Bhutan’s reverence for birds is even exhibited on the Royal Raven Crown of the Druk Gyalpo. The national bird is the Raven, and it was once a capital crime in Bhutan to kill one. Ravens are even known to nest in the walls of the nation’s monasteries and dzongs.
While most of Asia’s bird habitats (forests) are being and have been decimated, Bhutan is a very special because of its lack of deforestation and the government’s commitment to preserve wildlife. Few developing countries have the cultural and environmental interconnectedness that Bhutan has always promoted. 60 percent of Bhutan is now forested and, by law, will remain forested. Bhutan has the highest percentage of ecological preserves in the world; over 26 percent of Bhutan is designated for environmental conservation. While all of this makes economic sustainability tougher but a more needed policy, it provides the bird lover with the world’s best viewing opportunity.
Birds in Bhutan can be found from the glacial alpine regions of the north to the sweltering tropics of the south. The geography and altitude is also the most diverse areas of bird habitats ever found in a single country. Endangered Black Necked Cranes winter in the temperate Phobjikha Valley highland marshes while the Rufous-Necked Hornbill hides out in the lush tropical rain forests of the south. With an area the same as Switzerland, Bhutan seems much bigger because of its remoteness and extremely rugged terrain.
The Thrung Thrung Kharm is the Black Necked Crane. Wintering in Bhutan’s Phobjikha Valley each year, the Bhutanese celebrate this endangered Bird with its own festival in November. The cranes return each spring to Siberia to hatch their young. Visit Bhutan during this festival season and antics of this lovely bird.
Best Areas for Viewing Bhutan’s Precious Birds:
Sengor to Namling (3050m/2360m):
An area of hemlock and cool broadleaved forests where one can view Tragopans, Bar-winged Wrens and the Firetailed Myzornis. Best times for viewing are April to May.
Namling to Yongkhala (2360m/1700m):
Cool and Warm broadleaved forests host the Yellow-rumped Honey Guide, Rufoused-Necked Hornbill, Laughing-Thrush, Coral Billed Scimitar Babbler, and the Golden-breasted Fulvetta. Best view times are November to early May.
Yongkhala to Ligmethang (1700m/650m):
Warm broadleaf forests towards the south are home to the Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle, Collarded Treepie, and the Yellow-vented Warbler. Best time to visit: November to early May.
Narphung La to Deothang (1700m/850m):
Warm broadleaf to subtropical forests allows viewing of Rufous-necked Hornbill, Beautiful Nuthatch, and the Gold-naped Finch. November to early May.
Deothang to Samdrup Jongkhar (850m/250m):
Subtropicals forest in the southern part of Bhutan are the home of the Wreathed Hornbill, the rare Violet Cuckoo, Pied Falconet, and the Greater Rufous-breasted Parrotbill. November to early May.
Mochu Valley, Rimchu to Jigme Dorji National Park:
Warm broadleaved forests are the habitat of the rare White-bellied Heron, White-gorgoted Flycatcher and the Yellow-vented Warbler. Best times are November to early May.
Mochu Valley to Wangdue Phodrang (1300m):
The river area just north of Wangdue is an excellent area for water fowl and migratory birds like the Bar-headed Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, and the rare White Bellied Heron.
Tashithang to Damji( Jigme Dorji National Park – 6 day trek):
This area’s 1 day trek is best for bird watching in April to early May. View Ward’s Trogan and Lesser Shortwings in this warm broadleaved forest.
Damji to Gasa (1700m/2430m – 1day trek):
A 2 day trek through warm broadleaved forests are home to the Black tailed Crake and the Grey-sided Laughing Thrush.
Gasa to Koina to Laya (2700m/3200m – 2 day trek):
Cool broadleaved forest mixed with coniferous fir, spruce and juniper .
Birds to be seen are the Bush Robin, Firetail Myzornis, Purple Cochoa, and the Gold-naped Finch. Best time
Drugyel Dzong to Jangothang to Jigme Dorji National Park( 2580m/4090m – 8 day trek):
An alpine area good for viewing the Tibetan Snowcock, Isisbill, Himalayan Griffon and the Golden Eagle, Forests above Dodena (2575m) below Cheri Monastery on Trail towards Shodu, Thimphu Valley (Jigme Dorji National Park) 45 minute taxi ride from Thimphu centre consists of Oak Forests where you can Spotted Laughingthrush, Fire-capped Tit, and Yellow-bellied Flower picker.
Phobjikha Valley (3050m):
Home to the endangered Black Necked Crane. Best time for viewing is mid to late November during the Thrung Thrung Karm festival.
Forests on Eastside of Dochu La (3115m) along pack horse trail:
Fir, Rhododendron, oak, and bamboo forests are best in April to May for viewing Satyr Tragopan, Rufous-breast Bush Robin, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler.
Forested Road over Pele La (3390m):
Habitat Fir, Rhododendron, and bamboo forest are best in April to May for viewing Brown and Green Parrotbills, Marron-backed Accentor.
Forested Road over Yutong La (3520m):
Fire-tailed Myzornis, Great Parrotbill and Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler inhabit Fir, Rhododendron, and bamboo forests during April and May.
Bumthang Valley (2600m):
Fields and river area during March to May and October to early November are home to Isisbills, and various migrant birds.
Torsa River at Phuntsholing (150m):
Rivers and river bank areas during November to April are excellent passages for Migrants on their way to and from Tibet and Northern Asia.
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