Bird watching in Nepal

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Nepal’s varied elevations support more than 850 species of birds, or about 10 percent of the world’s total species. Migratory birds are seen in winters. The spiny babbler is unique to Nepal as it has yet to be spotted outside this country. More than 450 species of birds have been spotted in Chitwan National Park, while the Koshi Tappu Wetlands have been designated Asia’s finest bird watching site. The Mai Valley and Tamur Valley in east Nepal, Lumbini in central Nepal, and Dang Valley and Ghodagodhi Lake in the west are also good locations to sight exotic birds. As bird watching becomes immensely popular, specialized bird-watching tours are offered in the different national parks and wildlife reserves.

Bird watching places in Nepal
Chitwan National Park:

The Chitwan valley consists of tropical and subtropical forests. Sal forests cover 70 percent of the park. Sal leaves are used locally for plates in festivals and religious offerings. Grasslands cover 20 percent of the park. There are more than 50 different types of grasses, including the elephant grass (Saccharum spp).

The park is home to more than 50 mammal species, over 567 birds, and 55 amphibians and reptiles. The endangered fauna found in the park are: One-horned Rhinoceros, Gaur. Royal Bengal Tiger, Wild Elephant, Antelopes, Pangolin, Golden Monitor Lizard, Python. The Park has four natural lakes, ponds and Rapti River inhabiting various species of birds such as Purple Swamphen, Darter, Heron, Black Stork. Its grassland is popular habitat for species such as Lesser and Bengal Floricans, as the forest is habitat for Giant Hornbill, Peacock, Owls, Eagles, Babblers, Warblers, Cuckoos, Orioles, woodpeckers.

The park has a range of climatic seasons each offering a unique experience. October through February with average temperatures of 25oC, offer an enjoyable climate. From March to June temperatures can reach as high as 43oC, the hot humid days give way to the monsoon season that typically lasts from late June until September, Rivers become flooded and roads are impossible.

In late January, local villagers are allowed to cut thatch grasses to meet their needs, which offer a better viewing of wildlife to visitors. September – November, February and April, migratory birds join the residential birds and create spectacular bird watching opportunities. While the monsoon rains bring lush vegetation, most trees flower in late winter. The palash tree, known as the "flame of the forest' and silk cotton tree have spectacular crimson flowers that can be seen from a distance.

Bardia National Park:
Bardia National park is the largest national park in the lowland Terai. Covering an area of 968, the park holds more than 350 species of birds. The park, situated in Nepal's Western Terai, was established to protect representative ecosystems and conserve tiger and its prey species. Initially, a small area was gazetted as the Karnali Wildlife Reserve in 1976. In 1997, an area of 327 km2 surrounding the park was declared as a buffer zone, which consists of forests and private lands. The park and local communities jointly manage the buffer zone which is popular for residential bird Slaty Woodpeckers. Karnali River is the suitable home for Gangetic dolphin and Black Storks, Darters, Pratincols, Lesser Florican. And two majors lakes are situated 1hr drive from the park inhabits Grey Headed and Lesser Fish Eagles, Osprey, Purple Heron, Darters, Swamphen and Coot etc. The park is also home to endangered animals such as the Royal Bengal tiger, wild elephant, Greater one-horned rhinoceros, swamp deer, and black buck.

Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve:
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve lies on the floodplains of the Sapta Koshi River in the south-eastern Terai. The reserve was gazetted in 1976 to preserve habitat for the only remaining population of Wild buffalo, Arna (Bubalus arnee). The 176 sq. km. reserve is Nepal's smallest wildlife reserve. The eastern and western embankments of the Sapta Koshi River define the area. In 1987, Koshi Tappu was declared a Ramsar site, a wetland of international significance. Government of Nepal has declared the buffer zone (173.5 sq. km) surrounding the reserve in 2004.

The vegetation is mainly composed of tall grasslands. There are also small patches of Accacia and Sisso forest and deciduous mixed Riverine forest. The reserve accommodates varieties of wildlife. The last surviving population of Wild buffalo is found here. The estimated population of wild buffalo is around 159 individuals is dwindling. They are distinguished from domestic buffalo by their much bigger horns. The reserve is also home to around 20 other animal species such as Hog deer , Wild boar , Spotted deer, Blue bull, and Rock Python.

Around 441 species of birds-many seen now here else in Nepal (14 endemic species)- have been recorded, including 20 duck species, 2 Ibis species, white tailed stonechat , Striated marsh warbler, 30 shore birds, 114 water birds, and the endangered swamp partridge and Bengal florican. The Koshi River is home to 80 species of fish. The endangered Gharial crocodile and Gangetic dolphin have been recorded in the river as well.

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