The Common Myna, Red-vented Bulbul, Feral pigeon, and the Large Hawk-cuckoo were some of the common birds that were recorded in the Himalayan region spanning India, Nepal and Bhutan, according to the results of the first-ever Himalayan Bird Count (HBC). While the Common Myna showed up in the top five common birds in the northern (Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, and Himachal Pradesh) and central zones (Uttarakhand and Nepal), the Red-vented Bulbul was a constant in central and east (Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh) zones.
Held in May, this year, the event was a collaborative effort between the three south Asian countries. The idea of holding HBC was to observe the plethora of migratory birds – both seasonal and altitudinal ones – the region attracts. For ease of collecting data, the entire region was divided into three zones - Western, Central, and Eastern. In total, 424 people participated and 626 species were recorded in the bird count. The one-day event was organised by Bird Count India, Bird Conservation Nepal and the Royal Society of the Protection of Nature, Bhutan.
Apart from these, the other commonly sighted birds included Feral Pigeon, Black Kite, House Sparrow and House Crow in the western zone, a staple in most Indian cities. The Spotted Dove, Asian Koel and Oriental Magpie-robin were seen in the central zone, while the east zone saw the likes of the Large Hawk-cuckoo, Green-backed Tit, Verditer flycatcher, Great Barbet.
Coinciding with two other major birding events – the annual international Global Big Day (GBD) and the Endemic Bird Day (EBD), the overall participation grew this year due to HBC. According to Bird Count India: “this year birders in the Himalayan regions had a big impact and accounted for 36% of the EBD/ GBD participants compared to 16% last year.” As a result, the checklist contribution also increased to 26%, as compared to 11% from 2021.
Other winged highlights
Nepal clocked 209 species, which included five species of the endangered Egyptian vulture, Red-headed, White-rumped and Slender-billed vultures (critically endangered species), and the Himalayan Griffon or Himalayan Vulture, which is on the verge of getting listed in the threatened list.
In Bhutan, it was the profusion of sub species that was a big highlight. Besides the endemic Bhutan Laughingthrush, birders observed 12 other species of laughingthushes, and three species of hornbills – Great, Oriental Pied, Rufous-necked and the Wreathed Hornbill. In total, 201 species were documented from the hilly country.
Meanwhile, some of the key sightings from India came from Arunachal Pradesh, which is not surprising given the rich diversity of species in the state. The Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Blue-fronted Robin were some of the sightings from the state. On the other hand, birders noticed the Red-billed Leiothrix from Himachal Pradesh, Orange Bullfinch from J&K, Eurasian Eagle-Owl from Ladakh, Satyr Tragopan from Sikkim, West Himalayan Bush Warbler from Uttarakhand and and Blood Pheasant from north Bengal.