Jammu and Kashmir

Ultramarine Flycatcher Ficedula superciliaris ©Dr Bakshi Jehangir
Birding Jammu & Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir is a state in northern India, often denoted by its acronym, J&K. It is located mostly in the Himalayan mountains, and shares borders with the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south. The Line of Control separates it from the Pakistani-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan in the west and north respectively, and a Line of Actual Control separates it from the Chinese-administered territory of Aksai Chin in the east. A part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, the region is the subject of a territorial conflict among India, Pakistan and China. Jammu and Kashmir consists of three regions: Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh. Srinagar is the summer capital, and Jammu is the winter capital. Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in India with a Muslim-majority population. The Kashmir valley is famous for its beautiful mountainous landscape, and Jammu’s numerous shrines attract tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims every year, while Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture. Because of Jammu and Kashmir’s wide range of elevations, its biogeography is diverse. Northwestern thorn scrub forests and Himalayan subtropical pine forests are found in the low elevations of the far southwest. These give way to a broad band of western Himalayan broadleaf forests running from northwest-southeast across the Kashmir Valley. Rising into the mountains, the broadleaf forests grade into western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. Above the tree line are found northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows. Much of the northeast of the state is covered by the Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe. Around the highest elevations, there is no vegetation, simply rock and ice.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.

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.

Some of the very best birding locations are listed below.

Top Sites
  • Dachigam National Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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.
  • Dal Lake

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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.
  • Tso Morari Lake, Ladakh

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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 | vagrantbirder@gmail.com

    Birds of Kashmir
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 711

    (As at April 2020)

    State Bird: Black-necked Crane Grus nigericollus

  • iGoTerra Checklist

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

  • Important Bird Areas of Jammu & Kashmir

    | By Asad R Rahmani, M Zafar-ul Islam, Khursheed Ahmad, Intesar Suhail, Pankaj Chandan & Ashfaq Ahmed Zarri | Oxford University Press | 2013 | Paperback | 151 pages, colour photos, colour distribution maps, colour tables | ISBN: 9780198092186 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Threatened Birds of Jammu & Kashmir

    | By Asad R Rahmani, Intesar Suhail, Pankaj Chandan(, Khursheed Ahmad & Ashfaq Ahmed Zarri | Oxford University Press | 2015 | Paperback | 144 pages, 73 colour photos, 24 colour maps | ISBN: 9780199452699 Buy this book from NHBS.com

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Dachigam

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Colourful pheasants include the crimson tragopan, the iridescent monal pheasant with its glittering plumage, blood pheasant and koklass pheasant. Golden eagles and bearded vultures or lammergeier are seen circling the brilliant blue skies.
  • NP Hemis

    InformationSatellite View
    Globally famous for its snow leopards, it is believed to have the highest density of them in any protected area in the world. It is the only national park in India that is north of the Himalayas, the largest notified protected area in India (largest National park) and is the second largest contiguous protected area, after the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and surrounding protected areas.
  • NP Kazinag

    InformationSatellite View
    Kazinag National Park or Qazinag National Park is a commissioned future national park in the Baramulla district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is part of a proposal for a trans-Karakoram peace park with Pakistan. It is home to about 120 species of birds including the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Impeyan or monal pheasant (Lophophorus impejanus), cheer pheasant (Catreus wallichii), sparrow hawk (Accipiter nisus melaschistos), snow pigeon (Columba leuconota), cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), Himalayan pied kingfisher (Ceryle lugubris), lesser pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis), nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes), jackdaw (Corvus monedula), long tailed minivet (Pericrocotus flammeus), sooty flycatcher (Muscicapa infuscata), Kashmir red breasted flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra) and yellow throated martin (Martes flavigula)
  • NP Kishtwar

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Kishtwar National Park is a national park located in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir, India. It is bounded to the north by Rinnay river, south by Kibar Nala catchment, east by main divide of Great Himalaya and west by Marwa river. It is a wonderful place.
  • WS Hirpora (aka Heerpora)

    InformationSatellite View
    Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary or Heerpora Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Shopian district of Kashmir, 70 kilometers south of Srinagar.[1] It spreads over an area of 341 km2.[2] It is bounded to the north by Lake Gumsar, northeast by Hirpora village, east by Rupri, south by Saransar and to the west by the Pir Panjal pass.
  • WS Jasrota

    InformationSatellite View
    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.
  • WS Karakoram

    InformationSatellite View
    The Karakoram Wildlife Sanctuary is a high altitude wildlife sanctuary located in the easternmost reaches of the Karakoram range in Leh District, Jammu and Kashmir. It is important as one of the few places in India with a migratory population of the Chiru or Tibetan Antelope.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Anytime Tours - 14 Days Birding in Ladakh

    Tour Operator
    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…
Trip Reports
  • 2014 [03 March] - Pritam Baruah - Hemis National Park, Central Ladakh

    PDF Report
    … 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…
  • 2015 [08 August] - Jean-Yves Barnagaud - Ladakh, Spiti and Delhi

    PDF Report
    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 reportis 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

    PDF Report
    From the north-westernmost tip of the subcontinent to the south-east islands of the Andamans and finishing offin the southwest of the peninsula, this custom tour covered a vast area of India in search of some of the mostsought-after endemics.
  • 2016 [07 July] - James Eaton - Ladakh, Kashmir & Rajasthan

    PDF Report
    Our Pre-tour Ladakh extension had the primary goal of locating Tibetan Sandgrouse and we ended up havingsplendid 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’sSnowfinch were also recorded. The main tour began in Leh with Ibisbill, Mountain Chiffchaff and Hume’sWhitethroat the main birds recorded as we drove west to Kargil, then south towards Srinagar. With ‘unrest’ aroundSrinagar making life difficult for us, we made base up the valley at our fine ‘glamp’, taking in large numbers ofSpectacled Finch, Black-and-yellow Grosbeak, Pink-browed Finch, Rufous-naped Tit, Kashmir and White-cheekedNuthatches, Himalayan Parakeet, Tytler’s Leaf Warbler and, eventually, Kashmir Nutcracker.
  • 2016 [12 December] - Debbie Colbourne

    PDF Report
    ...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....
  • 2018 [06 June] - Graham Talbot

    PDF Report
    A bird high on my wants list was Orange Bulfinch because apart from it being a stunning looking bird it is not very easy to see. It has been seen in the Kashmir Valley but only in winter and an attempt by a couple of trips to see it in the summer failed possibly because access to the national park is problematical. So where is it possible to see it. Checking E bird I notice there were a bunch of records from the Padder Valley a remote area in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • 2022 [08 August] - Aseem Kothiala

    Today the day one (June 2nd), was to take rest and acclimatise to the low oxygen levels. In the evening we strolled around the beautiful town of Leh, that had a vibrant market, well paved pathways. Being the first week of June, the well clad tourists had already arrived and the place was surely buzzing. The weather was cool (around 14 deg C)
  • 2023 [03 March] - Aseem Kumar Kothiala

    Kashmir is one of the most scenic and also the most controversial tourist destinations in India. Many refer to it as the Alps of India and the Valley of Paradise! The region boasts of some exotic locations including the serene Dal Lake in Srinagar, the summer capital of the state Jammu and Kashmir. Hemmed in by the western Himalayan range and the Pir Panjal Mountains surely the region is closer to a few neighbouring countries than to some of the states in India. In the north, Gulmarg and Pahalgam are attractions for skiers and trekkers who travel in from far and wide during winters.
Other Links
  • 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
Photographers & Artists
  • Bird Photographs - Dr. Bakshi Jehangir


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