There are many reasons to visit India on a river cruise, but perhaps birdwatching isn’t the most obvious. Despite that, various national parks, sanctuaries and the shores of the mighty Brahmaputra River offer the perfect habitats for anything from common ducks to the critically endangered Siberian crane. With a trip that combines a Brahmaputra River cruise with visits to cities such as Delhi, Agra and Bharatpur, you can enjoy the ultimate birdwatching tour of India.
Here are 10 species to look out for and details of where you’re likely to find them.
One of the largest and most exciting birds that you might see is the golden eagle, famous for the light brown plumage around its neck which contrasts with the dark brown feathers on the rest of its body. Although it is one of the more common birds of prey, it’s still a magnificent sight to see gliding through the air.
Golden eagles can be seen in the Hemis National park in the north of India, amidst the Himalayas. The largest national park in India, it is also famous for its sizeable population of snow leopards. Other species of eagle that you may spot during your time in India include white-bellied sea eagles and grey-headed fish eagles.
Maroon orioles are easily identified by their plumage, with males and young birds usually having brighter feathers than the females. The most likely place to see this vibrant species is in the Jim Corbett National Park, the oldest park in India and a major protected area for the Bengal tiger.
The lagoon of Chilika Lake is the perfect habitat for flamingos and this national park sees one of the largest breeding colonies return every year. The biggest patch of land amongst the wetlands is known as Nalbana Island and, as the monsoon waters recede, many species of birds flock here to feed. It has been designated as a bird sanctuary.
Back at Jim Corbett national park, home to more than 600 species of bird, you might also catch a glimpse of the seldom-seen brown dipper. The largest of the dippers loves to spend its time around water, wading into streams to catch food.
The chances are that you will hear the call of a hill myna before you see it. They have a wide range of different sounds that they can make, including screeches, wails and whistles. Those that have come into contact with humans can even imitate our speech. They are most likely to be seen during a dawn game drive in the Kaziranga National Park – one of the most exciting parts of a Brahmaputra River cruise and home to a number of endangered species.
Formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and now a World Heritage Site, Keoladeo National Park is home to a number of interesting bird species, including the Indian grey hornbill. The park is manmade and has been established as an important breeding ground. Characterised by their large bill, you may also see great hornbills and wreathed hornbills during your time in India.
One of the smaller, yet prettier, birds to look out for is the streaked rosefinch, especially as you tour Hemis National Park. Adult males are characterised by their red heads and bellies, whilst females have brown plumage over the entirety of their bodies.
Jerden’s babbler is definitely one of the more endangered species to keep an eye out for during your birdwatching adventure. Most likely found within the Important Bird Area of the Kaziranga National Park, its chestnut coloured body blends well with the vegetation around it. Its long tail helps it balance when hopping between the reeds.
Sadly, the Siberian crane’s habitat has dwindled so much in recent years that it is estimated only 10 individuals now live wild in western Siberia. Larger populations can be seen in China during the winter, whilst a smaller number migrates to India (in particular Keoladeo National Park) at this time of year.
They are almost totally white, apart from black feathers underneath their wings, but like to spread mud over themselves whilst foraging for food. The sarus crane, known for its vibrant mating dance, is another species that can be found in this part of India.
We end with another bird of prey and the largest bird found in the Himalayas. Although this vulture is rarely seen at low elevations, you might get the chance to watch it soaring high above you or picking hurriedly at a yak carcass. Bizarrely, these griffon vultures have also been spotted eating pine needles – something which experts are still puzzled by.
There are so many more birds that make their home in India; we could have continued our list with anything from herons to hawks and forktails to flycatchers. The diverse avian life here makes it one of the world’s premier destinations for birdwatching, amongst all of the other exciting experiences available. If you would like to learn more about our birdwatching tours and Brahmaputra River cruises with Far Horizon, call us on 0800 028 4272.
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