great cultural experiences too. We had some great Bhutanese specials,such as Rufous-necked Hornbill, Beautiful Nuthatch, Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant and 4 species of Parrotbill!
  • 2017 [04 April] - Rich Lindie

    PDF Report
    Our birding adventureinAssam began, as most do, at the local dump. Needless to say, the general ambience to be had there was much like that found at just about any dump on the planet, though the presence of such large numbers of adjutants, including several of the greater persuasion, meant we could have only been in Guwahati. Indeed, the city's official tipis undoubtedly the most accessible site for getting up close and personal with this very endangered bird.
  • 2017 [04 April] - Richard Webster

    ...Among the marquee birds, we did well, seeing such stars as Ibisbill, Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, and Ward’s Trogon. We did even better with the host of birds that don’t get top billing, but elicited just many raves as some of the stars. In particular, we savored our views of Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler, Hoary-throated Barwing, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, Spotted Elachura, Great and Fulvous Parrotbills, Broad-billed Warbler, and Black-headed Shrike-Babbler. As always, we did miss some special birds, including the typically tough White-bellied Heron and Beautiful Nuthatch, and we would have been very pleased if Fire-tailed Myzornis and Fire-tailed Sunbird had stayed around longer....
  • 2017 [06 June] - Tom Tarrant - Bhutan & Thailand

    Over the years I have frequently dreamt of visiting the Kingdom of Bhutan and checking out it’s pristine forests and exquisite wildlife but felt that the cost was ‘prohibitive’, as there is a standard-fee of US$250/pp/day set by the government. Recently whilst scanning Facebook I saw a 14-day budget-birding trip offered for under $3,000 and decided to investigate-further. I contacted the company’s chief birder Norbu and it appears that June is an ‘Off-Peak’ period and the fee is reduced to US$200/pp/day, if 3 or more birders can be found for the tour……after a few emails I ‘signed-up’ and received a very exciting itinerary and started dreaming of Beautiful Nuthatches and Ward’s Trogons...
  • 2017 [11 November] - Julien Bell

    This trip report covers the best part of a week spent in Bhutan with Nature Tourism Bhutan. As usual for my holidays this was not strictly speaking a full-on birding trip (we would have visited other areas of Bhutan for that and probably spent longer there too). However, there was a higher focus on birds than usual with certain species prioritised in between various cultural experiences and hiking in the spectacular mountains. The birding priority for me was Ibisbill - a species I have dreamed of seeing since I was a teenager...
  • 2019 [04 April] - India Nature

    PDF Report
    he Kingdom of Bhutan is a rampart of spectacular Himalayan terrain boasting glorious mountain scenery and some of the most extensive tracts of broad-leaved and subtropical forest that remain in the bird-rich Eastern Himalaya.
  • 2023 [04 April] - Dylan Vasapolli

    PDF Report
    Birding was excellent, and we netted virtually all of Bhutan’s major birding targets – from the mega Satyr Tragopan and beautiful Himalayan Monal, to denizens like Ibisbill, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Beautiful Nuthatch, Ward’s Trogon and the very rare White-bellied Heron. All in all, over 300 species of birds were seen on this tour. Mammals are decidedly less numerous in Bhutan, and we did well to find a Yellow-throated Marten, along with the stunning Gee’s Golden Langur and enormous Black Giant Squirrel.
  • 2023 [04 April] - Peg Abbott

    An exceptional journey, though this year was made more complex due to border closings in the east, we flew in and out of Paro but still covered a lot of terrain. Guides Norbu Bumthap, Pema Dawa and Avijit Sarkhel tirelessly shared their expertise in varied habitats of this spectacular terrain. Beautiful vistas and blooming rhododendrons colored our days; on Chele La we had snow!
Other Links
  • 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.
  • 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…

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