Nepal is home to nearly 10% of the Earth’s bird population, which is impressive for a country of its size. Its distinct ecological features allow it to be home to birds with a range of preferences–whether it’s soaring in the Himalayas or perched in a fruit tree in the southern jungles of Chitwan.
My wife and I spent nearly 4 months in Nepal from September to December. And during that time I had one humble birding goal and that was to identify 100 different bird species. (It should be noted that a Nepali Ornithologist I spoke with briefly laughed at this goal and said, “That can be done in a day in Chitwan.”)
My main locations for birding were the Kathmandu Valley, Annapurna Conservation Area, and Chitwan National Park.
Kathmandu had its birds, but sighting anything other than common birds was very difficult in the dust filled streets of Nepal’s capital city. That didn’t mean there weren’t birds to be found. In fact, one of my most memorable finds was a white-throated kingfisher that perched in a field directly across from the apartment where I stayed. I remember spotting it, then rushing back into the apartment to get my camera. I must have taken a hundred photos of that one bird (and practically none of them panned out). It was my first kingfisher in Asia.
Kathmandu Valley, though crowded and full of city life, has pockets of good nature that allow small droves of birds to thrive. Thanks to my father-in-law who knew where all these pockets were, I was able to catch glimpses of the birds that lived there:
Annapurna Conservation Area
During my trip in Nepal, I entered the Annapurna Conservation Area twice. The first time I was in Manang on the Northern side of the Himalayan range. There, I was well above 10,000 feet in elevation, getting as high up as 15,000 feet at one point. In Manang, I saw the high-flyers: Red-Billed Chough, Himilayan Vulture, and a few other indistinguishable falcons and eagles. The land there was dry, due to the rain shadow caused by the mountains to the south. It was a unique environment mirroring the high, dry plateaus and peaks of Tibet.
During the second trip, I was in Pokhara and the Kaski District on the Southern side of the Himalayas. There I trekked with my wife and her family to Ghorepani and Gandruk. Most of my time here was dedicated to trekking and seeing the mountains. But I was able to capture a few bird photos, thanks to the patience of my in-laws who allowed me plenty of moments to nerd out over the birds I saw. During the trek I saw many of the same birds that I saw in Manang, but in Pokhara (a city lying at an elevation of 4,600 feet and also next to a lake) the birds got brighter and more vibrant:
Chitwan National Park
Chitwan lies on the Southern border of Nepal. It’s much hotter there and flat too. This area is known for its elephant, rhino, and tiger populations. It was a crazy thing to be high in the Himalayas one day and to be in the jungle the next (there were times when you could actually see the snow-capped peaks from Chitwan).
Here the number of bird species was overwhelming. It was difficult to keep track of all the new species–make note, take a photo, observe and enjoy. It was an action packed 3 days (for a birder) and the trip easily helped me get past my 100 species mark: