Jammu and Kashmir

Ultramarine Flycatcher Ficedula superciliaris ©Dr Bakshi Jehangir Website
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.
  • Kashmir Wetlands (Hygam, Hokersar, Shalibug, Mirgund)

    ArticleSatellite View
    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

    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.
Contributors
  • Dr. Bakshi Jehangir

    Srinagar - Kashmir | vagrantbirder@gmail.com

    Birds of Kashmir
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 674

    (As at December 2018)

    State Bird: Black-necked Crane Grus nigericollus

Checklist

  • iGoTerra Checklist

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

  • * Field Guides & Bird Song

    For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering India as a whole - please see the main India page of Fatbirder ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of Himalaya and Kashmir

    By Douglas Dewar | Gulshan Books | 2009 | Hardback | 199 pages, no illustrations | ISBN: 9788183390644 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • 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
Reserves

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


Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

  • 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


Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

  • 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…
  • 2014 [10 October] - Hannu Jannes

    PDF Report
    ...Birdlife in this part of Ladakh is also fascinating, although the number of species is low, and highlightsincluded Himalayan and Tibetan Snowcocks, Tibetan Partridge, Black-necked Crane, Ibisbill, TibetanSandgrouse (positively numerous here!), Saker and Red-necked Falcon, Mountain Chiffchaff, Hume’sWhitethroat, the strange Groundpecker, Güldenstadt's Redstart, Brown and Robin Accentors, Plain andBrandt's Mountain Finches, Great and Streaked Rosefinches, and Tibetan and Blanford’s Snowfinches....
  • 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

    Report
    ...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....
  • 2017 [03 March] - Dick Filby

    PDF Report
    ...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....
  • 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.
Other Links
  • Birds of Kashmir

    Website
    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
  • Checklist

    Website
  • Ladakh Wildlife

    Webpage
    The avid bird watcher can spend fruitful hours by observing Bactrian magpies, grey tits, chough, raven, sparrow, kite, kestrel, Turkoman rock pigeon, chukor, finches, buntings, larks, desert wheatears, a many more varieties of birds.
  • delhibird - The Northern India Bird Network

    Website
    Site guide, recent sightings, photo gallery, checklists and more
Photographers & Artists
  • Bird Photographs - Dr. Bakshi Jehangir

    Gallery

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